Identifying and dealing with our hidden biases

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We live in a challenging world in challenging times. One of the issues facing Transformative Leaders today (and, frankly, all of us) is how to identify and deal effectively with our biases.  Let’s face it… everyone has biases or preferences.  Personally, I have a bias for vanilla ice cream and chocolate chip cookies.  And, who doesn’t prefer a cute puppy over a scruffy, old dog?  We also carry biases regarding the appearance, background, education, demeanor, age, color, height/weight, etc., of individuals.  These preferences have an impact at our homes, our places of work, and at social events.  We carry these preferences (e.g., biases) whether we know it or not… whether we admit it or not.

A colleague recently sent me an interesting article written by Amir Ghannad (Sr. Director, Global People Excellence at Campbell Soup Company) that speaks to this issue.  Ghannad, who is also author of the book, The Transformative Leader, agrees that we all have biases.  Even those claiming to be unbiased, have biases.  Ghannad says, If we accept the notion that biases are automatically developed based on our experiences, then we all have them and the best chance we have of not letting them cloud our judgment is to acknowledge their presence and deal with them, rather than try to pretend they don’t exist.”

So, what is our responsibility in dealing with the biases we have developed based upon our background and experiences? According to Ghannad, there are two actions we must take to prevent them from clouding our judgment: admit that we have them, then deal with them.  Pretending they do not exist is simply offering an excuse to exercise our biases.

Once we recognize these biases and determine that they are not logical, practical, or productive, we can begin the process (e.g., an active process) to manage them. Ghannad summarizes his beliefs on this much better than I could:

“We would all be better off if we recognized that there is nothing wrong with having biases, as long as we acknowledge their existence and do our best not to act on them. It is when we deny that we have biases that we relinquish control of our thoughts and allow society to think for us.  

Biases are comforting because they provide easy answers where none may be readily available in reality. More often than not, however, those answers or solutions give us an excuse to be lazy or give up on solving the real problem. We all want change, but unfortunately we also tend to want someone else to go first. Transformative Leaders do not have this luxury, nor should they. They do not look to others for permission to speak the truth or do the right thing. Rather, they are authentic about what they know and don’t know, and own up to their faults and biases, so that all those who look up to them realize that they have permission to do the same. It is only through this acknowledgment and sharing that we are able to help each other put down the baggage we have been carrying in the form of our biases or at least make peace with our imperfections, knowing that we can mitigate the risk of them impairing our judgment, so long as they are not hidden from our view.”

From The Bias of the Unbiased by Amir Ghannad (for full article see https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/bias-unbiased-amir-ghannad)

 

Inside of nearly every person is one that wants exactly the same things we want… the ability to live our lives as we choose, the ability to make a positive impact, the need to be appreciated, and the ability to have meaningful interaction with others. Let’s resolve together to seek to “walk in the shoes of each other.”  Let’s see life from the other side and work together to create a productive environment for all.

Thanks for making this a better world! Let’s have a “top ten” day!

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