OVERCOMING MEETING BIAS by D&I Expert Catherine Hamilton
Meeting Bias – it’s one of our worst situations for bias to show up. We’re under pressure to act, to contribute, to make decisions with a range of different working styles, all within a timeframe and probably a quick one. We’re making assumptions about what is happening, what people are thinking because we don’t have the time to explore. And then we may leave the meeting frustrated or having misunderstood something because of an assumption we have made. And we justify the assumption because that’s all we have and possibly even blame others. Of course we like to believe we are entirely rational human beings. So, let’s pause and think about one aspect to mitigate some of this bias.
Having been a part of many video meetings and training over the last few weeks it struck me how I am watching myself for the first time! Usually we focus on others and rightly so. But what if when this is all over and we’re face to face with people again, we reflect on ourselves in the moment. Be present. What I mean is regularly tuning in and asking ourselves, “What is my face saying right now? What is my body saying? What is my tone of voice conveying?”
Even the small video of myself in the bottom corner of the screen reminded me to smile, to look interested, to show empathy or enthusiasm. I began to really notice others – those that yawned, those that were looking at something else, those that were also smiling and nodding and those that had drifted off. All of that is information available to me face to face or by video, but not my face, my posture! I was looking to see if others were also aware of their own impact on others. Without that awareness we may behave in a way that upsets or offends others – unintentionally. Others may misinterpret our behaviours and make assumptions about what is really going on. Let’s help others and ourselves by being more present, really listening to what is being said, acting in a way that is conducive to the conversation and behaving in a purposeful way.
I should know this – I coach and train on unconscious bias and inclusive behaviours and often my coaching sessions give me moments to reflect on myself and think how I am impacting the other person. But the video is in your face – it is a constant reminder of the impact we are making. Ask yourself – What is my intention and is this coming across to others? I for one will take that learning back to face to face meetings and hope others see me and the impact I am making that is closely aligned to my intentions.
- Go into a meeting with a clear intention of how you want to be seen, or put another way, “How would you want others to describe you?”
- Jot down 3 behaviours you need to be doing so that intention is brought to life
- Make sure you’re on your screen! Then act upon that intention – those 3 behaviours.
- Stay present and conscious of your impact
- Observe others reactions, and ask for feedback
- Reflect and adjust behaviours