How cognitive distortions can undermine your career

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Vasyl Ivanov is the founder and CEO of Hold on. KeepSolid builds modern security and productivity solutions for millions of users.

There are many books and articles about it cognitive distortions-the ways of thinking that prevent us from accurately perceiving reality. These cognitive distortions are often discussed in the context of their impact on our personal well-being and emotional life. However, these mistakes can also impact our professional careers in business environments and can negatively impact both our own careers and the business success of our companies.

Hard skills are not always the driving force behind one’s progress or lack thereof; it may be a distorted thinking that hinders their career advancement. Sometimes these disruptions can become so great that peers and colleagues begin to question the person’s trustworthiness and their decisions.

In my experience as a CEO of a technology company, I have sometimes dealt with managers who, for one reason or another, were never able to get a project to a successful conclusion. They often had an MBA from a competitive school, so the reason for their failure was clearly not a lack of intelligence or a lack of relevant hard skills. I started to pay particular attention to how they worked on their projects, and I quickly realized that the culprit was how their brain took shortcuts in certain situations. When people in management positions felt overwhelmed by the things they didn’t know, they stopped supervising the programmers.

This was not a conscious decision, but rather an unconscious defense mechanism. The fact that managers tend to work with abstractions and concepts (such as “schedule” or “quality”) rather than something tangible such as program code or physical objects, such as tools or parts, may have contributed to their tendency to be illogical. act because it was more difficult for them to assess the actual progress of the project.

Even high-level leaders are susceptible; as a CEO, I have experienced such mental anomalies. Here’s an example: We’ve been looking for the best technicians for years to keep up with the high volume of maintenance tasks on our servers. We have over 3,000 servers and a huge workload, plus constant issues with some servers. Everyone involved in the task, including myself, was looking to solve the problem by finding more specialists. Only recently did I realize that some of the tasks performed by today’s engineers can be easily automated, freeing up half of the engineers’ time for more important tasks. It took me 10 years to realize that in a technology company you should not only create technology, but also use it.

How can leaders address cognitive distortions?

My biggest piece of advice when it comes to finding the best managers is to carefully consider a professional’s managerial skills along with his skills in his department. Cognitive distortions have cost our company some great professionals – really talented and skilled developers, test engineers, marketers, etc. – because when they were promoted to managerial or managerial positions, they had to develop new skills and sometimes made illogical mistakes.

What went wrong? They had established themselves as experts in their field, so why not give them more opportunities to lead the team and achieve even better results? But sometimes professionals can do their old jobs so well without even thinking about it that they enter new positions believing they don’t need to learn anything new. When they encounter problems beyond their capabilities, they may be reluctant to admit that they need additional development.

Ideally, if you can find a ready-made manager who understands the field and has management skills, he may be the best choice to lead his department. Another way of approaching this is that before a specialist is promoted to the position of head, it is a condition that he must study and demonstrate that he can perform the duties of the head. If they cannot meet the required standard, they simply remain in their previous position. In this way, the professional can get to know his own limitations and suitability without worrying about his image in the eyes of colleagues.

As a CEO, it’s also important to get rid of your cognitive distortions. To do that, I’d recommend really diving into the areas you don’t feel confident in. After going through many business crises, I found that the reason why I was prone to anomalies in some aspects of the business was that I refused to really study them properly, thinking I already knew enough. If we have some gaps in knowledge, we tend to fill those gaps with illusions, resulting in us behaving irrationally. So it’s important to make sure you understand all areas of your business, at least to the level needed to monitor what’s going on and be able to assess efficiency.

Another important step is to practice self-awareness. For example, at one point one of the projects cost us over $500,000 before I finally finished it. Why did I wait so long? I was afraid to let people who worked on the project go, even if I would eventually have to let them go, but with the financial loss on top of it. Once I realized that my fear of saying goodbye to the team working on the project was causing me to act irrationally, I was able to make the right decision. It is important to ensure that your actions are not motivated by emotionally guided fallacies.

The cognitive biases exhibited by managers who do not understand how to handle the technical aspects of a project, or because a team leader does not admit that they lack certain skills, are due to calculation errors in the cognitive process. Like a software bug that breaks an application, such disruptions lead the person to make repeated bad decisions despite evidence that the decisions are wrong. That’s why it’s important to the success of any business to see situations clearly and act on real data rather than mental distortions.


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