Concerns about unconscious bias and disability in the workplace Just 2% of us claim to have a disability bias when asked but last year The Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion (enei) published a report highlighting that one in three people show an unconscious bias against those with a disability – making it higher than levels of bias on the basis of gender or race.  As there are estimated to be over 6.9 million disabled people of working age in the UK, HR Departments need to consider what might be happening in their own workplaces. The test enei used to assess unconscious bias for their report was Implicitly® designed by Dr Pete Jones. ———————————————————————————————————————

Listen now to the webinar Dr Pete Jones ran for Talent Innovations “A level playing field? How unconscious bias could be impacting your HR processes”

Dr Pete Jones, Author ImplicitlyAccording to Dr Pete “Everyone has prejudices.  Prejudgments (judging others before we know them) are the result of our life experiences, socialisation with other people and exposure to the media.” It is his view that it is normal for us to associate or ‘categorise’ people and ideas.  This categorisation, which takes place automatically and at great speed, enables us to know how to act or expect others to act in each new situation by comparison to previous experience or expectations.  We all learn the stereotypes and have these biases ready to use, whether we condone them or not.  However, strong negative associations such as those measured in the Implicitly® test often influence our behaviour towards disabled people, associations formed (solely or mainly) on their group membership.  We sometime make judgments and decisions about people and situations which are wrong because our categorisation processes can be irrational and laden with emotional ‘baggage.’  These categories can also be difficult to change, partly because they are so useful and convenient in helping us to assess situations and people quickly. Implicitly measures our unconscious thoughts and feelings towards Disabled people by measuring how strongly we associate Disabled people with ‘good’ or ‘bad’ stereotypes.  Most of the time, these hidden thoughts and feelings do not cause problems for us or other people.  The fact that we are unaware of them is not a problem.  However, certain thoughts and feelings, solely on the basis of a person’s group membership (in this instance, being Disabled) do begin to impinge on our behaviour.  Because we are unaware of that thought or feeling, we are also unaware of the way it is affecting our behaviour and how this impacts on others.  This lack of awareness means that we are unable to control or manage those behaviours.  Most people would prefer to be in control of what they are doing and how they appear to others. Dr Pete has represented this idea in the diagram here:Unconscious Bias Johari from Talent Innovations

  1. Unknown and Unseen Some of our thoughts and feelings are below our level of consciousness.  They are passive and do not impinge significantly on our behaviour (as they are unseen by others).  We are not managing these thoughts and feelings, they are simply not on our radar.
  2. Known and Unseen Some thoughts and feelings we are aware of but they too are passive and do not lead to us acting any differently.  These are preferences or things we perhaps don’t feel strongly about, certainly not strongly enough for it to change the way we behave.
  3. Unknown, Uncontrolled but Seen Some unconscious associations are more active and are having an impact on our behaviour, but we are unaware of them.  These are the associations Implicitly picks up on.  Often the behaviours are subtle, such that nobody would describe them as overtly discriminatory, but they act together to exclude Disabled people, who are the subject of these subliminal thoughts and feelings.  We call these subtle behaviours ‘micro-behaviours.’  Micro-behaviours will often have a trigger in our past experiences.  For example, when we meet similar situations or similar Disabled people they could evoke the same strong thoughts and emotions as they did at an event in the past.  We can also develop those associations by listening to what other people have said and from what we have seen in the media.  Because we are unaware of these subliminal associations, we often don’t have strategies for recognising and managing them.  They can spill over into our behaviours and this can be intensified when we are under pressure, stressed, anxious or have other intense emotions.  Even if we are aware of how we think or feel, not recognising when those associations may be actively influencing our behaviour means we are not fully in control.
  4. Known and Seen, but Controlled and Managed  By raising your awareness of the unconscious thoughts and feelings you have which may well be driving your ‘micro-behaviours’ we enable you to control (or at least manage) the behaviours.  Once you can recognise your associations and how they affect your thinking, emotions and behaviour, as well as the situations or people which trigger those responses, you are on the way to managing them.  We use the term ‘manage’ because some associations will be very resistant to change.  However, by recognising them you can at least guard against their effects, even if you can’t change them completely or straight away.

Have a listen to the webinar that Dr Pete Jones recently presented for Talent Innovations on the subject of unconscious bias  A level playing field? How unconscious bias could be impacting your HR process Enei makes recommendations to employers to reduce the impact of unconscious bias against disabled people in the workplace.  To see the full research study “Disability: A Research Study on Unconscious Bias” from enei, click here.

