Organizational Culture and DEI: How to Overcome Bias at Work | Lanre Sulola | Skillshare

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Organizational Culture and DEI: How to Overcome Bias at Work

teacher avatar Lanre Sulola, Leadership and Inclusion Coach

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Build Awareness of Workplace Bias


    • 3.

      Overcome Bias at Work


    • 4.

      Make Informed Decisions


    • 5.

      Address Bias at Work


    • 6.

      Create Opportunities and Growth


    • 7.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Empower teams and individuals to maximize skills and bring their true selves to work with Leadership & Inclusion Coach Lanre Sulola!

By addressing bias in the workplace, we can leverage a diverse range of skills and resources in our organizations, allowing space for teams to share ideas and have a greater impact. Join Lanre as he provides us with the tools to understand where bias occurs and how to address it, ideas, and support to become more attuned to bias as it arises, strategize the best way to overcome it and create an environment conducive to calling it out.  

By the end of this class, you will be equipped to identify your own personal bias triggers and take the necessary steps to not only overcome these challenges, but be a positive influence for others at your company. 

Whether you are in a leadership position at your company or just starting out, this class will empower you to be more innovative, explore new opportunities, and foster diverse relationships at work, or anywhere. 


Lanre’s class is designed for students of all levels. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Lanre Sulola

Leadership and Inclusion Coach


Lanre Sulola is a leadership coach who is passionate about building inclusive cultures to enable teams and individuals to thrive. Lanre’s expertise in the Inclusion and Diversity field has helped organisations drive business performance and employee engagement. He works with organisations to implement key I&D related metrics, practices and initiatives around performance, recruitment, retention and promotion. Lanre runs programs to build diverse representation across all levels, create diverse teams, embrace difference and break unconscious bias. He has vast experience in setting up and growing Culture and Diversity networks to provide peer support to colleagues and leverage diversity to meet overall business objectives.

