Managing our Biases

We define coaching as being nonjudgmental. Yet we know that we do have judgment, biases and filters that pop up as interference from time to time as we are acting as thinking partners with another. The first step in managing our own biases, filters, judgments, and assumptions is to recognize that we have them and then to recognize the moments that trigger them.

Many of our biases are implicit. That is, we do not even recognize that we have them and would even vehemently deny that they exist for us. Unrecognized biases are the ones that are most harmful to our effectiveness as coaches and leaders. Implicit biases are unexamined. These unexamined biases may create blind spots, filters that allow only certain information in, and assumptions that may limit our access to a broader range of approaches to new or perplexing situations.

What are some ways to recognize implicit biases? One way is to begin to notice the events, words, or situations that cause us to have a strong emotional response, such as immediate disagreement, pushback, defensiveness, or avoidance. The intense need to convince others of our way of thinking is another potential indicator of a strong bias that may be holding us hostage. Lack of desire to listen to or consider the viewpoints of others may signal that we have a bias that we have not yet examined. Our innate desire to stay safe sometimes conflicts with our strong desire to grow and change in our responses to more positively impact those we lead.

Once we have identified our biases, we can be intentional about determining ways to set them aside in order to be more fully present with others. During those times we find we are being triggered, we are more able to recognize the hot button and push the “keep calm” button instead.

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Frances Shuster, PCC, M. Ed.

Frances Shuster is a Partner with Results Coaching Global and coauthor of Results Coaching: The New Essential for School Leaders. She is a faculty instructor and coach for the Results Coaching Global Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP).

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One thought on “Managing our Biases

  1. Frances,
    This quote hit home for me. “Our innate desire to stay safe sometimes conflicts with our strong desire to grow and change… ”
    The SCARF model relies on safety for honest and open conversations. Focusing on safety early in the discussion will allow biases to lower. I often jump into content far too quickly and this is my reminder to slow the process and relax the emotions for biases to recede if we want to be open to change.

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