Dr David RockThe NeuroLeadership Institute, co-founded by Dr David Rock, has Rethinking Learning as its focus for this year’s research project theme.  What, you might ask, is there to learn about that age old topic?  Attending a workshop given by Dr Rock was my first venture into the neuroscience field.   I am still at the stage of trying to sort out what is truly insightful and helpful, and what is old wine in new bottles. 


Dr Rock’s theme for the workshop was the design of learning experiences that more closely model actual brain functioning to deliver better and more long-term learning outcomes.   Networks of ideas are better than linear designs.  In practice this means paying close attention to the linking together of several related themes.  Design learning content to create clusters of interrelated concepts, ideas, experiences, skills, objectives and theories.  When done well he calls these webs of connections a ‘coherent weave.’  The power in a coherent weave is the exponential increase in connection compared to a linear design.


De-coherence occurs when we include different or irrelevant content in our learning design, stuff that just doesn’t fit, or we include too many models that essentially explain the same thing.  He refers to these as ‘knots’ and ‘tangles.’    Knots are removed by cutting out the offending content. Tangles are removed by simplifying to fewer concepts and removing redundancy. 


How to create a coherent weave


1.       Identify the central threads or core themes

2.       Build a stable hierarchy of ideas

3.       Be disciplined about tangles and knots

4.       Respect the limitations of memory (3 +/- 2 ideas at a time)

5.       Constantly link everything together


It is wonderful how this also translates directly to our principles in designing competency frameworks and 360 feedbacks.  Hold onto the core themes, be clear about the hierarchy of behaviours and make sure they hold together logically.  Remove repetition, redundancy and inconsistencies.  Keep the number of competencies down to a minimum, typically three for values and five for competencies.  And link everything together in a simple framework that is understandable to the organisation.


Thank you Dr Rock for underpinning our competency framework refresh model and thank you for a great session.

Nick Allen, Consultant and Coach, Talent Innovations

“The NeuroLeadership Institute event I attended was held 3rd April 2014 in Central London”

Read our WHITEPAPER – How to create and maintain an effective competency framework

Consider this – for many of our leaders and managers, operating in a no growth or low growth environment has become the norm.  As a result it is highly likely that they will have grown accustomed to being cautious, not rocking the boat and battening down the hatches.  Deeply engrained survival habits are hard to throw off.  But the landscape around our leaders is changing. New opportunities and competitors have taken root in the BRICS and MINT economies, business leaders are needing to re-consider their business models in preparation for new and exciting opportunities.  The problem is that businesses are getting ready to make the most of these new opportunities with potentially reduced workforces or at the minimum with teams who have experienced much less in the way of training and development over the last few years.

Business leaders who can reshape the workplace with greater emphasis on employee engagement, empowerment and alignment, and better management skills are needed to improve competitiveness, win new customers and raise productivity.  This presents new and exciting opportunities for HR teams.  According to HR guru Dave Ulrich getting out of the doldrums and inspiring growth requires HR practitioners who are:

  1. Strategic positioners: able to know the business well enough to position an organisation powerfully in changing markets
  2. Credible activists: able to build relationships of trust through personal credibility and having a point of view on business issues
  3. Capability builders: able to define and shape a culture that turns external expectations into internal organisational actions
  4. Change champions: able to initiate and sustain change at individual and institutional levels
  5. Innovators and integrators: able to innovate in an integrated new ways to solve business problems
  6. Technology proponents: able to access information to make better decisions.

Internal coaches are a valuable resource to many companies, but when a kick start is needed it may be time to wheel in the professionals as managers have become too embedded within the organisation and are potentially more invested in the status quo than they realise.   A good coach will start to shift the mind-sets that are limiting the management team’s or HR team’s potential.  They will be in a position to uncover the underlying beliefs about the situation and feelings and values to better help the coachee understand how they are viewing the business and their part in it.  In short  the power of the mind-sets of our leadership teams can guide an entire organisation towards positive change.  Leaders don’t reach their full potential as leaders by only looking at what is visible.  We need to be able to access what is underneath to understand and affect how remarkable leaders lead.

So to return to the question “Is coaching the key to switching business growth habits back on?” it is probably not the key but it is almost definitely a powerful mechanism that could unlock extraordinary results.

What are your thoughts on the potential for externally-sourced coaching?

To read more about Talent Innovations potential to unlock new habits within your organisation take a look at our Coaching offering here.


