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Unconscious Bias before DEI – Exercise | Deliberate practice

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From the Post: Leaders, Do This Before You Attempt Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion

Grab your journal and start taking notes about yourself. I recently was invited to submit one of my paintings to a national painting exhibition. The day before the awards were presented I went to the gallery studied the judge’s work and picked 10 pieces of art that I thought would win awards. Six out of the 10 pieces won awards. How did I do this you ask? By studying the judge’s style I was able to identify repeating subtleties in their work like color palette, the use of light, and the layering of colors. I looked for paintings that possessed these characteristics. These approaches to our art become an unconscious habit or style that we as artists develop over time. These are the styles that help us to identify a painting of a particular artist without ever seeing their name.   

As leaders, we develop unconscious habits or biases that secretly influence our decisions. Take a look at these eight approaches to understanding our own unconscious biases. Pick one or two and start practicing them. As you develop a better understanding of yourself pick another one. One of the most powerful thing you can do is to continually educate ourselves. 

1. Self-reflection: The first step in understanding our unconscious biases is to engage in self-reflection. This involves examining our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors to identify any patterns or tendencies that may indicate the presence of bias. Taking the time to reflect on our beliefs and experiences can help us uncover unconscious biases that may be influencing our perceptions and interactions with others.

2. Educate ourselves: Educating ourselves about unconscious bias is essential for gaining a deeper understanding of how it operates and its impact on individuals and communities. There are many resources available, including books, articles, videos, and online courses, that explore the science of bias and strategies for addressing it. By seeking out information and learning from experts in the field, we can develop the knowledge and awareness necessary to recognize and challenge our unconscious biases.

3. Engage in perspective-taking: Perspective-taking involves putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes and considering their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. This involves ourselves asking, “what don’t I know?”  This can help us gain insight into how our actions and decisions may be influenced by unconscious biases and how they may impact others. Actively seeking out diverse perspectives and engaging in empathy-building exercises can help us develop greater awareness and understanding of the experiences of people from different backgrounds and identities.

4. Seek feedback: Seeking feedback from others can provide valuable insights into our unconscious biases and how they may be perceived by others. Asking for feedback from colleagues, friends, and mentors about our behavior and interactions can help us identify blind spots and areas for growth. It’s important to approach feedback with an open mind and a willingness to learn and grow from the insights provided.

5. Examine decision-making processes: Examining our decision-making processes can help us uncover unconscious biases that may be influencing our choices. This includes reflecting on how we evaluate information, make judgments, and allocate resources. By critically examining our decision-making processes, we can identify areas where biases may be operating and take steps to mitigate their impact.

6. Challenge stereotypes and assumptions: Stereotypes and assumptions are often the result of unconscious biases and can lead to unfair and discriminatory treatment of others. Challenging stereotypes and assumptions involves questioning our preconceived notions about individuals and groups and actively seeking out evidence that contradicts them. By challenging stereotypes and assumptions, we can develop more nuanced and accurate perceptions of others and reduce the influence of unconscious bias on our thoughts and behaviors.

7. Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness involves being present in the moment and observing our thoughts and feelings without judgment. Practicing mindfulness can help us become more aware of our unconscious biases and their influence on our perceptions and behaviors. By cultivating mindfulness, we can develop greater self-awareness and emotional intelligence, enabling us to recognize and regulate our responses to bias-inducing stimuli.

8. Take action: Finally, it’s essential to take action to address unconscious bias and promote DEI within our organizations and communities. This may involve advocating for policies and practices that promote fairness and equity, challenging discriminatory behavior and attitudes when we encounter them, and actively supporting diversity and inclusion initiatives. By taking proactive steps to address unconscious bias, we can create more inclusive environments where all individuals feel valued, respected, and empowered to succeed.

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