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Is Unconscious Bias Relevant to Coaching?

  September 16, 2020

Is Unconscious Bias Relevant to Coaching?

I was involved in a (heated) online discussion on whether unconscious bias is relevant to coaching. My social injustice trigger went off.

The result of that is a bit like a horse that has run away with its rider. I go somewhere fast but sometimes in the wrong direction. This time, I only embarrassed myself slightly.

I quickly discovered coaching heavyweights are already talking about unconscious bias and our profession. Amongst them:

Pam gently enabled us to realise:

  • The many areas bias occurs: memory, emotional, behavioural, financial, social, the list goes on and can be broken into much more detail.
  • How our work is often about enabling clients to be aware of their belief structures and how it is impacting them, so that they can have more choice – in other words – making the unconscious conscious.

This confirmed to me the importance of the topic and how wide ranging its relevance is to coaching. I began to think about certain groups who may be excluded from coaching or from becoming a coach, especially as we shift to online work. I am yet to meet a coach using sign language.

Who am I unconsciously or accidentally excluding?

And, importantly, are there any belief structures negatively impacting my coaching of certain people? Those 'open questions' and 'not being attached to the outcome' become so much more important. But even with that training, what is the risk of inadvertent damage?

I think we need more ways of discovering this, more than just the Harvard Implicit Bias Test.

So, this is less ‘runaway horse to change the world’ and more of a ‘waiting for the kettle to boil’ chat – What do you think is the relevance of unconscious bias to coaching? Where do you think there is space for improvement? What have I missed?

There’s an opportunity for coaches to talk more about ethics with the ICF at this link, under the tab “water cooler conversations”:

A conversation by wise and thoughtful coaches focusing around spiritual bypass and understanding systems of oppression

A short interesting video on disability/ability in the workplace:



Coach and Trainer

Aysha is a coach and trainer who, given any excuse, will talk about the benefits of self-compassion. As a result, she has created a programme on How to be Kinder to Yourself. She first did her coach training in 2012/13 and is currently engaged in training again. Aysha lives beside a forest with her three unruly rescue dogs.   



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