This article was inspired by “Lead at your best” Barsh and Lavoie (2014) McKinsey & Co and “Fly with integrity” Ulrich, Hinton, Wollard and de Botton (2014) changeboard.com


Nick Allen – Consultant and Coach, Talent Innovations 

Read on – this is a useful development tool for us all.
We know it’s boring – the annual boom and bust of resolutions and failure – so boring in fact that we don’t even bother to make resolutions in the first place. Who needs some crazy annual custom? What’s wrong with any time of year? Well of course there’s nothing wrong with anytime, New year resolutions cartoonbut generally if we are going to make some lasting change there has to be a significant prompt. And that’s exactly what a 360° feedback is. We can learn so much about ourselves, some of which we might not like or some of which drives us to do even better. But even if we decide to make change and develop a real intention to change, there is still the challenge of implementation. Hmm…..the doing part. Sometimes the change involves learning new skills or competencies. Sometimes it involves making changes to behaviour in the heat of everyday organisational life. These challenges can be particularly great given;

  • the limited amount of mental capacity available for self-regulation,
  • how easy it is for this processing to get distracted,
  • the mass and momentum of the subconscious habit part of the brain.

The trick is to have….

Implementation Intentions.  In our last blog “Can I give you some feedback – the neuroscience that will help in your 360 degree programmes” we cited Dixon, Rock and Ochsner (2010).  In their paper they quote research by Gollwitzer (1993) where he states – holding implementation intentions is more effective than holding goal intentions. For example intentions such as,

“If I find myself distracted by the details, I will ignore the distraction and take time out to think about the bigger picture”,

are more effective than intentions such as

“I am going to increase my focus on the big picture”.

So that’s why our New Year’s resolutions to lose weight or go to the gym usually fail?
Dixon et al (2010) found the “if-then” (what I will do) format for the intention to be more effective in stimulating new and intended behaviour.  If ThenGollwitzer found the if-then intention to be effective, even if the individual doesn’t remember that they were supposed to be doing a self-regulatory act. He found that once the “if” situation occurred the response was immediate. He refers to this process as “instant habit”. The act of making the if-then statement seems to help the brain automatically trigger the control when it needs to trigger it. It also seems to remove the burden of needing to continuously monitor their behaviour to check whether they are supposed to be regulating. Talent Innovations is currently testing this in our updated version of Inspiring Leader.

Difficult goals work better using this method
Research also suggests that implementation intentions have greater impact for difficult goals. There is a suggestion that for difficult goals, implementation intentions may not have any impact unless they specify what action needs to be taken. Other researchers have shown implementation intentions to work better if the “then” part of the statement is action orientated (I will change my approach), rather than reflection-orientated (I will think about my approach). This is perhaps somewhat obvious as a thought may be less impactful on the external environment than an action.

When emotions get in the way
Implementation intentions may work even if the cues for their implementation are internal rather than external too: for instance, desires, fears or other feelings. “If I fear anxiety about leading a workshop, I will remember to relax my mind and body”. These implementation intentions have been found to work across a variety of external environments. These kinds of interventions avoid the common plan of living with or minimising the cycle that caused the problem (for instance, “When I get stressed, I freeze up, so I need to figure out how to avoid getting stressed”). The more effective alternative is to become aware of the trigger of the down cycle. Once found and understood it can be used as a trigger to initiate a different cycle. Using internal states as an implementation intention trigger in this way can also eliminate the need to identify, anticipate and program for multiple external cues.

A picture is worth….
A picture is worth 1000 wordsWe find that adding mental imagery to implementation intentions has an impact on goal success. The paper suggests that imagining an action is “equivalent or similar to carrying it out from a neurological perspective as it activates the same areas of the brain”, as a possible explanation. A parallel strategy is to remember actions that have been successful in the past. Remembering past actions involves accessing retrospective memory and this can involve less effort than formulating intentions using future thinking.

To make the most of your 360 degree feedback development intentions…

The best development plans include a combination of all of these aspects i.e. to construct an if-then statement and then review when similar efforts have been made in the past and what caused their success. This might inform and refine the if-then statement. Once formed, the individual might be encouraged to imagine him or herself executing the if-then statement. Some of the latest research suggests that how good people are at performing these types of if-then interventions in the very next moments they encounter the situation after their 360 predicts how successful they are going to be over a subsequent longer period.
However we or you go about it, a development plan which contains implementation intentions, goals, past based strategies, and visualisations is a useful development tool.

To get the full story read our Whitepaper “Understanding how 360 degree feedback can be enhanced by neuroscience” now.

Dixon, P., Rock, D. and Ochsner, K. (2010). Turn the 360 around. NeuroLeadership Journal Issue 3
Gollwitzer, P. M. (1993). Goal achievement: The role of intentions. European Journal of Social Psychology, 4, 141-185

A breakthrough for global businesses…..

