By Liz Shepherd
WARSAW — “Sometimes, adversity enrolls us in classes we didn’t register for.”
Jonathan Wilkins, a former chaplain for the Chicago Bears and current manager of leadership and learning development at CBRE, spoke to students at the Warsaw Community High School Performing Arts Center on Thursday, April 15. Wilkins is also currently managing the development and launch of a new Global Learning Development program for 8,000 project management professionals.
Wilkins is the second keynote speaker in Warsaw Community Schools’ 2021 Speaker Series.
His message focused on recognizing implicit bias and utilizing the P.A.U.S.E. model, a five-step process that provides people with tools to disrupt unconscious bias.
In his presentation, Wilkins provided several examples of what bias looks like and the importance of taking time to reflect on assumptions. He recalled his time serving as a waiter and initially treating people differently based on how he thought they would tip him.
“One of the things that I said that I would never do is judge people to figure out what sort of tip I would get,” said Wilkins. “Because I was in a certain environment, I thought I needed to treat certain people especially right and learn who to not treat as well. That’s not even who I am or how I was raised. Who I was in that moment was something I never wanted to be.”
However, an instance where Wilkins served a high school couple that tipped well when he assumed they wouldn’t based on their age helped Wilkins reflect on bias.
“I drew a set of conclusions that were wrong about people and judged them the wrong way,” said Wilkins. “I needed to pause. My need was preceding my ability to be human in that moment. My need for money was superseding my abilities to be focused and diligent. Instead of focusing on what I could give, I focused on what I could get.”
P.A.U.S.E. stands for ‘Pay attention,’ ‘Acknowledge your assumptions,’ ‘Understand your perspective,’ ‘Seek different perspectives’ and “Examine your options and make a decision.’
“I turned that dining room into my living room and started to treat people like they were in my home,” said Wilkins.
He emphasized the importance of using the P.A.U.S.E. model when someone experiences a strong, emotional or physical reaction; or when someone or a group of people come to a complex decision very quickly.
Wilkins also utilized the Stroop Color and Word Test to demonstrate how implicit bias works. For each test round, Wilkins asked students to read the color of letters shown on a screen. In the first round, random letters in various colors were shown; however, in the second round, words for names of colors were written in varying colors, resulting in some students reading the word versus saying the letters’ color.
He said this was due to the automatic and deliberate parts of people’s brains being in competition with one another.
Wilkins said real-world encounters, media, group identities and sub-cultures affect how people view life.
“When it comes to implicit bias, if you aren’t careful, you may draw a conclusion that may not be fair or inappropriate for the moment,” said Wilkins. “Bias is a preference and if you’re not careful, that preference can turn into a conclusion. When it comes to bias, before you draw a conclusion, it is important to take a step back. Because what you may be looking at may not be what it is.”
Following the presentation, Wilkins and Warsaw Community Schools staff led students in discussion-based work, with many in attendance sharing their thoughts on implicit bias.
Wilkins’ presentation was sponsored by Tri-Kappa, 1st Source Bank, Sym Financial Advisors and the Esther Pfleiderer Charitable Trust.