Biases And World-Class Teams
I first became interested in the topic of biases and what drives our behaviors when I started working with teams and groups from different cultures and countries–people with different customs and languages than myself.
I noticed that when people get organized into groups or teams, something weird happens. At the beginning of a project, everybody is nice and friendly, wanting to meet and get to know one another. Given that we all have this need to belong and sometimes impress, have you noticed that you often connect with those people who are like you?
But once we get organized and start working on a project, for instance, this proximity inevitably breeds dysfunctional communication, and, over time, leads to a breakdown in relationships, due to the subtle and profound differences between conflicting personalities and behaviors.
Conflicting personalities lead to gossiping at the water cooler. Bitchy comments start to creep in, blaming rears its ugly head–and the walls of trust start to crumble. Inevitably,
relationships start to break down. These differences in personalities that lead to conflict
can be traced back to everyone’s unique perception of the world–and the unconscious biases they’ve established, unknowingly, throughout their lives.
Each of us is raised inside familial, regional, and societal cultures. On top of that, we have our own biological culture, ingrained into our DNA so to speak, as well as the internalized values we’ve grown up with which, as we mature, all fuse to become our own unique culture
(like our own individual eco-system!) I call this phenomenon our “inner culture.”
It is precisely this inner culture that contributes to the creation of ‘cross-cultural divides’ we encounter in our interactions with others. This is also the main reason a team will be dysfunctional; all of these divides are happening– consciously and unconsciously–when they should be working together!
Putting The ‘World’ In World-Class
Understanding your inner culture and unconscious biases extends beyond your interactions with your team and company. Whether you are in a global company or not, in today’s workplace it is inevitable that cross-cultural differences will impact your work. Are you aware of how your individual inner culture connects to these differences?
How often do we just forget to ask people the right question? A simple question like…
• “André, I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking about this is?” (to the colleague who rarely speaks up in meetings)
• “Julia, congratulations, I see you are pregnant! If you need any help, let me know when you are ready how we can help?” (to the colleague who is moving into a
new stage of life)
• “Arjun, I see you are slow to respond sometimes in meetings. How are you coping with the differences in our languages?” (to the colleague whose native language is different than the one they are working in)
These questions seem simple, but in the asking of them you are stepping into a more authentic relationship, one that takes into account both your humanity and the humanity of your colleague. Asking the right question bridges the gap between your inner culture and the inner culture of your colleague. It can be a chance to notice where you have a bias, or a chance to actively challenge the bias.
This is the foundation of your world-class team. Becoming aware of what informs your choices, judgments and decisions, and understanding that every single person you work with in a day is experiencing the same complexities of thought–so much of which is unconscious–is ultimately the first step to not just growing a world-class team but becoming a world-class leader.