It was the middle of a sunny afternoon and my ten-year-old daughter and I were walking across a parking lot headed into the grocery store. I noticed a woman sitting in a car we were about to pass, her eyes wide as she looked at us and quickly reached across the passenger seat, locking the door. By the time we passed in front of her car she was sitting bolt upright, staring ahead. It was quite a few years ago, but I think I actually stood and glared at her for a moment. (At least, I wanted to. And probably would today!)Bias is alive and well and living in our world, which is not earth-shattering news to those who experience it every day.If people don’t lock their car doors when you pass (for example) or you think it doesn’t affect you think about these:
- Who has made your heart beat a little faster when you noticed them approaching your car, or walking down the street toward you?
- Who caused you to lock your car door or slide your phone onto your lap, holding it in one hand with your thumb on the emergency button?
- Who has made you think, “Oh, I better be friendly because I don’t want them to think I’m prejudiced.”?
- In conversation, when have you informed someone, “I have a really good friend who is (black, gay, Muslim, fill in the blank).”
- Who have you responded positively to simply because they reminded you of somebody you liked, or vice versa?
When we encounter another person we immediately notice three aspects of that person. Most people think it’s their:
- Smile or expression
- Tone of voice
- Manner of walking
- Eye contact or
- Apparent social status
The first things you notice are their (1) gender, (2) race and (3) age. And, if you’re like the rest of us, you react to that person based on those three characteristics.
A gut reaction, positively or negatively projecting attributes on someone without knowing anything else about them, represents a personal bias. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines bias as “a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment.”
NEWSFLASH #1: We all have biases.
NEWSFLASH #2: Biases aren’t good or bad.
They just are; they are a reflection of how we see the world. With no other information they cause us to view some things negatively and some things positively – like interviewing a job applicant JUST because she was from a little town in Canada across the river from where I grew up. (Yes, I really did that!)
It’s how we choose to act on those biases that can be good or bad, especially if we violate laws designed to keep us from discriminating against people. Or, when we unfairly attribute positive (or negative) traits to someone based on our personal bias, and then make decisions based on that. (For the record, the applicant from Canada did not get the job.)
Studies abound showing racial and gender bias in hiring and career progression. These are proven biases against people with “ethnic” (as opposed to “white”) sounding names and women: Same resume, different name, different outcome. A study cited in the American Economic Review found that resumes with “white” sounding names were 50% more likely to be called for an interview than those with “African-American” sounding names. (So glad my 17-year-old nephew, DJ, is changing his name from Desquan Jalil to David Joseph.)
Bias isn’t just about race or gender. It’s about age, beliefs, disabilities, education, habits (like smoking), language, money, nationality, physical appearance, politics, religion, salaries, sexual orientation, the neighborhood you came from, weight and anything else that is important to you or is part of your core – usually unconscious – value system.
FACT: less than 15% of American men are over six feet tall, yet almost 60% of male CEOs in the US are over six feet tall. Do you think those hiring managers consciously considered that? Hardly.
Unconscious – or conscious – biases result in unfounded conclusions which can have detrimental effects, especially in hiring when we overlook a potentially excellent candidate because of a personal bias, or when we quickly move a candidate through to hire just because she reminds us of our favorite aunt, Amelia.
Check out our nine tips to avoid being swayed by a bias!
If you wonder why the woman in the car was so quick to lock her door as my daughter and I were about to walk by – I am white. My daughter is black. It was not the first, the only, or the last time we have had, or will have, a similar experience.
Bias is alive and well and living in our world. Whether you recognize it or not.
To get an entirely UNbiased view of your job applicants and employees use a validated, reliable and objective assessment! Contact us for a free trial!
The On-boarding from … well, you know!
It was Sarah’s first day in a new job, in a new city. Finding her way, socially and professionally, she felt the insecurity that often accompanies big life changes such as moving across the country and
starting a new job. It didn’t help when she introduced herself to the receptionist, who scurried off to find the boss saying, “Oh! I didn’t know we had a new person starting today!”
Ten minutes later the boss arrived, who, in spite of his reassurance that “Today is your first day. Right. I knew that.” appeared just as surprised as the receptionist did that a new employee was there, ready to start.
They didn’t have a computer for her, or an office ready or anything else for that matter. The boss instructed her to use his office and his computer while they got hers ready. He pointed out a few documents to review and he left her, sitting in his office at his computer with no other instructions about what she was supposed to do.
It was an entire week before Sarah had her own office and her own computer, and still no clear direction about exactly what she was supposed to be doing.
Bringing on a new employee can be stressful for both the employer and the employee, regardless of the size of your company. With no plan and no direction for the new hire you risk losing a potential top performer. With a little bit of planning, though, you can create an environment where even your new hires love going to work and will become fully engaged and committed to doing their best for your company quickly. The Aberdeen Group found in a 2013 study that 91 percent of employees stayed in companies that had a well-structured on-boarding program, in contrast to only 30 percent of employees who stayed in companies with little or no on-boarding program.
