LaTonya Wilkins is a credentialed coach, author of the book Leading Below the Surface, and sought after keynote speaker who has inspired audiences all over the world. She invites us all to do the real work and to get below the surface.
I’m delighted LaTonya joined me on The Courage of a Leader podcast to share with us How to Avoid Biased Feedback and Create a Safe, Empowering Culture. You’ll definitely learn from how she thinks and talks about this topic.
About the Guest:
LaTonya Wilkins is a credentialed coach, author of the book Leading Below the Surface, and sought after keynote speaker who has inspired audiences all over the world.
The best way to reach LaTonya is through email at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Host:
Amy L. Riley is an internationally renowned speaker, author and consultant. She has over 2 decades of experience developing leaders at all levels. Her clients include Cisco Systems, Deloitte and Barclays.
As a trusted leadership coach and consultant, Amy has worked with hundreds of leaders one-on-one, and thousands more as part of a group, to fully step into their leadership, create amazing teams and achieve extraordinary results.
Amy’s most popular keynote speeches are:
The Courage of a Leader: The Power of a Leadership Legacy
The Courage of a Leader: Create a Competitive Advantage with Sustainable, Results-Producing Cross-System Collaboration
The Courage of a Leader: Accelerate Trust with Your Team, Customers and Community
The Courage of a Leader: How to Build a Happy and Successful Hybrid Team
Her new book is a #1 international best-seller and is entitled, The Courage of a Leader: How to Inspire, Engage and Get Extraordinary Results.
Links mentioned in episode/helpful resources
LaTonya’s book: Leading Below the Surface – https://changecoaches.io/leading-below-the-surface/
LaTonya’s Leading Below the Surface LinkedIn newsletter – https://www.linkedin.com/newsletters/6894684049026494464/
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Teaser for next episode
Tune in next for “How to Be Seen, Heard and Respected” with Elizabeth Bachman. Elizabeth is skilled in the areas of Speaking, Presentation Skills, Sales and Leadership, and is the host of the international podcast: Speakers Who Get Results.
LaTanya Wilkins is a credentialed coach, author of the book leading below the surface, and sought after keynote speaker who has inspired audiences all over the world. I'm delighted that she joined me on the courage of a leader podcast to share with us how to avoid biased feedback and create a safe, empowering culture.Amy Riley:
Welcome to the Courage of a Leader podcast. This is where you hear real life stories of top leaders achieving extraordinary results. And you get practical advice and techniques, you can immediately apply for your own success. This is where you will get inspired. And take bold, courageous action. I'm so glad you can join us. I'm your host, Amy Riley. Now, are you ready to step into the full power of your leadership and achieve the results you care about most? Let's ignite the courage of a leader.Amy Riley:
LaTonya i I'm excited about the focus of our conversation today, we are going to talk about biased feedback. Now I'm not excited that biased feedback happens in our world. But I'm excited to talk about this. Because I think when we talk about bias, I think in mainstream conversations, we're still on the surface level. We're not getting below the surface, like you do in your conversations. So start off by grounding us in this topic. What is bias feedback? How do we recognize it?LaTonya Wilkins:
Yeah, so I remember one of the quotes that always stuck with me. And this was a quote that I learned when I was a learning and development leader. And it was that feedback is more about the giver than the receiver. Back is more about the giver than the receiver. So everyone think about that for a second. That means the feedback is more about you than the other person. And keep keep that in mind. When you're going through your week. You're giving people feedback, you're you're thinking about what type of feedback to give. I'm not saying it always has to be this way. But it's going to be this way, if you operate on autopilot, and you're not really intentionally thinking about how to provide feedback. And so I will start with that.Amy Riley:
Great, great. And you've said a lot right there, LaTonya. I'm thinking about it, like even when we give leaders formulas for feedback, right, describe the situation, then describe the specific behavior, then describe the impact, especially in that impact piece that's coming from my perspective, and my filters and all of my experiences that have led me to have the filters and perspective that I have. So I might think that I'm very objectively stating some impact. And that might not be the case.LaTonya Wilkins:
Right? Right. Yeah. What those models, you know, some of those models I really like, because I think it's, it's a good way to structure. But again, the issue with the models is like, people just don't put in the preparation that they need to what the impacts. It's what I always tell leaders is, when you're thinking about the impact, think about the impact on your team, or think about the impact on your organization. Yeah, make it something that is tangible. So for example, there's a conflict on your team. And the conflict is you've noticed that since this, these two people on your team have been in conflict, that the team is that getting back to customers as fast as they did before noticing that decisions are not getting made as fast. You're noticing that people just aren't participating as much in team meetings. Yeah, that's impact if you can observe. It's not Well, I didn't really like that. And I was upset about that. That's that impact. That's yeah, again, that's more about you than that's more about the giver than the receiver.Amy Riley:
Yeah, yeah. Really great. LaTonya Well, Let me tell our listeners a little bit about you. As the founder of change coaches LaTonya Wilkins works with C suite leaders, executives and their teams where human connection and cultural change really happen. Below the surface. LaTonya is a credentialed coach, author of the book leading below the surface, and sought after keynote speaker who has inspired audiences all over the world. She and her team helped clients create cultures of belonging while amplifying the only ones at work. So they feel more valued, heard and engaged through years of experience at Fortune 500 companies and in higher education, she's developed a unique evidence based approach to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. LaTonya knows how to support leaders at any level at any organization to lead below the surface. Thank you for being here with me for this conversation today. LaTonya.LaTonya Wilkins:
Sure, it's an important one to have. Yeah,Amy Riley:
yeah, absolutely. So we we hear all the time that everybody has bias, all humans have unconscious bias going on? So how can we make sure that that bias is not coming across in our feedback?LaTonya Wilkins:
Oh, gosh, that's a really good question. When you're walking in, and you're giving feedback, usually the model that I provide includes a lot of preparation. And while you're preparing, you are reflecting on your biases, the biases that I asked about, or the what I call the terrible three. And it's also in my book, affinity bias. We like people who are the same as us, like, think about it, like how many? How many men are listening, and when you're giving feedback to another guy that likes football or likes, likes when you you want to give him feedback? You know, it's gonna be easier. It's gonna be a language. But yeah, with the coin, it's someone different from you. You're like, oh, you know, and so that's, that's just checking that and just understanding. That's okay. Like, yeah, like, for me, there's certain people that I love giving feedback to. I like any feedback to coaches. Coaches are like me, right? Yeah. So for people who have similar career backgrounds as me, I don't mind because I'm like, oh, okay, this will be easier, because where I'm coming from, but that's the first one. And then confirmation bias and group bias are the three that you will need to reflect on and just just know that they again, you're not trying to say, oh, my gosh, I shouldn't have that. It's more like, Okay, this exists. So what can I do? How can I navigate this? What are in this conversation?Amy Riley:
Because it can be easy to think, Okay, I've been given this formula for feedback. Now I just need to well put my put My words into this formula, yet. We want to bring intentionality and awareness and be reflecting on bias and possible bias, while we're preparing. And hey, acknowledging that it might take some more time to prepare feedback for somebody that's not like me, who doesn't have a lot of the same education and a functional experience that I write and be thinking about, okay, how is this gonna land from their perspective? What might be their perspective? And how do I do my best to speak into that?LaTonya Wilkins:
Yeah, you know, it's really interesting, because I've been in a lot of conversations. I mean, this is the end of the year, like, we're recording this, and many of you, you know, even when you're hearing this, you're probably going to be giving some sort of end of the year feedback, or you're gonna be thinking about bonuses, and how much to pay. But just over the last week, you know, I run a small company. And it's interesting, the bias of the feedback that I hear from people that are telling me, you know, how to run my company, and how I'm getting feedback to my employees. Like, for example, they're like, Oh, well, that person, didn't they have this skill? This is a basic skill. Like, I'm thinking, this is a startup. I worked for Fortune 500 companies. Again, that's a bias. Well, you know, if you don't know this, then you you just don't get it. And I'm like, it's so different and different kinds of companies like startups versus, you know, large companies like you know, tech Like versus healthcare, like, again, that's another bias where you're assuming that certain people should just know certain things and they haven't acquired this by now then you cut the cord. And I'm like, I don't that mentality and I get I get it, because I spent a lot of time in corporate but just bias on that level. Yes, it's yes. Madness out there sometimes, right?Amy Riley:
