Be Careful Where You Sit

It’s known as Miles Law, and it’s attributed to Rufus Edward Miles, a Federal administrator who served as an assistant secretary under three U.S. presidents. It states: “where you stand depends on where you sit.”

The phrase acknowledges that where we stand in the perspectives that affect our opinions or decisions, comes from where we have been sitting in life. Our upbringing, education, network of friends and life experiences shape the bias of where we stand at any given moment in time.

We are all subject to bias in our opinions and preferences.  It may be wishful thinking to believe you do not.   What is much more to the point is to accept that you are susceptible to bias and know where you may be biased. This awareness allows you to discount it in an honest assessment of your options.  Here’s how:

Gaining Objectivity

Own your bias. Be honest with where you have been sitting and why you stand where you do. 

Examine your bias rationally. List other perspectives than your current conclusions. 

Expand your network to include people with whom you disagree. Then engage in reasoned but not emotional conversation. 

Evaluate your perspective. What are the reasons to continue or change your presumptions? 

Adjust your presumptions. Shift where you stand in spite of where you have been sitting. 

Identify the criteria that are essential to an objective decision. What are the important factors in the outcome of your decision? 

Weight the criteria. Each criterion does not have the same importance. Use a simple 1 to 5 scale. 

Measure each option in light of your weighted criteria. Score each option according to your numbers for each criterion. 

Make your best decision. What helps the most people and hurts the least people? 

Leadership Debrief

It’s okay to have bias. We all do. Just acknowledge that where you stand influences opinions, conclusions, and decisions.

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