A Different Kind of Executive Coaching for Private Investment Funds

The most common cognitive bias that affects hedge funds and private equity funds is confirmation bias. Confirmation bias warps your attention, putting you at risk for irrationally seeking data that supports your conclusion and avoiding data that refutes it. The most unrecognized source of cognitive bias are the unconscious assumptions we bring with us into work every day.

In and of themselves, assumptions are not necessarily wrong or bad. However, researchers at Harvard and elsewhere have learned that there are two main types of assumptions – regular and “Big,” to use the vernacular. Regular assumptions fall into the category of things you “know you don’t know.” They lie just below conscious awareness. You can, with a little work, access them. A Big Assumption, on the other hand, is an unsophisticated, early life lesson that is attached to the fight-flight-freeze system in your brain. These are most assuredly in the category of things you “don’t know that you don’t know.”

In a volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous environment, it pays dividends to surface your Big Assumptions about the world, so that you might unlearn them in order to make better decisions.

We believe that there are few naturally occurring situations better suited for helping us to grow than the world of work. Employment is a container for adult development if for no other reason than it is the container in which we spend the majority of our lives. Up until now, there has not been a clear method for helping adults grow into their next level of psychological development. This is why there are so many coaching methods out there that promise “lasting change.” While we are sure some of those methods work, we know for a fact that the method we use works. The Immunity to Change method was created by researchers who have spent their lives focused on adult development stages and how to transform into them. (If you want to jump ahead and see the results, click here:  http://www.mindfulnesscoach.biz/services/why-it-works-well/)

The perspective of work as a container for growth is not in conflict with work as a way to grow wealth. Quite the opposite. There is good evidence that psychological development into your next stage will increase your effectiveness and your bottom line (you can download two good studies in the “Free Resources” area of this website).

Beyond evidence, you’ve likely noticed an increasing call for young adults who can “own their work,” or are otherwise self-managing, self-directing, self-supervising employees. In adult development and learning theory, we call this the “Self-Authoring” stage. It is the second of three adult stages of development. Our programs cultivate the skills adults need to grow into and beyond this stage of development.

Are You Ready?

Southern Sky Observatory Milky WayWith personal goals and with professional goals, change is hard. In our personal lives, we call them “New Year’s Resolutions,” and in our professional lives, we call them “Yearly Performance Reviews.” In both cases, we are often faced with goals that are difficult to achieve. Making things even more difficult is the fact that we are genuinely sincere about our motivations to change. So just what is happening here?

It turns out that there are very good evolutionary reasons why change is so hard. Put simply: we are built to avoid any change that puts the safety of what we value at risk. Those are the “Big Assumptions” and their connection to the fight-flight-freeze system in the brain. Our perceptions play a large role in the automatic safety switch that we all possess, and which all too often will possess us!

ITC 2015 Certified CoachThe part of the brain that is involved with protecting our physical bodies is also employed when we feel that our identity and values are at risk. This self-protection can reach seven times the intensity of our “executive functions.” It should be clear then why building trust and being a trustworthy human is such an important part of working well together as a team.

And so the journey of development, whether as an individual or as an organization, begins by discovering the differences between your regular assumptions and your Big Assumptions, followed by an intense program of behavior experiments where you unlearn your Big Assumptions. This decouples those unsophisticated life lessons from your fight-flight-freeze system, so that you have more freedom to act and more control over those actions. Additionally, you will experience less cognitive bias, and you will make large gains on your growth towards your next adult stage of development.

Developing is not easy; nothing worth doing ever is. Beware of anyone selling you an “easy’ program of change!