Lanre conducts Performance and Culture focus groups fo... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Bias affects the quality of our decision-making and can strive for innovation, transformation, and growth. It can be difficult to recognize bias. It can also be difficult calling it out depending on the culture of our organization and the status of those around us displaying the bias. By addressing bias, we can leverage for diverse range of skills and resources in our organization. Hi, I'm Lanre Sulola. As a leadership coach, I work with individuals and teams to drive high performance growth and true inclusion. We all have unique ambitions, talents and goals. In our ambitions, we want to bring this to life. I am passionate about building inclusive cultures and enabling people to thrive no matter who they are. I want to create space for teams and individuals to develop, share ideas, and have a greater level of impact in the work that they do. The class project is to complete your very own addressing bias worksheets. This will help you to assess where your bias is most likely to show up and the impacts it has on your decisions. There will be space within the worksheet to identify ways to address them. For content from the class, we'll also provide you with tools, ideas, and support to formulate a strategy to become more attuned to the bias when it's arises and find the best way to overcome it. The worksheet will help create awareness of bias in the first instance, what it might look like, what might be driving it, and help you to find the right tools to address it. This class will provide you with the steps to overcome these challenges and help to create an environment where bias is more readily called out. It will help to create an environment where colleagues are more intentional about including every individual within a team, recognizing their unique skills and their attributes. It will also help us become more innovative, explore new opportunities, and foster diverse relationships. This class will be of value to all those who want to see greater engagement across your organization. It will empower our teams and individuals to maximize skills and bring their true selves to work. By the end of this class, you will have identified your own personal bias triggers and developed some plans to overcome these to make better, higher quality decisions. You will have improved your awareness of bias and where it shows up and develop a strategy for cooling these out. A good way of raising awareness of bias can be through reflecting on your various tasks, activities, and interactions. Right down any notes or observations, think about who may be impacted by these decisions. Reflect on what can be done differently and what impacts this could have on those around you. Feel free to share some of your ideas and how you are spotting your triggers and what you are doing about them in the project gallery. It could be a great conversation starter with our colleagues, as we can help each other think about where bias affects the team and the collective actions we can take to ensure a bias-free environment. I look forward to working with you and sharing how much impacts we can have in our organization when our behaviors and actions are free from bias. 2. Build Awareness of Workplace Bias: Bias can have a highly negative impact on our decisions, actions, and relationships. If we do not take the time to appropriately assess for accuracy, the impacts of bias is wide ranging. It can lead to exclusion, inequality, or discrimination. We have all likely been impacted by or made decisions based on some form of bias in our career. It may mean less opportunities for some groups or individuals. It can affect our perceptions or our attitudes in our working environment. Various reports and studies in recent years have pointed to the issues that bias can still play in our organizations and their need to continually work to eradicate this. A McKinsey report on the workplace found that 37 percent of women found their judgments to be questioned compared to 27 percent of men. Bias can be influenced by a wide range of characteristics and factors, from socioeconomic to status to age to personality to education, which is why awareness of it is so vital. Our bias is triggered due to how our brains work. We have two sides to our brain; a slow side and a fast side. For slow side is rational, logical, considered, and takes into account information and details to help us make better judge decisions. The fast side is emotion and stereotypical, it takes shortcuts. This side of the brain is important to protect ourselves when we have to make quick decisions when we're under threat or in danger. However, is not so good for making well-rounded decisions where we should be weighing up all of the facts. It's this side of the brain where bias really can live. Research shows that we typically use the fast side of our brain 98 percent of the time. This shows the likelihood of bias being in the decisions that we make on a daily basis. What triggers our brain to fall into these biases? Our brains become conditioned to what we're exposed to. If we do not check these processes enough, we will be affected by these triggers. For a wide range of bias triggers, different people will be affected by these triggers in different ways. How our brains are conditioned will have an impact on the main triggers. In the next lesson, we are going to focus on four of the most common bias triggers; affinity bias, conformity bias, recency bias, and confirmation bias. Awareness of these are key in us identifying how to overcome them and make better decisions. 