Check Your Bias

Check Your Bias

By Holly LeMaster

Our current environment of divisiveness, controversy, disinformation, and uncertainty can make it extremely difficult to lead others–especially groups or teams who may have wildly different beliefs and perspectives. We may be confronted with mediating a lack of respect, heightened emotions, and hurt feelings. How are we to lead others through these complexities to understanding and appreciation?

This is clearly a complex question with no simple solution. But a good place to begin is close to home, with our own emotional intelligence and personal accountability. We must first be able to see, acknowledge, and manage our own mental models and biases–to check whether unconscious beliefs are getting in the way of our ability to lead from a neutral and fair position.

So let’s pause for a moment to think about our thinking. Our mental models are distinctly our own–as personal and unique as our fingerprints. While each of us may share certain values, perspectives, or opinions with other individuals or groups, every human has a wholly unique comprehensive worldview shaped by our lived experiences over the course of a lifetime. 

We are influenced by:

  • Our ancestral DNA
  • Family of origin
  • Religious and spiritual indoctrination
  • Every teacher, partner, friend, foe, and acquaintance
  • Media, advertising, and social media
  • Place and environment 
  • Socioeconomic and educational opportunities
  • Health and physical abilities or limitations

And so much more.

It is easy to assume that others see the world in the same way that we do. And even when we intend to be empathetic and understanding, we can never truly know what it is like to live in someone else’s life. 

If someone asked you to describe your biases, you might be quick to say (and genuinely believe), “Who, me? I’m not biased!” But the truth is that, because we are human, we have biases. It is simply a question of what they are and whether or not we are aware of them.

Now, bias–in and of itself–is not bad. It is quite simply a preference for one thing over another. For example, I may have a bias toward strawberry ice cream over chocolate. The problem comes in when our biases are running the show in our subconscious mind and we’re not even aware that it’s happening. This is what the term unconscious bias, or implicit bias means. 

We can really get ourselves into trouble when we act on unexamined beliefs that may not be serving us well and are impacting our relationships with others, as illustrated below. 

For example, following the model in the graphic, let’s say I hold an unconscious bias or belief that sounds in my head (because I would never say it out loud!) something like, “Older employees are bad at using technology and will slow us down.” Then I may act out of that belief with behavior such as using condescending language with an employee and over-explaining to them when it comes to learning a new program. That behavior impacts my relationship with the employee–they become fearful of me and excessively cautious about making a mistake. The result is that their work takes longer to complete and slows down the team’s progress, thus reinforcing my original belief. 

If we find ourselves experiencing a pattern of unhealthy or frustrating situations, we may need to take a look at our own beliefs or the stories we’re telling ourselves. And chances are, those beliefs may be driven by implicit biases. 

If you’re curious about your own implicit or unconscious biases, here’s a terrific resource that can be sobering and eye-opening: Project Implicit. Here you can engage with a series of implicit bias tests pertaining to everything from race to weight to weapons and learn more about yourself.

Increasing our self-awareness takes courage and vulnerability. And it is through this lens that we are more deeply prepared and empowered to help individuals and teams illuminate their own perspectives and beliefs. Once we are aware, then we can act. Bringing the unconscious up to consciousness, shining a light on it, and examining it, creates the possibility of intentionally choosing healthier and more harmonious behaviors.

Turning Powerful Questions Inward Offers New Insights for Leaders

Turning Powerful Questions Inward Offers New Insights for Leaders

By Laurie Cure, PHD

Learning to lead takes a lifetime. We have this perception that leaders are born and gifted with natural skills that make them great. In all reality, even the best leaders grow and develop over the course of their career. 

Great leadership starts with the vulnerability of self awareness. Asking yourself powerful questions is the foundation of deeper understanding of who you are and how you show up in the world, especially with those who you are asking to follow you. 

In our July newsletter (sign up on our website for great new tools), we will be considering the ability of leaders to build psychological safety with those around them. This could be your team members, peers or even your leader. Powerful questions are at the heart of building trusting relationships.