Clearly it pays to have a plan.
Six steps to effective on-boarding
1. Welcome your new employees!
This can even start before day one with a hand-written, “Welcome to the team!” card. (What would that say to your new hires – and their families?!) When they do arrive make sure you are ready for them – with the right person to greet them, the tools they need to do their job – including a correctly spelled e-mail address, keys to the restroom, etc – and the structure and instruction about what they can expect.
2. Share your organizational vision, mission and values.
You already shared details of what the job entails when you offered the job (see #3). Now share the vision for your company, what you strive to achieve, what’s most important and how you want to be known in your industry and your community. Let your new hires fully understand how their role fits into this vision and mission and how important it is for success.
3. Review and clarify expectations.
Yes, you’ve already done this. Or at least you should have when you made the job offer. But it doesn’t hurt to review it again, or even to revisit it in the first few weeks. Clarify the tasks, how you expect them to be done, where to go for help and any additional expectations like attire, e-mail protocol and even how to answer the phone. Make sure they are crystal clear – and documented for future reference when they forget, because they will forget. That’s a lot easier for all of you than their having to find somebody to ask and your having to take the time to answer something that could have simply been written down.
4. Get to know each other.
Plan a “welcome on board” coffee or lunch during the first week or so to get to know each other personally. Depending on the size of the team include the people your new hire will work most closely with. The foundation of any cohesive team is vulnerability-based trust and you can’t develop that kind of trust without getting to know someone.
5. Identify the training plan.
That might mean that you first have to create a training plan, outlining exactly what skills are needed or need to be acquired in order to accomplish the expectations of the role and what guidance, training or assistance will be provided so your new hire can confidently fulfill the responsibilities of the role. Depending on your company and the position the training plan should also include spending some time with people in other departments so the new hire can not only see what they do but also how all the components fit together. That’s also a great way for the team members to get to know each other.
6. Clarify markers of success.
The training plan should include very clear, measurable, markers of success. Understanding exactly what they should know and have accomplished at 30 days, 60 days, 90 days and possibly even 120 days and one year leaves little room for either of you to wonder if they’re “getting it” and doing what they’re supposed to. It helps you identify what, if anything, needs to be adjusted. Is it something they need to do, or something you need to help them with? That also provides you with a foundation to gauge their progress when you meet at 30 days, 60 days, etc. to discuss progress and areas you both need to improve on. Again, these should be documented processes for everything that falls within the employee’s realm of responsibility.
Do we really have to do this??
Of course not! Admittedly, setting up and implementing this process takes time. But whatever you do in the first day, week, month of a new hire lays the groundwork for success of the employee, and, in turn, the success of the business. Effective onboarding incorporates your new hires as a part of the team more quickly, enabling them to start producing the results they were hired for. And, once you’ve got the system, well – you’ve got the system!
So, do you really have to do this? No. But if you want to increase the likelihood that your new hire will be a lasting hire you need to – well, first you need to hire right to start with! – and then you need to have a plan that will get your new hire up and running and contributing in as short a time as possible.
At synergize! we know that every employee is an investment. synergize! helps you get the most out of your investment by getting the right people in place, developing effective processes to engage your team and set each new hire up for success, overcoming dysfunctions and developing top performers.
The original, written by Sarah Yohe, was originally published in the synergizer! June 2015 edition.
Character flaw? Or behavior difference?
Behavior is measured on the DISC assessment.
If you are familiar with the DISC behavior profile you will understand what I mean when I describe myself as having a high D/I and a low S/C behavior style.
If you are NOT familiar with the DISC it measures our tendencies when dealing with the “four P’s” of behavior:
- Dominant with Problems (D)
- Influential with People (I)
- Steady work Pace (S)
- Compliant with Procedures (C)
The high D/I style suggests that I am direct and dominant (“D”) when approaching problems or tasks, and inspiring or influential (“I”) when it comes to interacting with people.
It also suggests that I am flexible – NOT structured or systematic (“S”) – in how I approach my work pace. And that I am, uh, stubborn and (sigh) careless with details – NOT cautious or compliant (“C”) – with following procedures.
And, as I do wherever I go, I took my high D/I style with me to do a workshop for a group of high S/C individuals who are all those things I am not – structured, systematic, compliant and detail-oriented.
It did not go well.
- I neglected to pay close enough attention to the behavior styles of the group and I approached the workshop in my typical enthusiastic, direct, engaging style. It was a little too energetic, and therefore overwhelming, not engaging, for them.
- I brought the wrong power point presentation. It was close, mind you … one I had previously done with their executive team and then edited for the purpose of doing it with this team. But it was, nonetheless, the wrong one and some of the references and dates in the body of the presentation were no longer accurate and didn’t match the handouts.
