Advisor Advocate Logo: A Financial Services Blog from Nationwide
About the blog

What bias lens are you looking through?

About a month ago I went to see the movie The Lion King. Since the movie was in 3-D, I had to wear those uncomfortable goggles that allow you to view the action up close and personal. A few minutes into the movie I noticed my vision was blurred. I discovered the cause upon examining my glasses – a thin film on the lens that was distorting my vision. I was finally able to enjoy the rest of the movie after exchanging my faulty goggles for a new pair.

When your everyday lens is smudged, the results can be damaging. It’s a good practice to examine your lenses periodically to adjust your perspective on the world around you.

What lens are you looking through? Your lens could be your values, beliefs, convictions, or your biases. If the lens that you’re looking through is a bias, not only can it distort your view, but it can also impact your decision making. In my previous blog post, I address how you can outsmart your biases by first understanding where they come from. Unchecked, your bias lens can negatively influence your decision-making process, resulting in poor decisions. Everyone has biases and having them doesn’t make you a bad person – it just means you’re human. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, 2019 defines the word bias as “a personal and sometimes unreasonable judgment.”1 Biases can be so deeply imbedded within you that you may not even be aware they exist. In the book Blindspot, the authors conclude “a bias can exist in the conscious as well as the subconscious mind.”2

Types of bias lens

Your bias lens can come from different sources, including your environment, experiences, or professions. For example, Peter Eickelberg, Managing Director and COO of Alpha Fiduciary attributes certain biases to the financial services industry, and financial advisors specifically.3

Confirmation

Confirmation bias is the tendency to look for information that supports rather than challenges previously held beliefs.4 It’s what people often fall back on during conversations involving politics, religion, or even their favorite sports team.

When you think about your practice, what beliefs are you holding onto that may be keeping you stuck? Ask yourself why you believe it and what is the opposite of your belief?

Overconfidence

Overconfidence bias is the tendency people have to be more confident in their own abilities5, such as driving or teaching. This bias can come from inadequate reflection, resulting in overlooked viable options which can lead to hasty decisions. If a client has ever said to you, “I don’t feel that you listen to me,” this may be an indicator of overconfidence bias.

During the course of your day, are you making time to think and reflect? In what areas of your practice do you need to develop more?

Heuristics

Heuristics are mental shortcuts.6 An example of heuristics in play might be someone who makes a decision too quickly or makes a decision based on a hunch.
What due diligence do you take to confirm a hunch?

Lean in

What do you do after you become aware of your biases? You lean in and examine them. From there, you can continue to challenge or change them.

What topic(s) do you want to learn more about? Financial wellness? HSA’s? Generational wealth? Or, fiduciary education? Whatever the topic, challenge yourself to learn more about it and become an expert. Think depth not breadth. Continue to look for opportunities to grow and develop because a growth mindset is the best way to change your thinking.

Another way to lean into your biases is to select a subject matter you feel you are already an expert in and expand your knowledge even further. In other words, test your confidence around the subject matter.

In addition to leaning into your biases to change them, you can also ask yourself four questions. These questions are referred to as “The Work” by Byron Katie, an author who teaches a technique of self-inquiry.7 Whenever you find yourself holding onto an old way of thinking, ask yourself these questions:

Question 1: Is it true?
Is your belief true? Yes or no? Katie says, “You’re either believing your thoughts or questioning them. There’s no other choice.”
Question 2: Can you absolutely know it’s true?
This question challenges you to go deeper with examining your thoughts.
Question 3: How do you react – what happens – when you believe that thought?
This question encourages you to explore your response along with your accompanying emotions.
Question 4: Who would you be without the thought?
If you were to let go of your bias lens, what impact would it have on your practice, your clients, and on you?

What will you do?

Are your biases distorting your vision? More importantly, are you willing to examine, challenge and change them? Doing so will position you to not only make better decisions, but it will also allow you to bring forth the best solutions for your clients and your practice.

Sources

NFM-18845AO