Yes. Well, in these seemingly new troll assumptions that we have, right, this is a basic skill, someone in that position should be able to do A, B and C. Right. That seems like some neutral. Perspective. Right. Right. But there is a assumption and bias built in there. Yeah, ILaTonya Wilkins:
agree. It's what is your baseline? It's not, the baseline is a bias.Amy Riley:
Mm hmm. Baseline is a bias.LaTonya Wilkins:
That was a literation. I wasn't intending, yeah.Amy Riley:
That's magic, writing that down. So what do we do LaTonya. If we feel like we've received biased feedback, or even if we feel like we might have given biased feedback?LaTonya Wilkins:
Well, I think the first thing you do is acknowledge it. So if someone comes to you, and they and this, this actually happened to me recently, and I wrote a whole article on LinkedIn about this. Thank you.Amy Riley:
Thank you for doing that. Right. We need to talk more about this. Yeah.LaTonya Wilkins:
Yeah, you know, it was it was something I didn't want to write at first. But then I was like, I was thinking about all the people that run events, especially, you know, even between that 2020. And now like, double quadruple, because all these people are doing virtual events, like, more and more people are interested in this, so they don't really know what they're doing. Yeah. And so I ended up doing a pro Bono's speaking gig, which I don't do much of, but it was an organization that I really like, and I care about. And one person. I mean, most of the feedback was okay. And then one person who sent me this, this outlier, and it was a first one I read it, I was just, I was more shocked than anything, but it it, it attacks, parts of me like my race, like like gender. And it just, when I read it, I was like, this isn't the back, this is something else. This is some sort of prejudice, you know, and yeah, and so when I went to the person that the event planner, I, what I really wished they would have done is listen to me because I don't do this very much. Like, you know, I'm a speaker, I'm a professional speaker. So, you know, it's like, we get feedback. I mean, as a professional speaker, you know, yes, we back all the time. But I never got anything like this, like, nothing to do with my talk. And I felt like the event organizer was defensive, and was basically like, this is an outlier. And you should focus on everything else. And it was kind of a lecture around outliers. And I'm like, This is not what I need right now. So if you do that, what if you if you give biased feedback, and someone tells you just listen and acknowledge you don't have to agree. It's like we always think that if we are listening, you're listening right now. nodding your head is not agreement. Yeah, that is acknowledgement that yeah, there are two different things. So you have to do is acknowledge and validate. And don't try to solve it. Just listen, acknowledge and validate. Because the next like, if you sleep on that overnight, like in the moment, you're probably thinking, Oh, my gosh, this is my group. Like I could offend them. There's no way there's no way that my group could do this. Right. And your bias, know why you this is, this is probably her, something's got to be something's got to be there. Yeah. It's you. You wouldn't be surprised if you just sleep on it. The new the new horizons that you could see and new thoughts and ideas that come on. So that's what I would say is, listen, there's really there's no reason to argue with it.Amy Riley:
Yeah, yeah. Well, and you gave us a lot of great stuff there. LaTonya. Some being how do we recognize the biased feedback mu said there were the comments that had to do with your race and your gender. It did. and have to do with the content of your talk. Right? Ding, ding, ding right there. That's biased feedback. So acknowledging that for yourself, and you decided to acknowledge it with the organization. Yeah. And then if you are on the receiving end of someone telling you, hey, the feedback you gave me was biased, or someone from your group gave biased feedback. I just assume I can take the breath. Listen, right. Right. All you have to do is listen, don't try to solve it. Sleep on it. Sleep on it. And then now Now what if LaTonya I am a team leader. I've given some some feedback to team members. One of them tells me it feels biased, I sleep on it. And I'm like, huh, they're right. There is a bias there. What conversation Do I have then?LaTonya Wilkins:
