“We have a bias for action” is a popular phrase meant to signal that someone is serious about getting things done. And, while it’s true there are people who like to talk about business rather than doing business, have you noticed that a “bias for action” doesn’t automatically equate to greater results? In fact, all too often a “bias for action” is costing companies money.

What good is a bias for action if the actions you take lead you backwards?


In many companies one has to look no further than the meetings being conducted to observe backward-action leadership. In an effort to get to “action” as quickly as possible, too many bosses do what they’ve always done: start by analyzing what’s not working, then determine where the problems lie, ask who or what is to blame, and finish with sharing their concerns regarding the plan forward.

This bias for the wrong action backfires in bad ways: communication stalls as defenses go up, confidence plummets because momentum vanishes, egos flare, and very little work gets done. As our friend, Per L., says, this is the “anti-solutioning” approach.

There’s a better approach. In your next meeting demonstrate your bias for the right action by focusing on solutions, what is necessary to improve, what you are learning, and how to make ideas work. This focus is accomplished by asking questions such as:

  • What progress have we made since our last meeting that we can expand on?
  • What are the three most important actions we should take to hit our target?
  • What lessons have we learned that we want to leverage moving forward?
  • How will we know we’re executing our strategy?

Demonstrating a bias for the right action moves teams forward faster. As “Quotable Joe” in Cincinnati reports, “We now leap-frog the commiseration stage of the meeting, and get more done – faster.”

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