We don’t like to admit that we are bias. But we are.
We prefer a particular brand, we prefer particular foods, colours, music, sports teams. But these aren’t really a problem.
It gets challenging when people are involved.
Subjects like gender, race, religion, age, these are sketchy territory. That’s why they are protected in businesses and rightly so. Companies have specific development programmes to raise awareness around them.
We’d struggle to openly admit that we have a bias in any of these areas. Probably because we have worked on them or are working on them to really start to understand and appreciate differences and to recognise the huge positive impacts that they can have on us, our teams and our businesses. We also don’t want to be judged negatively.
But what about those other biases? Those ones that are unconscious. Because we will always have them, that’s human nature.
As Tiffany Jana says in her book ‘Overcoming bias; building authentic relationships across differences’, it’s not our fault, it’s part of a human condition. We are bought up in a society that encourages us to make choices, to differentiate between things. In fact, in a study carried out by Jana, only 17% of people have no preferences. That’s 83% of us with a natural, inherent bias.
Think about this if you are in a position of leadership, or a thought leader, or a role model. What impact are your biases having on the roles and responsibilities you have? Maybe it’s some of the following;
Responsibilities – delegating tasks, setting goals and objectives, creating strategy, who are you challenging? Who is getting the exciting, cutting edge tasks?
Those who have done the same or similar things before? Who have been in the business the longest? Who you want to develop, and they have a gap in their skill base?
Feedback – we know that feedback is a great way of developing individuals and teams. Provided it gives context, specific examples, has impact and suggests next steps it can make a fundamental difference to the performance of those who you work with. But who are you giving feedback to?
Those who you rate highly? Who are more like you? Who you know will take action?
Promotion – whether this is a literal climbing of the ladder or recognition and reward, who are you providing the opportunities to?
Those who are more vocal in meetings? Those who volunteer for extra tasks and responsibilities? Those who make no secret of their desire to advance?
Recruitment – growing your team, bringing in new skills, meeting client and customer demands, how are you making your hiring decisions? Who are you asking to be on the interview panel?
Those with a higher education? Those who have had a similar career path to you? Those with the same opinions as you?
The NeuroLeadership Institute in 2018 shared research that shows that our brains work between 94% & 99% in unconscious thought and, like you will have read before in our blog ‘Is there a shortcut to success?’, attempts to limit the number of decisions it makes and likes to be as efficient as possible. So it’s no surprise that we like what we like and we like who we like. It’s just easier. It’s more efficient.
But if we are to be better leaders and role models then we need to broaden our horizons. If you pardon the pun, we could do with adding a little more colour to our lives. How about adding 1% more? That’s not a big ask.
- List the last 3 books you read. Now, for your next book, read an author that is the complete opposite to your last choices.
- Check your most played play list. Now, listen to a band or musician that has their roots deep in a completely different style.
- Next time you get a takeaway, chose something different.
- Watch a TV show or movie that has a different genre than you normally do.
- Have a conversation with someone who you fundamentally disagree with
All of these things you can do in the privacy of your own home or in a safe environment. There are no judgements here. But what it does is it opens up your mind to differences, it’s looking into somebody else’s world.
Increasing your understanding might just increase your effectiveness as a leader.