Leaders Model Empathy and Curiosity (Unconscious Bias Series Part 2)

Last week we explored areas in which we’ve experienced or witnessed bias. For a refresher, click here. I asked you to do some homework over the course of the week, considering moments where bias impacted your confidence, decision-making, opportunity, health, relationships, or willingness to take risks.

It is important to reiterate here that everyone has bias. Who here thinks they have the best kid/partner/job on the planet? Case and point.

In the previous post, I asserted that smart leaders know bias is everywhere and it affects how we do life and business. I also concluded that wise leaders are on the lookout for bias in themselves, connect with others, and choose moments to address known bias and eliminate its influence.

Step one: Identify bias.

Anyone who thinks they don’t have any biases has some self-awareness blockages no blog post can address. Once you see identify your own biases, you can see them play out in others.

Step two: Cultivate connection.

The only way to move past bias is to develop meaningful connections with others in order to see and value them. Connection requires two skills:

1. Empathy – The ability to understand another’s experiences, feelings, and emotions.

  • Position yourself physically at the same level.
  • Be fully present as you listen.
  • Listen to understand.
  • Restate the other person’s words and identify feelings to confirm your understanding. Don’t worry if you get it wrong. They will correct you. Either way, you learn something.
  • Withhold judgement.

2. Curiosity – The desire to learn more about someone; the key is to fall in love with questions rather than answers.

  • Ask yourself, “What am I thinking or feeling?”
  • Ask yourself, “What may they be thinking or feeling?”
  • Be real with yourself by asking what biases are surfacing, both positive and negative.

By practicing empathy and curiosity, you can start to build connection. Consider asking yourself the following questions:

  • What do we both care about?
  • How am I like this person?
  • What do I respect or like about this person?

Step three: Take action.

Once we’ve gotten better at cultivating connection, we can begin taking action. These may require some courage and will definitely require stepping out of your comfort zone, but we’ll worry about that next week.

In the meantime, I have another bit of “homework” for you. Over the next week, cultivate a connection with someone you do not currently have a connection with. You are probably already empathic and curious, so I encourage you to push yourself:

This week, be MORE empathetic.

This week, be MORE curious.

See how it goes.

Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

(By the way – a little commercial here – I’ve recently completed certification to deliver a powerful 8-hour training session over Unconscious Bias. I’m pretty excited that I can now deliver this content and equip leaders and teams with practical tools. Let me know if you want to visit more about it.)

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