Executive coach Belinda Brosnan says a changing world means business leaders who want to succeed cannot navigate on autopilot.
Despite better business results linked to diversity and inclusion in leadership teams, what people don’t often articulate so openly is that working with a group of different people with different ways of thinking and being takes effort.
It requires a growth mindset and leadership skills that perhaps we didn’t need so critically in the past.
With globalisation, rapid advances in technology, and an ageing population resulting in as many as five generations in the workplace, leaders need to navigate and adapt their default ways of thinking to lead in a changing world. It is inevitable that you will be working with people who are different from you. It sounds easy when you read that; however, as humans we are tribal creatures and we like or prefer people who are like us. This is known as affinity bias.
Acknowledging and understanding your biases and blind spots takes curiosity and courage. In essence, we are all biased — if you have a brain, you are biased. It can be conscious and deliberate, and it can also be non-conscious. It is part of the brain’s wiring to keep us safe and also to be efficient. Often though, you don’t consciously realise this is happening.
We know from Google’s Project Aristotle research that the No. 1 quality of a high- performing team is psychological safety. That’s the ability to speak up and be heard equally, without the fear of being shut down, ignored, or shamed.
As humans, our need to belong is even more powerful than fear. We are wired for social connection, and we judge whether we trust others in seconds. This reflexive and fast response is part of our ancient wiring. While we can’t control the initial biochemical reaction, or our initial thoughts and feelings, we do have a choice about what to do with those thoughts and feelings.
It is for this reason that a mindset of curiosity and possibility (that pushes beyond these reflexive responses) helps transform autopilot ways of operating. A more conscious leadership approach focuses on being responsive, decisive, and expansive. This will allow us to build long-term relationships.
Belinda Brosnan is an executive coach, speaker, and the author of “Start With You: Lead From the Inside.” This article was compiled by staff at Untangled, a Singapore-based content, marketing, and business strategy consultancy.