Warning – Unconscious Bias Can Seriously Damage Your Coaching Practice!

The human brain is amazing. It has the capacity to assimilate a variety of information and down load it without us even realising it. We all will have experienced many different things throughout our lives through a variety of stimuli from different sources, family and loved ones, work, friends, social media, taste, touch, feel and hear.

The brain downloads this stimulus which in turn make us able to make quick decisions and react quickly based on the experiences that we have unconsciously stored.

Unconscious Bias often gets a bad press, but it is not all bad. The quick thinking and reactions of our unconscious bias can often get us out of some difficulties.

So how can unconscious bias be detrimental to my Coaching practice?

In the world of coaching, Passmore and Mortimer argue that the use of coaching theories and models that we use can take more precedence than ethics (2011). Research also suggests that organisations and individuals that believe that they have a fair and ethical practice tend to have the poorest outcomes in this regard. Being an authentic coach is key, and this can be enhanced by having a raised self-awareness of how one practices their coaching skills.

Organisational impact

From another perspective, an over reliance on one’s unconscious bias can create institutional challenges. Let us look at recruitment practices …

Example: An organisation advertises for a post and a wide range of diverse candidates are interviewed. The interviewers (panel) are all from a similar social class, same region, UK white, heterosexual, female under 35 with children and practice the same faith. Many studies have suggested that such a panel line up would largely benefit a candidate of a similar likeness as panel.

Unless Unconscious Bias is addressed, the selection of the best candidate chosen from a wide selection would not be possible as the use of unconscious bias colours our decision making (Royal Society, 2015).

Ok, so as a Coach, what is the best way to minimise the use of my unconscious bias?

A good starting point is to become more self-aware of your own unconscious bias. Becoming more self-aware can lessen the impact of your unconscious bias taking precedence over your conscious bias.

Come and join me at The 3 Shires Coaching group on Monday 3rd July, where I will be facilitating the evening on the theme of Unconscious Bias, and where I will be sharing several top tips to help raise greater awareness of Unconscious Bias and its impact on your Coaching practice.

Posted by Beverley Powell


Beverley Powell is a UK accredited Life Coach specialising in organisational development, diversity and inclusion, and is also a Leadership Associate for the NHS Yorkshire and Humber Leadership Academy. A national award winner by the Health Service Journal (HSJ) 2014 as a BME Pioneer for her work around strategic inclusion within the National Health Service(NHS). Also, nationally recognised by NHS Employers 2014 for work on strategically embedding Diversity through the workforce and aligning to business objectives.

Royal Society YouTube November 2015 [accessed June 2017]

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