[Coaching] Constructively Dealing with Unconscious Bias

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It will come as a surprise to almost no one that I discuss unconscious bias with my clients who are women leaders.

Unconscious bias, also known as implicit bias, is often defined as prejudice or unsupported judgments in favor of or against one thing, person, or group as compared to another. And it is typically done in a way that is considered unfair.

Research suggests that unconscious bias occurs automatically. The brain makes quick judgments based on past experiences and background. As a result of unconscious biases, certain people benefit and other people are penalized.

We all have unconscious biases. Men and women, young and old, people from every ethnic background and every socioeconomic class.

If you are able to catch your biases and challenge them yourself, great. But it’s not likely to go down that way. It’s more likely someone else will point your biases out for you.

This comes back to the fact that these biases are unconscious. You’re making judgments without realizing it. It is largely with the help of others that these blind spots come into your awareness.

Becoming aware of and removing your unconscious biases takes an openness to hear someone out. It takes reflecting on what they share with you. And it takes considering behaving differently going forward.

How to Address Unconscious Bias as a Leader

For many of us, critical feedback causes our defenses to go up. That’s a natural human tendency. It’s an act of courage to point an unconscious bias out to another person.

How the feedback is delivered matters if you want the other person to take in the feedback you are sharing with them.

Keep this in mind as you are preparing to talk to another person about an unconscious bias you’ve observed them display.

This is what came up in a coaching session I had recently with Jaime. She is a member of this community and a member of the military.

The unconscious bias that is typically experienced by women leaders is around their competence. Even though women leaders score higher on competence than their male counterparts, women are still considered to be less competent than men.

This is why mansplaining occurs and it’s why a woman leader’s reports and decisions are more likely to be questioned and second-guessed.

How do you deal with this without losing your mind or your temper?

A Conversation on Unconscious Bias

In this conversation Jaime shares her experiences and ultimately talks through the solution that feels right for her. I think her solution is going to resonate with you as well.

One other note: In our conversation Jaime and I reflected on the fact that if you’re too upset or emotional when bringing up something that happened it can backfire on you. Instead of addressing what happened, the other person becomes more focused on how upset you are. This can undermine your credibility.

It wasn’t until after we completed the recording that Jaime and I both regretted not also mentioning that the ability to express your upset can be a strength. It’s not something you would want to try to get rid of.

There are times when it’s not only okay to be emotional it is, in fact, needed.


If you are new to the Women Taking the Lead podcast…hello and welcome!

I’m Jodi Flynn. I’m an executive leadership coach, speaker, and author. I am the current President of the Board for The Maine Women’s Conference. I have the privilege and joy to work with women leaders to hone the skills and the mindset that allow them to grow into and then thrive in Senior Leadership. My specialization is working with women who are still stabilizing after their last promotion and those who want to be ready for the next one.

It is my belief that for more women to hold positions of senior leadership, there are changes at the individual and organizational level that need to occur. Not only do women need to be trained and coached on how to operate at these levels of leadership, organizations need to change their paradigm of how the work gets done and what supports are in place for leaders to do their job.

If we are not already connected on LinkedIn, please send me an invitation to connect. You can find me directly at linkedin.com/in/jodiflynn, or you can search for Jodi Flynn. I’m very active on LinkedIn so I should be at or near the top of the search results. You’ll see the Follow button is prominent on my profile but if you click on the More button to the right, you’ll find the option to Connect. Click on that and be sure to add a note to the invitation letting me know you are a listener of the podcast. I would love to connect with you and get to know you better.

Would You Like This Opportunity?

There’s so much that can be gained by listening to what another woman is going through, and to understanding the strategy she will implement to overcome the challenge she is faced with. For this reason, I would love to do more On-Air Coaching Calls on this podcast.

If you are a women leader who has been promoted or taken on a new role in the last year, I invite you to apply to be on the Women Taking the Lead podcast. You will be completely anonymous so you won’t need to worry about anyone you work with listening to you talk about your challenges.

This is an opportunity for you to get insights and strategies to overcome any challenges you’ve been faced with at work. And, the other women listening to your episode will learn from your experience and gain insights that they can use at work. 

You can find the link that will take you to the application in the episode description in your podcast app or at the bottom of the episode page on the Women Taking the Lead website.

Unconscious Bias TakeAways

What were your takeaways from this on-air coaching call?

Are you in an environment where the unconscious biases of others is undermining your credibility as a leader?

Head over to LinkedIn to share your thoughts and takeaways on the post corresponding to this episode. I would love to hear what stood out most for you.

If your last promotion has you experiencing and confronting challenges you haven’t faced before, consider working with me. I would love to support you through this transition, help you get your bearings and feeling confident in your leadership once again.

You can find a link to schedule a time to chat with me below.

If you are going to ask your company to sponsor you to work with a coach, there’s also a link to access a checklist that will help you prepare for the conversation.

As always, I hope this was of value to you and here’s to your success!


One-Hour Leadership Strategy Session: This session is designed to get to the heart of the challenges you are experiencing in your new role. You’ll be sent a quick questionnaire to fill out ahead of our meeting so we can make the most of our time together.

Checklist to Ask Your Company for Coaching: Would coaching help you become a stronger leader? Wondering if your company would pay? It doesn’t hurt to ask!

Apply to be on an “On-Air Coaching” episode: Are you a female leader who has been promoted in the last year? You are invited to apply to be on the podcast.

Leadership Operating System Quiz: Wondering what kind of Leadership traits you have? Take this FREE, FAST quiz and find out more about yourself as a Leader.

Accomplished: How to Go from Dreaming to Doing: The book containing a simple, step by step system that gives you the foundation and structure to take your goals and make them happen.

The Women Taking the Lead Podcast

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