Frequently, I meet with new or existing clients to help them think through an organizational or team challenge having to do with people. I come to this conversation with my passion and expertise of leadership development. My goal is to help find an answer to the challenge. However, the difficulty is that I want to solve the problem through my lens of leadership development. This is a lens’ bias. A lens is something that facilitates or influences perception. A bias is an inclination (sometimes strong) towards an outlook.
Several years ago, I messed up as a consultant and trainer. I met with a new client to discuss their team problem. This person wanted training on conflict resolution for his team of about 8 people. Great! I got this. I will prepare and deliver a half-day workshop on working through conflict.
I showed up early the morning of the event and met the client. He seemed a little upset. Without prompting, he said, “Great, the person this training was meant for won’t even be here.” I thought “What? The person this is meant for. Isn’t this a team issue?” Come to find out, there was one person on the team that was having conflict issues with several other team members. He was the missing person. The answer to this problem was not a team workshop. A better answer would have been for the manager to do one-on-one coaching the team member on conflict resolution. If the manager needed help having these conversations, that was another answer.
When you are helping someone solve a problem, recognize and admit your own biases. You could say, “I would like to help you solve this problem if you are open to my support. I admit I come to this from a bias towards… (fill in the blank).”
A lens’ bias is not always bad or wrong. Your strong way of perceiving a problem may come from years of training and experience and is the exact right answer. Wisdom is knowing when you are right and when you need to explore other answers. To focus this down to a skill, remember to recognize our lens’ biases, articulate them, and remain open when necessary.