3. Overcome Bias at Work: Four main biases we will look at today are affinity, recency, conformity, and confirmation bias. Affinity bias is where we favor individuals or groups which have a shared connection or similarity to us. This could cover a wide range of attributes. I worked with an organization a few years ago and realized I was spending most of my time with people of similar age. I was drawn to them as we were going through similar life and personal experiences at the time. This brought about a greater sense of connection. While this was fine and may have made reasonable sense, it meant there were people in other age brackets that I was not spending as much time with. My affinity bias was drawing me towards some individuals, but pushing me away from others. The impact of the brain is evident with the affinity bias. We often ask ourselves when we meet people, are they like me? If we cannot say yes, we are more likely to trust them. Research shows we are 260 percent more likely to donate to a hurricane relief fund if our name starts with the same letter of the hurricane. This can impact who we are choosing to spend our time with, who we are working with, who we entrust important projects with. Recency bias is where rely on the most recent source or person for the decisions we make. It might be the most recent information sources, the one we keep going to or the last book we've read is the one we more readily quote. The people we most recently worked with come to mind the next time we need someone, especially if they've done a good job. There may be some valid reasons for these decisions. However, there is a risk of not including new alternative information or people that could provide as good of results. But always going to what we have done before, we may miss out on opportunities to innovate, transform, grow, or learn. Conformity bias is where our choices and decisions are greatly influenced by the views of others. Our thinking becomes a line to those with status, power, or the majority. We do not want to feel that we are standing out from the norm. This is most likely to be experienced in an environment where there is a lack of inclusion. Confirmation bias is where we seek out information to support our view. We find it difficult to challenge our view and do not want to be seen as wrong or inaccurate. The theory of cognitive dissonance comes into play with this bias. This is where we are uncomfortable with two different faults and they contradict each other much of the time. This can lead to us limiting our exposure to information that does not align to our beliefs. It can then become difficult to change our view on something once we've decided that it is right. We often make initial judgments about others and form every other interaction with this person based on that initial view. If the initial impression is good, we put a good sense around them and every resulting action we see through this good lens to support that. We ignore instances where there might be a conflict in message. If we have an initial bad view of them, it becomes difficult to shake off that initial bad tag. This can sometimes be termed as the halo and horns effect. Studies have shown that it can take as little as 90 seconds to form an impression of someone. This bias can therefore have long-term implications on what is sometimes a snap judgment. Do you spend time to reflect on your triggers and the factors that might be impacting them? How our work deadlines or time pressure's affecting our propensity to bias? Is there reluctance to challenge our initial views? How much are we influenced by the majority? It is important to be aware of bias. However, awareness of bias is not enough on its own. We need to understand how to overcome them. To do this, we need to find the right tools. We can look at this from two angles; recognizing our own bias and the impact it has on our decisions and noticing the biases of others. In the next lesson, we will look at how to solve our own bias to make more informed decisions. 4. Make Informed Decisions: Rather than being led by bias, we want to have a balanced and clear informed view. Some of the most important decisions we make will be under pressure, scrutiny or time limits, or even have important things riding on them. It is in these moments when a risk of bias can be greater. This is when we go to the fast side of our brains and allow the bias triggers to take hold. We go to what we know, what we feel safe with and this might always be the best course of action. This puts us at risk of making bad decisions. We have to look at the whole picture and understand that bias can play a part in all aspects of our decisions before, during, and after, and guard against it at all stages to make a difference. There are four key steps that can enable us to effectively address bias and make more informed decisions; a clear aim, identify different sources, assess the information, and make considered conclusions. Let's look at this scenario to show this clearly. Rachel has been working in the business for four years. She's had a great impact in our organization, but it has now changed teams. The team now needs to find a replacement. A common reaction is for a manager to say, Rachel has done a great job, we need to replace her with someone who works and delivers like Rachel to carry on the good work. On the surface, this may seem like a good idea. However, on deeper reflection, it's likely the affinity, recency, conformity, and confirmation bias are all at play. Following the four steps can help the team to make a more informed decision around Rachel's replacement. Firstly, we want to have a clear aim. There are many questions we can ask to ensure that we clearly clarify this. In our scenario, the clarification is around the specifics of the role, the objectives. We want to have the right characteristics to ensure we are fulfilling the role effectively. This may include skills and experiences needed by considered candidates. By highlighting this, we can ensure we are matching the right people to the position correctly. It means we have clear criteria to make reasoned decisions rather than what we are familiar with. From here, we want to explore different sources so we do not miss out on a suitable person. This may mean speaking to different teams, recruiters, advertising in new areas, identifying different ways of recruiting people, and looking at it in different points of view. Doing this will help combat the tendency to go to who and where we've always known and be more inclusive with our search. Once you've explored the various sources, we want to assess the information to help us make