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  • Writer's pictureFletcher Consulting


I caught myself the other day assuming something about someone.

I was thrilled.

I was on a conference call with a museum client, getting ready for an onsite visit. They were telling me I was going to meet with their head of security, who they referred to as Nicky (or sometimes Nick). 

What picture is coming to your mind? 

For me, it was a tall, burly man. Maybe Italian. Strong Boston accent.

When I walked into the room, Nicky introduced herself. 

No resemblance whatsoever to my mental picture.

What’s wrong with me, falling prey to stereotypes? I’m a diversity professional! 

Lucky for me, I hadn’t said or done anything to embarrass myself before my biases were checked. But even when I’m not so lucky, I’m still grateful when I’m corrected. 

Biases are usually unconscious, so I never know they’re there. The only way to reprogram them is to see them—which usually means making a mistake. 

Only then can I know to ask myself why I jumped to a conclusion, where I learned the stereotype. Only then can I anticipate the assumptions before I act on them in the future.

People often thank me after workshops for sharing anecdotes about making mistakes. I guess they appreciate knowing I have to do work on myself too. So now I make it a point to collect these examples—not because I want to share my shame, but because I want people to realize that just because I’m introduced as an “expert” doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to learn. 

Why not try doing the same thing? Be honest about your own mistakes and missteps. It feels vulnerable to let go of our pride and perfection. But I’ve found that being corrected is a gift, and talking about mistakes lets other people learn from them too. 

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