The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias: A book review by Bob Morris

The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias: How to Reframe Bias, Cultivate Connection, and Create High-performance Teams
Pamela Fuller, and Mark Murphy with Anne Chow
Simon & Schuster (November 2020)

Unconscious bias is perhaps the most important “unknown unknown” to reveal

Although Pamela Fuller, and Mark Murphy with Anne Chow are the co-authors of this book, its lively and eloquent narrative is provided by Fuller on their behalf. As they explain, “This book is our contribution to help advance a more inclusive world, where we can name and take responsibility for our own biases, use empathy and curiosity to more effectively connect with others, and choose courage to make positive changes at work. Discrimination, racial injustice, and injustice in any form…have no place in society or in the workplace.”

They go on to point out, “What follows is a framework for leaders at all levels to enhance performance in themselves, their teams, and their organizations by understanding the nature of bias. In this book, we encourage each person to explore vulnerability, develop curiosity, and build empathy to move past negative biases and choose courage — all while applying best practices, strategies, and tactics to the Talent Lifecycle.”

Fuller, Murphy, and Chow “unpack and explore the Bias Progress Model” throughout the book and carefully organize their material within four Parts. First, they explain how to identify bias by understanding the neuroscience which also helps their reader to recognize the bias traps and to embrace mindfulness.

Next, they shift their and their reader’s attention to focusing on belonging by deploying curiosity and empathy that tap into the power of networks, especially when navigating difficult conversations. Then in Part 3, they share their thoughts (and feelings) about the courage needed to identify biases and their traps, to cope with those who are hostage to their unconscious biases, to support those who share their commitment to the elimination of those biases that have a significant [begin italics] negative [end italics] impact, and to be an advocate (if not an evangelist) of that process of unconscious bias identification, examination, and elimination.

Finally, having already introduced and examined the Bias Progress Model and the Talent Lifecycle, Fuller, Murphy, and Chow share their thoughts (and suggestions) with regard to the process of recruiting, interviewing, and hiring the talent needed;then using strategies for onboarding, engaging, and retaining those hires; then in Chapter 16, they focus on performance management that accelerates employees’ personal growth and professional development

As you may already know, Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham introduced their concept of “the unknown unknowns” in 1955. That is, ignorance of one’s ignorance. This is is probably what Mark Twain had in mind when observing, ” It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” Yes, it is very important to recognize what our specific knowledge needs are, relevant to the given situation. Ignorance of unknown unknowns can result in bad decisions and the worst of these can do serious damage.

Presumably Pamela Fuller, Mark Murphy, and Anne Chow agree with me that unconscious bias [begin italics] with negative impact [end italics] is among the most destructive of unknown unknowns. It can corrupt — perhaps even destroy — almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be. It can also severely damage an individual’s self-esteem in ways and to an extent that are not necessarily obvious.

How to reduce it and eventually eliminate it? Read this book and become fully aware of your own subconscious biases, then manage (if not eliminate) them so that you can then help others to do so. I presume to suggest one final point of emphasis, provided by Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.”


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