Powerful questions often start with how or what as these words tend to provoke us to go deeper and create more possibility. They are open ended questions designed to elicit discovery, learning, and new insights. It is also important that they are asked in a way that sparks curiosity and minimizes judgment. 

Think of a time when someone just listened and posed provocative questions to help you think differently about a situation or problem. They didn’t offer advice or try to solve your dilemma. Rather, they guided you in your own exploration. These are meaningful moments that we can create for our team members when we become skilled at using powerful questions. 

Powerful questions start with us, as we seek to build self awareness. We cannot lead beyond our own capacity, so ensuring that we are continually growing is paramount to our success as a leader. 

Consider the following questions. If one resonates for you, take some time to explore it and perhaps even bring it to your team for discussion. 

  1. The average person has 12,000-60,000 thoughts per day. But, we don’t have to believe all our thoughts. What thoughts do you currently hold that you should NOT believe? What core beliefs do you hold that are preventing you from moving forward in some way?
  2. We tend to judge others by their actions, but we judge ourselves by our intentions. Where are your actions and intentions misaligned? What impact is that having on your relationships?
  3. Every conversation tells a story and we can see ourselves in each one. Which stories in others are offering you a reflection of yourself? What is it telling you?
  4.  What are you doing to be your best on a regular basis?
  5. Behaviors can turn into habits which become our reputation. We can change behavior one moment at a time. What behaviors are impacting your reputation in a positive way? What behaviors are not desirable?

The skill of using powerful questions in your leadership is one that builds over time. These are just a few. Powerful questions can and should be used in performance conversations, feedback discussion, strategy sessions, process improvement dialogues. . . .the list goes on. 

For more information or for a copy of our handout with examples of various powerful questions, please reach out to us at

You Can Only Do What You Believe You Can Do: Moving Forward with Confidence

You Can Only Do What You Believe You Can Do: Moving Forward with Confidence

By Barb Ward

We all experience roadblocks, or times when we are stagnant and unable to move forward. Sometimes it’s physical – for instance, health issues, lagging energy levels, or insomnia may be holding you back. Other times its emotional – mental fatigue or exhaustion, lack of motivation, doubt, or lack of confidence in your abilities. Maybe you are paralyzed by uncertainty. These feelings can be difficult to deal with; however, if you want to be successful, it is imperative for you to learn to overcome these barriers.

Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind as you look for the motivation to move forward:

  • Take charge. If health issues are holding you back, make the appointments necessary to get back on track. Although you may not get the answers you are looking for, just having a better idea of what is happening with your health can help propel you into action.
  • Consider the cost of inaction. This is also called opportunity cost. When you make a decision, you are ultimately giving something up. For instance, if you choose to stay in a job where you are unhappy, you lose the chance to pursue other job opportunities that could make you happier and more fulfilled.
  • Ask for what you need. If you are emotionally drained, or your motivation is lacking, seek guidance from someone you trust, a family member, a friend, a supervisor. Maybe you need a day off to rejuvenate your energy, reassurance you are the perfect fit for your position, or sometimes all you need is to voice your concerns to help you find your way forward.
  • Don’t get stuck in your comfort zone. Sometimes we take the path of least resistance because it is easier than risking the discomfort of something new or unknown. However, se risk a life of mediocrity and dissatisfaction if we don’t take a chance and pursue our dreams.
  • Start somewhere, take baby steps if you must. If change is hard for you, looking at the end-result can be overwhelming. Rather take small steps to get there. For instance, if you want to run a marathon, but haven’t run more than a mile in years, you must put a plan in place to achieve your goal. You can use this strategy for any change – career, relationship, education – to make it more attainable to reach your goal.
  • Consider the absolute worst thing that could happen. Scrutinize this scenario and determine if it warrants the fear it is causing. For instance, what can happen if you quit your job, leave your relationship, or move across the country? When you take a hard look at the worst-case scenario, you can assess the alternatives, prepare yourself for different possible outcomes, and choose how to move forward wisely.

What is the greatest obstacle that stands in your way as you move forward toward the future?