In The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias (Simon & Schuster, Oct.), Fuller discusses how business leaders who work past their own biases can foster more diverse company cultures.
How should leaders deal with their own biases?
This is a journey of introspection and self-awareness. Begin with yourself. When we assume that bias is inherently negative, our immediate posture is to defend ourselves. But bias is a natural part of how our brain works. We need to acknowledge that reality and get to the point where we can think through how we can change our behavior, which we never get to if we’re too busy defending ourselves.
What happens when an organization’s leaders don’t address their biases?
Unconscious bias leads to a lack of diversity in leadership. Executive teams and boards of directors won’t have the kind of diversity they want in terms of gender, race, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Leaders can’t be great without being inclusive, and a lack of inclusivity affects culture and retention. People who don’t feel included are three times as likely to be disengaged or to leave jobs within a year. They don’t note these issues in exit interviews because they don’t want to burn a bridge, but the core issue is that they felt they didn’t belong.
How can leaders create a culture of addressing unconscious bias at their organizations?
Many leaders say they’re open to feedback, but don’t necessarily take that feedback well. When your people give you feedback, they’re watching to see what you do with it. Were you defensive? Were you open? The first step is building a culture where people can bring you their observations and questions, and call you out on bias. Communicate that you’re interested in that feedback and want to be held accountable; this levels the power dynamic.
Conversely, how can junior employees raise this issue up the chain of command?
The book introduces a performance model which demonstrates the impacts our biases have, and provides a language and framework for how we can talk about it in ways that are easier for a leader to hear. If you go to a leader and say “You’re biased against me,” they will be defensive. If you say “This interaction has me in a limiting zone, I’m not performing my best because of this process or these comments,” it feels less accusatory to the leader—you’re not telling them, “You’re doing something wrong.”