In many businesses across the world December is year-end appraisal and review time.   For clients of Persona GLOBAL®’s network of 1400 certified professional trainers and consultants based in 71 countries there is a new opportunity for their teams to take advantage of a just-launched multi-source peer review product Inspiring Leader Breakthrough.  This product is unique to the Persona GLOBAL®  network having been developed by Talent Innovations, global experts in 360 degree feedback.  Inspiring Leader Breakthrough is specifically designed to facilitate transformation and to develop skills in feedback and development planning.

It is increasingly recognised that the best companies for leadership give all employees at every level of an organization the opportunity to develop and practice the capabilities needed to lead others.  Inspiring Leader Breakthrough has been selected by Persona GLOBAL® as their 1st 360 degree feedback product offer to sit within their Leadership and Management Teams & Coaching Series.  Inspiring Leader Breakthrough utilises a unique perspective on leadership competencies permitting all participants a new self-awareness to create commitment and clarity about change on their path to leadership positions.  “The robustness of the Inspiring Leader Breakthrough leadership model and Talent Innovations commitment to development appealed to the Persona Global team.  These strengths match our clients’ desires to be amongst the best companies for leadership” commented Jon Gornstein, CEO Persona GLOBAL®.

Elva Ainsworth

Elva Ainsworth – Founder Talent Innovations

Talent Innovations online 360 feedback questionnaire has been integrated to Persona GLOBAL®’s own software platform meaning that Inspiring Leader Breakthrough now has the potential to be implemented across 71 countries with simplicity and efficiency.  A simple and effective solution for international and global organisations looking to develop their teams across the world.  Elva Ainsworth, Founder Talent Innovations added “We first met Persona GLOBAL ® at ASTD and we were immediately impressed by the level of leadership expertise and knowledge of the team.  The ethos of their business which is to bring about transformational change fits with our vision which is to enable organisations to be empowering and engaging with truly authentic leaders.  We are delighted to be able to offer Inspiring leader Breakthrough to the Persona GLOBAL® network”.

For more information about Inspiring Leader Breakthrough please visit http://www.personaglobal.com/admin/material/facts/contents/(ILB)InspiringLeader.pdf

For more information about the Talent Innovations Inspiring Leader competency model please take a look at http://www.talentinnovations.com/s145/

About Talent Innovations – Founded in 2001, Talent Innovations provides 360° feedback for development and a set of online developmental tools to help organisations achieve transformational change by improving the performance of their people. For further information about Talent Innovations, please call Alicen Stenner on 0845 3623269 or email alicen@talentinnovations.co.uk

About Persona GLOBAL® Persona GLOBAL® Inc., is a management consultancy which services clients directly while providing robust, field-tested methodologies and metrics to OD practitioners.   With over 1400 certified professionals based in 71 countries the results driven methodologies and metrics are locally adapted to ensure cultural acceptance.   Since 1980, Persona GLOBAL® has been both a direct management consultancy as well as the hub of a network of organizational development practitioners providing robust, field-tested performance solutions and survey instrumentation.

The neuroscience insights that will help you give better 360 degree feedback (or any kind of feedback for that matter).

Do you hear footsteps behind you and feel a shiver down your spine when you read the words “Can I give you some feedback”?  Dr David Rock, one of the world’s best known neuroscientists, says the feeling of dread and fear we might have if wecogs brain hear someone walking behind us on a dark night is similar to the feeling we have when a colleague offers us the opportunity of a word or two of feedback.  According to Dixon, Rock and Ochsner (2010) the possibility that our sense of “status” might be threatened by adverse feedback leads to an experience that they describe as “social pain”.  Social pain lights up brain regions that are largely the same as when we are feeling physical pain.  And what do we do about physical pain?  Well generally we try and avoid it don’t we?

When we sit down with a team member we can be as well planned and as well-meaning as we like.  But, if the team member feels that their sense of self and status is threatened, their ability to respond to the feedback is going to be severely threatened.  Behaviour is largely based upon habit and is guided mainly outside of our conscious awareness.  The habit system is resistant to change whereas the pre-frontal cortex which controls the conscious part of our mind is easily distracted – by stress, hunger, lack of sleep, fear….when feedback works it allows the conscious part of the mind to exert conscious control over the habit system.  The individual can then control and change their behaviour.  If the feedback recipient feels any level of fear or threat then the feedback given will have considerably less impact.

