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Talent will get you in the door, but character will keep you in the room.

One of the biggest mistakes we all make is not understanding how our unconscious bias can affect the way we view people. But it’s an important factor that determines why we are attracted to some people over others, why we feel ‘kindred spirits’ occasionally, and sometimes why we can’t stand people on sight!

We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are

Most of us have a basic desire to feel good about ourselves and we therefore have a tendency to be unconsciously biased in favour of traits similar to our own … even such seemingly meaningless traits as our name or being born in the same place, or having the same taste in shoes!

Neuroscience research tells us that we have this discreet area of the brain called the dorsal striatum. It’s the structure that mediates much of this unconscious bias and we are not even aware of when this is happening.

This is why it is critical for us to become aware of our unconscious bias … because it can help us, but it can also hinder us when we’re recruiting people for our teams. If we rely upon it too much, we can create a team of ‘yes men and women’ and that’s not conducive to creating a culture that’s rich in a variety of skills and experiences.

The art of thinking independently together …

These days companies are moving at a fast pace with limited resources. They have to make quick decisions, and rapidly adapt to change. In order to cope with this and keep coming out ahead, teams need to be collaborative, dynamic and diverse.

So rather than let your unconscious bias get in the way of recruiting, be clear about what your expectations are and define at least 6 areas of behaviours – those that you know will complement your people and your company culture.

Then get to know a person and monitor how they act, particularly in terms of these traits.  Bring them in for a few hours or a day and see how they relate to others and how they fit the criteria you’re recruiting for.

Ask them to tell their personal stories, get them to demonstrate, – all of these are good indicators of a person’s personality, character and talent, and it means you’re in a better position to make a clear-headed assessment in conjunction with your unconscious bias, and not the other way around!

They may know more than you think …  

Lots of companies have nice sounding value statements … but the real culture of an organisation is the sum of its people and how they are encouraged to behave in the workplace.  Skills can be taught, but attitude is something we’re born with.

But leading people is about getting the best out of them. One of the best management philosophies I’ve heard in a long time is Google’s most famous ‘twenty percent time’.

Creativity is the greatest rebellion in existence …

Google encourages their employees to invest twenty percent of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google, and the rest of the time in their ‘particular role’. This has empowered teams to be more creative and innovative and supported in their desire to bring new ideas to the table.  In fact, many of Google’ significant advances happened because of this culture: Google News, Google Maps, Gmail, and even AdSense to name a few.

And this has been of great positive, strategic benefit for the company. They have accomplished good things, they have built a talented team and garnered loyalty.

Creative and responsible individuals thrive on freedom and are worthy of freedom if you get the right people at the right time.  The trick is to recruit for talent, and let their characters shine.