the right choice and options in candidates. This will be through interviews, panel discussions or assessments. This will mean assessing the various requirements and needs of each individual candidates to ensure that we are creating a fair environment for everyone. To assess the factors accurately, it is likely that we would need a diverse range of people to support in this assessment and reduce the risk of bias. The final step is to evaluate all the information and ensure that we come to an appropriate conclusion. Doing this will take time, effort, and intention to ensure all factors are considered and weighed up. This will need input from others again and ensure that affinity, recency, conformity and confirmation bias is not in the way. It is crucial that a question is continually asked as to how informed our decisions are and where there may be bias. While this may seem like a lot, it illustrates how much work and thinking is needed to overcome bias and make informed decisions. We may not always have perfection when making these decisions. However, following these steps correctly and intentionally will vastly improve our level of decision-making. We have used the examples of a hiring decision. However, this is relevant for any decision, task, or activity we come across. It could be deciding who is going to take on a presentation, who should lead the project, who should get the promotion or who should organize the team social. In the next lesson, we're going to look at how we can address the biases of others and how to create a working environment free from bias. 5. Address Bias at Work: If we want to have fair decisions across the board, it is important that everyone is aware when bias is wearing its head. It is vital that we create an environment where people challenge the bias they see. The long-term impacts of not coning out bias will always be worse than the short-term avoidance of having an uncomfortable conversation. If we allow biased decisions and interactions to go on without challenge, we are allowing our work and culture to become non-inclusive. There is a saying that a rotten apple spoils the barrel. This is what can happen to our organization where bias festers and creates a negative environment. If you want to have a fairer decision across the board, we need to be attuned as to where bias may be there. When it is noted, we want the environment to be such that people feel comfortable addressing and challenging in it. It can be uncomfortable, calling out bias. This could be for a variety of reasons: We may not want to impact a relationship with the person who may have shown the bias. This may even be increased when the person is more senior or has a particular profile in the organization. We may be worried about the offense we might cause or about saying the wrong thing. We may not feel confident enough in opposition, in being the one to say something. We all have bias blind spots. This means that it's often easier to see the bias of others than our own. Research shows that it is possible that when we think we are making a sound decision, bias is involved. There is a positive in calling out bias as it can create a more inclusive environment. If we call things out sooner, and are more receptive to feedback from others, we will see a culture where more teams and individuals thrive. We all have a role to play in addressing the bias that we see. In particular, those in a position of power and those in the in-group in an organization. These people can help to accelerate the creation of an environment where bias is more readily called out. Studies point out that senior voices, or those who are not recipients of bias are more likely to have their voices heard. This fact also shows how much work there still is to be done to ensure there is a fair and level playing field for all, and that all voices are recognized and listened to. It also shows that a collective voice against bias is a lot stronger than an individual voice against it. The role that we all play is very important in making a difference here. Using a scenario, we'll look at the steps that we can take to help call out bias. In this scenario, a discussion is taking place in the team about who should have the opportunity to manage a project. The same names are being mentioned as they are seen to be the most knowledgeable and have been there the longest. Other names, just as able to fulfill this role, have not been mentioned. The first step is to ensure that it is a safe environments to call out the bias. We want to minimize the risk of a person feeling attacked or put down and ensure conversation is held in a non-confrontational manner. Calling out a bias in the heat of the moment in front of many people may not always be the best approach. It is important to assess the impact of what you are going to say based on the timing, who is in the room, and the current levels of emotion. It may be that some support is needed in having the conversation. Showing there is a safe space will mitigate the threat of defensiveness and the message not being taken on board. Assess the best moment for this. It could be that a message needs to be heard when a bias is taking place and for everyone to be aware of it. It could be a one-to-one meeting of the fact will be more effective in getting the message across and ensure learning is taken from the situation. In this scenario, we may decide to ask the question as to whether we are including everyone or speaking to a specific person afterwards. The next step is to objectively share your concerns about the bias we see of the impact of this. This is not about pointing blame or attacking the individual, it is about addressing the behavior. It is important to be clear on the facts and lay things out in the open. We should also allow the other person to share their points of view as it can be an opportunity for learning and seeing different perspectives. If done in the right manner, it is more likely that others will take their comments on board rather than feel threatened and defensive. The language we use in addressing bias is key. Statements such as, I observed or I noticed it's the same people