Yeah, I mean, you go in, and again, you don't have to solve everything in that situation, it's gonna be given situations like this can be messy, and they take a long time. And I mean, as a coach, you know, you you understand this as well. It's, it's okay. And I sometimes I call this man during the month where it's okay. You have to do that. No, no, yeah. At the time, when you're like, you're thinking, Oh, my gosh, I said this to LaTonya, or whoever. And now I see that. All you do is you go in and you say, you know, I apologize. You know, I didn't I didn't realize this. And, you know, I right now, you know, I would like to kind of reflect on this a little bit more about what I'm going to change going forward. So I always talk about amends over apologies. But you know, start with the apology, because that's the basic, and then go to your events, and what are you going to change from there? And, but you won't know, right? It's like, if you do know, in that minute, then you haven't done enough reflection. You haven't done enough reflection. It's not it's not genuine. It's not authentic. Yeah. So you can even say to that person, hey, I'm really sorry. I have some reflection that you would get back to you in like a week or so I really, I mean, I could I could rattle off some things I'm going to do, but then it's not going to be real. So yeah. Yeah, that'd beAmy Riley:
okay. So great. LaTonya. And I could see I could see it myself, like just wanting to fix this, right, and say, I'm going to do A, B and C perfectly going forward in order to, you know, never risk offending this person again, and to resist that anxiety to fix. Yeah, and if I was on the receiving end of that, the other person telling me that they were going to continue to reflect on this. That feels like that would be meaningful. Right there. They're not sweeping the rug, they are going to continue to look and continue to work on this. And hey, that that's what means the most.LaTonya Wilkins:
Yeah, I mean, that's really great. For like, any relationship, right? Like, like, some of you that are very, or you have a partner or whatever, you know, any type of arrangement. That's, that's on a family. Family level, right? Yeah. You might, like think about that with your partner, like, Oh, I didn't do you know, I didn't do the dishes. Well, you said you were gonna do the dishes and you have an agreement. And, oh, okay, well, I'm gonna do them tomorrow, but then you don't? What are you really committed to? Yeah, and what's realistic, right? It's like, yeah, things again, we want to, we want to fix we want to change the way the person feels. But guess what, you're not gonna be able to do that. Even for me, it took this was something I knew was had nothing to do with me as a speaker, but it still took some time to get my feelings in a space where, you know, I felt okay again. So yeah, it's, you're not going to be able to control how they feel. They might still be upset, and that's okay.Amy Riley:
Yeah. Yeah, really great. So LaTonya I work with leaders who are already hesitant to give feedback, they get uncomfortable about it. I know I do a lot of work with folks to ground people in their intentions, right? What What are your intentions? Right if the the feedback that you're giving is to help them have a better have a reputation to help them perform better, right to help make their job easier, right? No leaders that you can ground yourself in that intention. I see so many leaders that are hesitant to give feedback. I don't want them to get more nervous about this idea of giving unbiased feedback that now they're shying away from passing along the information that could help their colleagues perform better. What would you say, to help mitigate that anxiety that many leaders have around doing this feedback thing? Right?LaTonya Wilkins:
Yeah, you know, it's, it's hard because, you know, as a as a, as a CEO or business owner, I get it. And it's, it's, it's hard for me to do as well. Yeah, I think number one, like something that always seems like yours is to sit down with the employee, and ask them how they would like to receive feedback. Nice. It's like, it's something we just don't do, right? You want to because you just go in, and you come up with this big document? And then you go into my saying, yeah, like, right, right. It's like, it's like, your show, right? But it's not that and it's like, you know, how would you like to do this? Would you like to just? And then it's in each one on one? Or would you like to receive it? You know, like, right after it happens? Or would you like to wait? Or how would you like this to go. And I think if you could get yourself in a rhythm. So it's not taboo, then it's, it's so much easier, I will tell you, like, I know, I'm giving you this advice. But I'm not good at this either. Like, I think, if you do it, well, what you do is you, you know, leave a few minutes, you know, every other week and your one on ones and just provide some feedback, or every time you have a one on one, provide some feedback and give it an opportunity for the employee to kind of state how they think they're doing. But again, it's, it's it's checking in with them. I think another way, something else that you could do is if you're gonna give someone constructive feedback, remember, the five to one ratio, so five, every one of constructive feedback research says you should have five positive, nice again, this is why high performers are usually not as engaged and you're spending so much more time with low performers, because you're not giving them actionable feedback on the things that are doing well. So. So that five to one, making sure you're also you're balancing that making sure you're having it, you know, a little bit of feedback, and every every single meeting and asking how people would like to receive that.Amy Riley:
