VOICE May 2016 - page 2

question them and address them. For us the best
way to do this is to develop self-awareness.
None of us had much influence around where and
how we were raised, but as intelligent, thoughtful
adults we do have the opportunity to rewire some of
the natural biases we collected in our formative
years.
Self-awareness comes from a desire to continually
grow and develop. If as leaders we stop doing this,
then as the world changes, perceptions and ways of
doing things change constantly and we can get left
behind in our own worlds of unconscious bias. The
reason we believe this is critical for leaders is
because if we have too much unconscious bias we
will find it difficult to build rapport with the
diversity of people we find in our workplaces.
Limiting the opportunity to build rapport will result
in us being unable to build trusting relationships
and people simply don’t follow leaders they don’t
trust.
Rapport at an individual level is all about seeking to
find the common ground between two people. So if
you are ‘sticking your foot’ in it and challenging
another person’s personal values or strongly held
beliefs, then you are not going to build rapport with
them. In the workplace we do have the advantage
that we work for the same organisation and so the
values and culture of our business can start the
rapport build. Likewise, if we are both in the same
field of expertise such as in Production, HR or
Finance then again this builds rapport naturally.
After that then we are on our own with our own set
of values and our biases that go with them.
This is potentially even more critical to reflect on
if we are leaders in multi-cultural organisations.
It may be that we have been attracted to the
diversity of such an organisation and this is great
because we are thriving in an environment where
we enjoy the complexity of different cultures. But
what if we find ourselves in a widely diverse
organisation as a result of acquisition or merger?
and we have to make significant adjustments to our
behaviour so as not to ‘stick our foot’ in it! What can
we do? From Sonia’s perspective a series of events
in her life that go back more than eight years started
her development of self-awareness and her
consideration of her potential biases. She built on
these life-changing events with learning and by
reading books that enabled her to question herself
and reflect on her leadership style. Sonia talked to
me in particular about two books that significantly
challenged her thinking – ‘The Dalai Lama’s Cat’ and
‘One Day the Shadow Passed’ – both well worthy of a
read on the road to increased self-awareness. Sonia
also talked to me about her on-going ability to self-
evaluate and to learn the art of compromise. She
used her natural intuition and her desire to seek
first to understand to be able to lead and manage
diverse teams successfully.
I agree with Sonia’s thought processes and
approaches. A combination of self-reflection and a
desire to learn have complemented my intuition to
really help me in the work I do as a leadership
consultant and executive coach. Starting with self
and understanding self first and foremost before
you can understand others is a good mantra to have
on the road to being aware of your natural biases.
Moving those unconscious biases from the
unconscious to the more conscious so that you can
manage them is an on-going and never-ending
commitment. Then it is about learning
from your mistakes and challenging
yourself around the mental groupings
you have created for yourself.
I
remember many years ago
needing a carpet fitter for the
new house I had just moved in to.
Across the road from my new
home was a carpet fitters van
parked outside another new
house with the front door wide
open. Clearly someone was
having their carpets fitted before
they moved in! I wandered across
to the house and asked the woman who was stood at
the top of the stairs all kitted out in knee pads and
holding fitting equipment if I could speak to the
carpet fitter. She looked at me for a moment and then
said she was the person I was looking for! In my mind
I clearly only had men in the group labelled carpet
fitters! I apologised and employed her immediately.
“Starting with self and understanding
self first and foremost before you can
understand others is a good mantra to
have on the road to being aware of your
natural biases. Moving those
unconscious biases from the
unconscious to the more conscious so
that you can manage them is an
on-going and never-ending
commitment.”
Karen Frost
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