taking over the project all the time, will likely be taken on board better than you always get the same people to lead the project, for example. A language can create a safe space for discussion and reflection. Asking open questions is also a good way of creating awareness of a bias. Questions such as, who have we missed out, who would be good addition for this, can also help people in uncovering all the different angles. Calling out bias is not about making people look bad; it is about making us aware of our decisions and the impact it has on those around us. Ultimately, we want to focus everyone and bringing them back on track. We want to learn from our mistakes, engage, involve, and include people. In this scenario, refocusing the group on a key criteria, objectives, and how we can use our diverse skills and resources is a perfect way of getting people back on track, as it reminds us of what's important to think about, and what we all bring to the table. By calling out bias, we can start to affect the culture in which we work in. It may feel difficult at times, but if done in adult-to-adult manner, and by following the key steps, we can create growth and new opportunities. In the next lesson, we will go deeper into the opportunities we can create through having a bias-free environment. 6. Create Opportunities and Growth: We're working in environments that are constantly changing, moving away from a bias can allow us to be responsive to change and drive change when it's needed. Companies and individuals unable to break the cycle of making the same choices continually using the same resources, will struggle to survive because we live in a dynamic and changing world. We now want to explore how overcoming bias will creates new opportunities for growth. Taking the time to slow things down, to reflect some refrain from going to our shortcuts can lead to new opportunities and possibilities. I was recently working with an organization who'd got stuck in the same way of doing things. They wanted to move forward and innovate. However, the presence of bias in previous decisions had meant that many individuals and groups had been sidelined. As a result, poor choices had been made and many individuals were de-energized by the lack of progress being made by the business. Think about the situation in your team. It could be that you are looking to launch a new product or service. Maybe you are changing the way that team is run or you're working with a new client. Use the bias worksheets to note what this would look like for you. If we allow a bias triggers to take hold, the choices we will make, an unlikely outcome will be affected. Look at what the situation would be if you address this bias. What are the alternative approaches you can take? Where could you spark transformation? What impact would it have for your organization? By reflecting on and addressing bias, we can open up our minds, perspectives, and viewpoints. It can be a stimulating, an energizing experience that points us towards new avenues while allowing us to appropriately analyze, assess, and evaluate the decisions we make. It's important to look at the different situations from different angles as it will bring about new considerations. This also relates to the opportunities and options we can create for ourselves. Self-bias can cause us to look at ourselves in an inaccurate way. This can be a bias that limits us from what we can really achieve or bias that over promotes ourselves. If we are not able to address this self-bias, it is likely we will make decisions harmful to us. To address this, we could use the tools discussed earlier to make informed decisions and invite feedback from others to help us overcome our blind spots. Listening deeply to appropriate acknowledge what we hear is so key to overcoming these biases. As we struggle with the old thinking and biases, one of the things we can do is to ask ourselves open questions to break out of a pattern of bias decisions. Examples of questions we could ask might be, how can I do this differently? Who else could I be listening to? What have I not thought about? Where else can I get information from? All in all, by taking the time and have any intention to break free from bias, we can explore a diverse range of options for our teams, for others, and for ourselves. I encourage you to give it a try and realize the impact it can have. 7. Final Thoughts: We have come to the end of the course. It has been great to engage with you and look at how we can overcome the common biases that show up in a working environment. I'm sure that greater awareness of this bias and the tools we have looked at will help in creating new and diverse opportunities. We spent time looking at what bias is, and how it can come about. I do hope you are more aware of your personal bias triggers, the situations that are likely to arise because of them, and how we can use the steps in the course to help us overcome this and make better informed decisions. We have identified how we can call out the bias of others in a non-confrontational way to ensure that others take on board our feedback and use it as a learning experience to change behaviors and ensure our places of work are more inclusive. We've explored the longer-term impacts of overcoming bias, and how it can create a wide range of opportunities. To reflect on these opportunities that can be created within our teams when we take the time to address our bias. To also use the bias worksheet to help support you on your journey in addressing the bias that may appear within our day to day decisions. It has been a great pleasure working through this with you. I wish you the very best on your journey. Please do connect with any comments, questions, or share your experiences. Overcoming bias is a continual journey that we're all likely to be on. It's not about perfection, it's about progression, so keep on taking those steps to making a positive impact in your area. Please do post your projects to the project gallery, I would love to see some of the things that you have come up with. I look forward to seeing you on another class soon. All the best. Bye-bye for now.