How Getting to Know Yourself Better Can Get You Ahead


A recent Harvard Business Review article cited a 10-year study that revealed the four telltale signs of what great executives know and do consistently. One area where exceptional executives excelled was in their decision making skills. The study finds that exemplary executives “have the ability to declare their views, engage others’ ideas, analyze data for insights, weigh alternatives, own the final call, and communicate the decision clearly”.  The study also finds that good decisions are built on a balance of instinct and information. On one end of the spectrum, are leaders who trust their intuition, and on the other end are those who rely on data and well-informed perspective.

Understanding what affects your decision making can help you boost productivity, and unlock your own career success. Here we’ll help you identify your personal productivity style, and we’ll take a look at the cognitive behaviors that can hinder you from effective decision making so that you can make better informed judgments.

Identifying Your Productivity Style

Carson Tate, author of Work Simply, claims to have pinned down four distinct productivity styles along with ideas on how each type of worker can best contribute to his or her team.

The Prioritizer concedes to logical critical and analysis based thinking. They enjoy problem solving. They are goal orientated and decisive. They work well with numbers, statistics, and data. A Prioritizer prefers to have information presented in a form that is brief, precise, clear, and technically accurate. Execution driven, tasks are well timed and planned out to ensure deadlines are met and projects are accomplished in a timely fashion.

The Planner exhibits a high attention to detail in all tasks. They prefer organized, sequenced project plans which are detailed and concise. They focus solely on the details that help them complete the project quickly and accurately. Date-driven, they enjoy lists and crossing off project milestones from their timelines. They love calendars, agendas, and establishing deliverables.

The Arranger favors support, expression and emotional thinking. They encourage teamwork to maximize work output and make decisions intuitively, in real time, blocking out periods in which to complete work. They enjoy collaboration and communication within a team. They enjoy visual aids to keep a project on track.  He or she likes to maintain visual lists, often using color, and intuitively knows what tasks must be completed.

The Visualizer prefers holistic, intuitive, integrating, and synthesizing thinking. They see the big picture and work quickly to complete tasks. They think strategically, the multitasker who is able to managing multiple simultaneous creative projects while effectively executing tasks. At times, they have a tendency to overlook details and tend to value the possibilities over process.

Cognitive Biases and How they Affect Decision Making

Cognitive biases can be broadly placed in two categories: information and ego.

Information biases include the use of heuristics, or information-processing shortcuts, that produce fast and efficient, though not necessarily accurate, decisions and not paying attention nor adequately thinking through relevant information.

Information biases include:

  • Knee-jerk bias: Make fast and intuitive decisions when slow and deliberate decisions are necessary.
  • Occam’s razor bias:  Assume the most obvious decision is the best decision.
  • Silo effect: Use too narrow an approach in making a decision.
  • Confirmation bias: Focus on information that affirms your beliefs and assumptions.
  • Inertia bias:  Think, feel, and act in ways that are familiar, comfortable, predictable, and controllable.
  • Myopia bias:  See and interpret the world through the narrow lens of your own experiences, baggage, beliefs, and assumptions.

Ego biases include emotional motivations, such as fearanger, or worry, and social influences such as peer pressure, the desire for acceptance, and doubt that other people can be wrong.

Ego biases include:

  • Shock-and-awe bias: Belief that our intellectual firepower alone is enough to make complex decisions.
  • Overconfidence effect: Excessive confidence in our beliefs, knowledge, and abilities.
  • Optimism bias: Overly optimistic, overestimating favorable outcomes and underestimating unfavorable outcomes.
  • Homecoming queen/king bias: Act in ways that will increase our acceptance, liking, and popularity.
  • Force field bias: Think, feel, and act in ways that reduce a perceived threat, anxiety, or fear.
  • Planning fallacy: Underestimate the time and costs needed to complete a task.

Source: “Cognitive Basis are Bad for Business”

How to become more successful by knowing yourself better

You can mitigate cognitive biases in your decision making and maximize the benefits of your personal productivity style to ensure you are making the most of the method you’re comfortable working in and freeing yourself from poor resolve.

By becoming aware of cognitive biases you’re prone to making, you can make a conscious effort to reduce their influence. Do some thorough research and make a mental note of the ones you’re susceptible to. Ask questions and challenge perceptions and conclusions to try and identify what leads you to a certain decision and avoid the cognitive bias attached to it. Establish a well thought out plan for decision making for your best chance at not falling victim to cognitive biases.
By becoming honest and comfortable with your productivity style, you can identify and maximize your strengths and evaluate where best to apply yourself in your team. Becoming familiar with productivity styles also affords you the opportunity to recognize the productivity styles of your colleagues and coworkers. Establishing a greater understanding of the way people work and communicate helps build a framework for collaboration.

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