Monday, February 14, 2011

Matthew Alexander, author of Kill or Capture, is on NPR right now talking about his role as a Senior US Interrogator in Iraq. He says something important to all of us -- managers, leaders, parents, and citizens: the number one thing that prevents getting good information is stereotypes. When interrogators stereotyped Arabs or Muslims, they took the wrong approach or couldn't establish the trust necessary to form the relationship that would encourage the Taliban member in front of them to share critical information.

For example, if you believe that all Muslims are anti-US, then you are unlikely to look for areas where you share likes and dislikes. Alexander used these connections to develop trust that eventually leads to the capture of senior Taliban.

By the same token, if you assume all lower-level employees care only about their paycheck or have no loyalty to your organization, you won't look for ways to enable commitment that do not involve compensation. If you believe that they're all stupid, you are unlikely to search for underlying causes for specific challenges your organization faces, and therefore you'll be far less likely to solve those challenges sustainably. And if you believe your children only want things, you are unlikely to form relationships with them that will lead to their self-development.

What stereotypes get in your way to being a great manager, leader or parent?

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