Love that LaTonya asking them not only how they would like to receive the feedback, but then asking them how they think that they're doing. They might do your job for you right there. They, they might say the things that you were preparing to say to them. And I love you said, you know, having in your one on ones, have those conversations in your one on ones regularly make it a practice. Or then you everybody gets into the rhythm. And I love the five to one, it's so true. And I thought that really works for the recipient of the feedback, you're getting five positive pieces of feedback to one constructive, but that really works for the giver of the feedback too. Because then you're practicing giving feedback, right, giving positive feedback is giving feedback. And you find your rhythm and you find the words to do that. It will increase your comfort all around and giving feedback.LaTonya Wilkins:
Right? Yeah, yeah. It's, it's like a gift. It's not just you giving it to the other person. Like, again, I see it as like a partnership, right? And even if you're the boss, it's like, but you have to figure out that partnership and that rhythm and know hey, there's a feedback. When are you gonna give me feedback? And yeah, you can only do that if you keep doing it. Right.Amy Riley:
I've given feedback where I don't know how to shift it. Right. There was something here that didn't work. I'm not sure the best path forward. Can we talk about that? And then co creating that together. Nice. Another layer here LaTanya. Some leaders are looking at creating cultures of feedback. They feel like their teams are ready for that. They feel like there's the level of openness and trust for that. So if leaders are stepping into that encouraging, like, Hey, if you have feedback for a colleague, let's not play the game of take that to the leader, and then the leader has to like second hand, deliver it to someone else, have that team member go directly to the other team member. So now if we're encouraging everyone to give everybody else feedback, how do we help make sure? How do we help mitigate against bias there?LaTonya Wilkins:
Yeah, you have to be very careful, because it's if you're gonna have a culture of feedback, I would suggest having a theme that you want that to be on, you know, for example, if it's the culture of feedback, like around innovation, culture of feedback, like around maybe psychological safety, things that are like that give give people some guardrails? Because, again, I mean, I would probably just leave it at innovation, honestly, for now. Because, because then it's just my question is, how qualified? Are these people to be giving just anyone feedback? Sure, right. It's, you know, some managers aren't even qualified to give feedback to people. So I would be very careful with that. You know, I do like the coaching cultures like, I do you think if you can teach your employees like a few powerful questions, then you can have some sort of coaching culture? I would, I would go with that over a feedback culture because a feedback culture. I mean, if all of you are listening today, you see, there's a lot of landmines when it comes to feedback. For 40s are not properly trained, it might not go well.Amy Riley:
Yeah. Okay. Great. Suggestions. If you're, if you're dipping your toe into that into the water, yeah, start start with a coaching focus. How can you be asking each other questions about your work and your approach and how you're thinking about it. And if you do want to open up to feedback, I love that having a focus, because then if you talk about like, we won't have a focus on innovation, then you can have the conversation to define what are the behaviors that we're looking for. Right, then you're having conversations about whether those specific behaviors are showing up or not? Right, then you've got those guardrails?LaTonya Wilkins:
Yeah, it's otherwise it's just, it's just a free for all right. It's like, oh, well, maybe you walked in the room. And she didn't say hi to Gina, so I gotta give her some Yeah, it's like, I don't even know what that means. But yeah, you have to have something where where you need to be able to, like have guardrails and they'll nail down for people. Yes,Amy Riley:
yes. Yeah, some behavioral definition that were that were anchoring that on. LaTonya so much great stuff today. If we feel like we have been involved with biased feedback, acknowledge it. If someone else is telling us we gave biased feedback, listen, don't try to solve it in the in the moment, reflect, do your do your work, right, apologize and let the other person know that you're gonna reflect on it. Right. And when we're engaging in conversations about others behaviors, reflect on possible biases, assumptions that can get in the way. Right. Ask others how they'd like to get feedback. Ask others how they think that they're doing. Make it make it a practice and practice with giving positive feedback. Yes, yeah. Yes. Yes. So many great concepts techniques today. LaTonya. Thanks so much for being with us to talk about biased feedback.LaTonya Wilkins:
Thanks for having me.