Preventing Cognitive Shortcuts from Damaging Leadership Relationship Building

All of us develop cognitive shortcuts to efficiently comprehend the abundance of available information in a short amount of time, but concurrently we are also creating untrue assumptions about the world around us. Our information processing is not perfect and the created incorrect assumptions create an additional workload in the future. Working with incorrect data leads to more faulty information that damages processes and relationships.

Cognitive shortcuts stem from previous experiences.  A cognitive shortcut is a fast way to interpret information based on previous experience. The assumption is that the present situation will reflect a similar previous event and aids in faster information processing, increased reaction time, and decision-making.  Unfortunately, mistakes occur because situations and people are not always consistent across time and the unidentified variance creates confusion with the interpreted message.

Leadership is about relationships. Relationships take time to develop and cognitive shortcuts about others lead to false assumptions that damage important relationships and inhibit mutual growth.

Cognitive shortcuts are dangerous because they incorporate hidden stereotypes.  Stereotypes are created from cultural values so they have a small amount of truth, but stereotypes do not apply to everyone within a category and can be very offensive if recognized.

Leaders need to be mindful of their judgments and how their cognitive shortcuts play a role in their behavior. Additionally, leaders need to be careful of which cognitive shortcuts they use within relationships because false attributions can severe important business relationships. Leaders need to master the phenomenon of cognitive shortcuts in order to be effective in leading others and cultivating secure mutually benefitting relationships.

Keith Miller

Keith Lawrence Miller, Organizational Psychologist, Board Certified Coach (BCC), Professional Credentialed Coach (PCC), with subject matter expertise in executive career & leadership coaching and management consulting supported by a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University.

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