Dixon et al (2010) use the SCARF model to explain 5 key elements of the feedback process and conversation.
S Status
C Certainty
A Autonomy
R Relatedness
F Fairness
This is a great model which can be applied to a 360 feedback situation (or of course any feedback situation) to bring some useful practical aspects to the situation.

• Status:  The key is to be clear with the focus of the 360 that the feedback data they are about to receive will not affect their status.  The feedback data simply reflects how people currently view them and the fact that the focus is now aware of their views has not changed anything per se. It is also important to be clear with the focus that the feedback data belongs to them.  It is theirs to share with others or not.  Privacy and control can protect status.
• Certainty:  The key here is a thorough briefing and detailed communications about the process so there is certainty about what is going to happen.  This must be supported by a follow-through consistent with expectations.  It takes a supportive development programme, transparency, an experienced coach and good questioning to provide an environment where the individual has the experience that they are in the driving seat of their career, their role or their own development.
• Autonomy: This will be achieved by ensuring individuals have control of the process as much as possible.  In 360 feedback situations this can be done by allowing the focus to make choices – who to choose as their raters or reviewers, what is asked within the survey (e.g. Talent Innovations build in the opportunity for every individual to add their own questions to make the output personal to them or their team), who they have as coach and what to put into their action plan.  Following this approach the individual will feel more comfortable and open to gaining the real value.
• Relatedness: It is critical to unpick relationship issues that emerge when looking at the feedback data.  The individual can be helped to see how the views of one person could be very different from the views of someone else and to remove significance and meaning from these differing opinions.  Relatedness can be protected once the individual sees how their own role and responsibility have contributed to the generation of others’ opinions.
• Fairness: It is critical that the system and process has 100% reliability and integrity of data otherwise the value of the whole process can be destroyed.  In addition care needs to be taken in designing and executing the 360 process.  People will want to know how they compare to others and will want a fair comparison group and because of the status needs listed previously people will really want to do well. This needs to be managed very carefully and thoughtfully.

It’s a great model, easy to remember and clear to understand. If the subject of your feedback has been able to take on board what you had to say and is now ready to make changes, you may need to be ready to help them do it.  Planning for on-going development is the subject of our next blog on this topic.
If you just can’t wait then please download our whitepaper “Understanding how 360 feedback can be enhanced by neuroscience”. 

Dixon, P., Rock, D. and Ochsner, K. (2010). Turn the 360 around. NeuroLeadership Journal Issue 3

TI hamsterCould a new and unexpected opportunity bring happiness to the team and responsibility and personal development for one member of the team?

My children have been on at me to buy them a pet. In the end as every strong and in control parent does, I capitulated.  But rather than feel it was weakness on my part I took the purchase of a pet as a prime development opportunity.  This was not the original intention but it was interesting to see how this development opportunity evolved.

Having given in and said that my children could get a pet I made it their choice. A list of just what was involved was laid down and the consequences of not delivering against these basic requirements was made clear; cleaning of the cage, playing and general looking after, food, water.  If these tasks were not delivered then the pet would be returned to the pet shop.

Now having understood what exactly was involved in the care of a pet just one of my sons decided to take on the responsibility.  The whole family visited the pet shop together but the voice and the power was just with the son who had taken on the new job.  He seemed to get taller and fill more space as he was made the owner of the decision as to which pet was chosen and which accessories.  He took a bit of a leap into the unknown as we all got in the car and he had to hold his pet and be responsible for it. And then rather bizarrely to match his new found voice he began to demonstrate some leadership qualities.

He is given stickers for ensuring the pet tasks all get completed and his brother can earn stars for helping out. He gets a feel of being in charge whilst allocating jobs to his brother. Sadly he took on rather an autocratic style and completely demotivated his brother who ran away. “He’s gone” he wailed much to my amusement.

“Well, you have to make it fun for him and maybe let him do the jobs in his own way” I advised my son. A hard lesson for any of us to heed, even the most experienced of leaders.

Our new hamster has provided hours of fun and amusement for the family and has been a great opportunity for the boys to learn about influence, responsibility, communication, teamwork, leadership and even empathy.  Now I am really glad I succumbed to parental weakness.  Or am I just glad I can post rationalise!

Anyhow, there is a good chance that there is a hamster opportunity for your department offering growth for the individual and happiness for the team. Good examples might be the team social secretary or the FolderMaster in charge of ensuring the Shared drive has a meaningful indexing system.

Are there more roles that could motivate your team in this way and act as an opportunity beyond the day to day?

Take a look – 7 tips for HR to enable transformational change


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