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Personal Bias In Your Leadership Or Coaching & How To Overcome This

We are ALL biased. We all have our own “stuff”. Stuff that comes with us hardwired as learned thoughts and behaviours from when we were children. Some may even come to us as a genetic predisposition.

Diversity, inclusion and predisposition towards bias has been highlighted in the news over the last few months. How do we recognise when we have unconscious bias? How can we control it? And what can we do about it when we see patterns running within the people in our businesses and the people around us?

When we are a leader or a coach, it’s inevitable that we have some personal bias. It will certainly show up at some point. This may come at some point when someone pushes our buttons. Especially when that button pushed involves triggering our core values. So how do we recognise this and manage this?

Research in 2018 here focused on why people choose leadership. Previous research has shown that traits such as dominance and extroversion characterise people who naturally move towards leadership positions. Could it be that if we don’t see these traits in the people we are going to promote and we see them as valuable ourselves we may not actively flush out and develop other reluctant leaders who may be able to develop these characteristics?

We Are ALL Biased

We have tendencies, in some cases towards social bias, sometimes towards learned bias. We may have unconscious bias towards gender, race, nationality, level of education or an area of the country. Sometimes, just someone who we noticed annoyed us that one time and we watch out for them irritating us again!

Recognising and understanding ourselves as biased individuals is one of the most important demonstrations of self awareness as well as potentially great leadership giving us the ability to coach teams to high performance.

I was on a course recently. I know some of the team members previously. During a coaching session which I observed, I noticed a personal bias arising with one of the team members. I noticed that I wrote down more about this person and that my eye naturally gravitated to what this person was doing. As there was more than one of us coaching together (this is important for team coaching) I heard what the other Team Coach had noticed during the session, through their lens, listened carefully and took notice. Because of my bias, I had not paid as much attention to other members of the team’s behaviours to start. Luckily I am an experienced coach and had the ability to understand what was happening. I also had great feedback from my team coaching partner.

Some have the opinion that overcoming bias is not just a matter of will. Leaders who are motivated to self-examine for bias are still likely to come to the conclusion that they are not as biased as they actually are. Instead, experts say it is more effective to try to mitigate bias by building procedures designed to identify and remove bias in operational systems. However, noticing this in yourself and understanding how your own personal filters work, leading you more towards some people and away from others is a great way to start.

How Can You Start To Make Change?

Can you carry out your own internal personal bias audit? From now, start noticing if you gravitate towards some people and away from others more. What might be the reason for this? Will this affect your decision making within leadership? Do you automatically (consciously or unconsciously) deselect someone from an interview process or promotion because of their name, sex, gender, location or other predisposing factors? Ask yourself these questions and when you start noticing you will automatically start developing further awareness of other bias around you. Starting with yourself gives you the ability to start taking action.

Starting to notice is the start of building a new pathway to a new way of thinking. Potentially developing the greatest and most innovative teams for the future.

Caroline Langston is the Founder of Successful Consultants Ltd, an Executive, Personal and Career Development Coaching company in Hong Kong and New York. She is also the Founder of a nonprofit providing free information and coaching to people who are unemployed. Caroline is dedicated to coaching people for success and happiness in their careers and lives. She is degree qualified with a Certificate in Professional Coaching from the ICF, Certificate in Team Coaching from the EMCC. Also further certifications in Neuro Linguistic Programming at Master Practitioner and Coach level.


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