Healthcare Leadership: Understanding Our Own Bias


By Cornelia Shipley Bearyman, MBA, PCC, ELI-MP

Whether you manage a hospital staff, team of pharmaceutical reps, medical equipment sales professionals or are a manufacturing department head with medical device designers and engineers — how well you lead will influence how well your company performs. That is because the retention & advancement of mission critical talent is the foundation for all business success. Employee resignations and burnout are at an all-time high and healthcare and medical product and service companies are challenged with positioning themselves as a true employer of choice to attract and retain key talent. People don’t leave companies, they leave bad managers and toxic work environments, which is why investing in your leader’s capability to effectively lead cross-culturally and create environments of inclusion and belonging, must be a top priority.

The first step is to recognize that everyone (including you) has bias. Even if you are in a workplace where the majority of employees share the same demographics, diversity across your workforce is still present. That means your managers, supervisors, and department heads will be leading teams that hold divergent views and approaches to creating the innovative solutions necessary to win in the marketplace. 

Here are three ways bias typically shows up and what you can do to create a more inclusive environment where even the most historically marginalized can thrive.  

1. Workstyle preference.  Everyone has a way they like to work from peak productivity hours to frequency of email, text, or calls, to in-person or virtual meetings, and more. As a result, everyone is inherently biased to their own preferences. For example, if you are available 24/7, you may expect your team to do the same. Failure to do so might be reflected in performance evaluations and promotions (your bias in action). Conduct an audit of pay and promotion to see how bias may be affecting performance ratings and salary increases. Take actions necessary to correct the inequities. Additionally, review cultural standards like timeliness, wardrobe, text messages/email/DMs, use of slang and emojis and determine what is appropriate today and incorporate the expectations of historically excluded communities. Are your workplace communications inclusive in nature or do they prevent you from recruiting and retaining talent based on evolving employee expectations? If not, adjust accordingly.  

 2. Personal Story. We understand life through story.When leaders are trained on bias, it is critical to discuss the childhood stories that were told about people who were “different” from them. Examining those stories help leaders begin to see the origins of their bias and the bias of others. They also help explain some of the “natural” preferences based on age, race, nationality, and veteran status, as well as perceptions of communities like the LGBTQ+ and the other abled. Too often, these “preferences” influence how we communicate and lead. What can you do to shift your story? Challenge the assumptions you make based on your childhood stories and determine if they are accurate based on what you know today. Increase your exposure to those with diverse experiences, adjust your perspective and begin to focus on the individual instead of the story you have in your head about them.  

3. Stuck in Status Quo.  Leaders are most comfortable doing things the way they have always been done; which is why change and transformation isn’t easy and can get in the way of creativity and innovation. The status quo prevents the full lift possible with diverse and inclusive teams. Practice curiosity, step out of your comfort zone, and lead from a place of not knowing vs. already knowing. Reward those who foster curiosity and cultivate innovation in your workplace. Invest in training and support to unlock the innate confidence and capability of your entire healthcare or medical business organization. Seek out innovative ways to best leverage the power of your company values, processes, and culture to create accelerated growth for the entire employee population and your bottom line. The time is now!  

About The Author, Cornelia Shipley Bearyman, MBA, PCC, ELI-MP, a strategist and leadership development expert, is founder & CEO of 3C Consulting, a boutique consulting firm specializing in the retention and advancement of mission critical talent across all industries including healthcare and medical companies. By usinga designed approach to development that is aligned to the desired outcomes and objectives of the organization, 3C Consulting strengthens leadership teams through the three C’s of clarity, capability and capacity and unlocks leaders innate leadership potential and knowledge to create and take designed action that will ultimately lead them to their desired outcomes. She can be reached by email at [email protected] onLinkedIn.