- I failed to prepare them for what they considered to be the “intrusive” work we would do as part of the team building process. It included answering questions such as, “In order to do my best work this is what I need from you …”
The bottom line was that I established myself – once and forever – as someone who lacks attention to detail. Indeed, no matter how hard I try and how diligently I focus on the minute details, in virtually every subsequent contact with them I have missed a relevant detail, supporting their belief that I have what they consider to be an egregious character flaw in my lack of attention to detail.
For the record, this is a trait of mine that I do not like or admire or appreciate. It is frustrating and discouraging to make copious lists and try all sorts of other behavioral adaptations to ensure that I attend to all the relevant details and then discover that I missed something anyway. But a character flaw?
In my book a character flaw would be more along the lines of lacking integrity; not caring how your behavior negatively impacts someone else; dishonesty; being untrustworthy, unkind, entitled, or jealous. It might even include not giving somebody a little bit of grace for their human limitations. Hmmmm.
If the lack of attention to detail is, in fact, a character flaw then I see it as equally damning as the inability to interact comfortably with people in any situation; or the inability to stand up before a few hundred people and present information that is inspiring, engaging and meaningful – activities that are usually difficult for the high S/C type. (Excuse me while my D/I is showing.)
Of course, I don’t think that is at all damning. Or flawed. Or even “bad”. Perhaps a challenge, a limitation or a non-talent but certainly not a character flaw.
It. Just. Is.
And, therefore, it is, simply, something I have to deal with and cannot ignore because, after all, I am not perfect.
So put me in front of a few people or a few hundred people with a topic I am knowledgeable about. I’ll have a great time and they’ll leave feeling inspired and encouraged. But ask me to ensure no details are overlooked in the process? Well, unfortunately, that I cannot guarantee.
All in all it was a good lesson for me. I pay more attention to my audience now, adjusting how I present information accordingly. And when that high S/C type drives me nuts with details or thoroughness in finishing a project I remember to give them some grace, appreciate what their style brings to getting things done well, and – hopefully – laugh about the differences.
DISC is a great tool to increase self-awareness and appreciate different approaches. It is invaluable in decreasing team misunderstanding that contributes to unproductive conflict. If you want to learn more about DISC check out our website or contact us. We’ll give you one with our compliments so you can see the impact it can have when you recognize and appreciate the different behavior styles that make up your team.
There I was … on the home stretch of a four-mile race. Which, for me, was simply four miles of more-running-than-walking along a river trail with a few hundred other people who were mostly running and trying to get to the end as fast as they could, which was much faster than I was going. As I was looking down at the ground a man passed me saying, “OH – I am so sorry! You had me the whole way!” When I looked up I saw the Finish Line just around the corner. I saw him speed across the Finish Line ahead of me. (NOTE: I use the word “speed” loosely in this case. We were, after all, both near 60 at the time.)
Finish Lines are really important. They give us a destination. They help us measure our progress and know how far we have to go. And they feel really good when we cross them.
I often use racing as a metaphor for life and business: Know what your Finish Line is. Know why you want to cross it. Know how it feels when you do.
As with racing, life often gives us obstacles and challenges. We get worn out. Our feet hurt. We think we can’t get through whatever the hurdle is. The first few miles of a marathon might feel pretty good. But at mile 12 you might think you can’t make it. And at mile 19 you might be ready to quit. What do you do then? If you know how the Finish Line feels you keep going. Maybe you have to change your strategy or your tactics. Maybe you have to walk a little. But you keep going. Because you know how it feels to cross the Finish Line.
Now Joe DeSena has written a whole book using the metaphor of racing to overcome life’s obstacles. SPARTAN UP! is his “take-no-prisoners guide to overcoming obstacles and achieving peak performance in life.” The Spartan Up approach helps you change your frame of reference to view obstacles and difficulties as an opportunity for growth to get to the end; to the Finish Line.
Check out Joe’s book, and contact us at synergize! if you’re interested in Marilyn’s workshop called “Beyond Goal-Setting – What’s holding you back?” We’d love to help you define your Finish Line and what you need along the way to make it to the end.
(The photo above is my daughter, Kali, with my granddaughter, Lilah. Her fourth marathon, Kali had just completed the Richmond Marathon in 3 hours, 55 minutes and 58 seconds, achieving her goal of a “sub-four [hour]” marathon. Kali knows what it feels like to cross the Finish Line and I could not be more proud of her!)
There is so much information out there on building great teams, best hiring practices, and advice on working together effectively. This is what synergize! does best! Allow us to sort through and decipher it all then keep you well informed so you can spend your time on what you do best.
synergize! works with organizations to provide customized programs to hire and develop productive teams. From analyzing a job to hiring at any level to providing team building and leadership coaching synergize! can help you create a great place to work, where your employees are energized and engaged and where everyone loves going to work.
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So please visit us on social media and invite your friends and colleagues to do the same! You are sure to find useful information that will make a difference for you – and for your team.