Updated: Nov 5, 2020
Like many, I don't know exactly what to write about the racism that has been going on for decades and centuries. It is appalling and unacceptable.
I thought about what I could do. I thought I could lend my voice, however small, to the support side of #BlackLivesMatter. Staying silent is not an option.
I am privileged. I am a tall, white male with a deep voice. None of these was my choice. But they are who I am and they give me privilege. They give me an advantage that for a long time I wasn't even aware of. It is my responsibility to grow my self-awareness of this privilege and to not let that contribute to the issue.
This post is focused on what you can do to eradicate unconscious bias from your leadership and your organization. I’m not an expert in social justice or issues of race. But I believe that you will be part of the solution, and a better leader, if you work to remove unconscious bias. Here are some ideas.
What is unconscious bias?
In short, it's having biases that you’re not aware of which affect your thoughts and actions.
Facebook has a great public resource (videos) on Managing Unconscious Bias. They define bias in two ways, as a noun and a verb:
Noun: a tendency to believe that some people, ideas, etc. are better than others that usually results in treating some people unfairly.
Verb: cause to feel or show inclination or prejudice for or against someone or something
Not all biases are bad. Some can be useful. Everyone has some form of unconscious bias in everyday life. The important thing is understanding the impact your biases have, and the specific things you can do to counteract it.
Racial bias is among the only kind that leads to disproportionate legal or safety harm, and therefore it is critical to take steps to grow your awareness and take steps to counteract it.
Three ways to eradicate unconscious bias from your leadership
1. Grow your self-awareness
Watch Facebook's unconscious bias videos to better understand your biases and get practical ideas to weed it out of your leadership.
Get out of the mindset that your default perspective is right and other’s perspectives are wrong. Watch this 3-minute video on Conscious Leadership. Are you above the line or below the line? Become more aware of when you are below the line and take steps to get back above the line.
Once you get that your default perspective on things isn't the truth, and certainly not the only valuable perspective, your ability to empathize and value other people’s perspective grows.
Grow your awareness by watching films and TV series, reading books and articles, and subscribing to podcasts to better understand issues of race. Here is a list you can choose from.
2. Be a powerful ally
Leadership isn't what you preach, it's what you tolerate. Stop silently tolerating poor behavior in your organization and your communities.
Stand up if you see someone being mistreated.
Call out racist or sexist behavior.
Read 75 things white people can do for racial justice and take action.
3. Improve your HR practices (hiring, performance reviews, etc)
For interviewing, think about how you currently find candidates. Don’t turn only to ingroup places to find qualified candidates.
Think about who is interviewing and what biases they have. Create or update your training for those who participate in the interview process to include training about biases and how to avoid them while interviewing and selecting candidates.
For hiring decisions and retention processes, continually gut check for biases. Build this into your processes.
For performance reviews, incorporate into your process the use of analytics to spot potential bias.
Thanks for reading. Let's all be part of the solution.