3 Ways to Improve Your Strategic Thinking

You may have heard the story of the truck that was immovably stuck under a bridge and how the solution came from an unlikely source. If you don’t know it, I’ll share it at the end of this newsletter.

I was thinking about this story when recalling a professional meeting where the topic was developing a global mindset. One of the speakers was talking about their company’s research showing that experiencing another culture has a significant impact on one’s strategic thinking. “Experiencing” didn’t mean going there on a vacation. It was an immersive, longer-term experience, like ex pat assignments or managing a global team where you had to travel to work within their culture somewhat regularly.

The speaker noted that these assignments have this profound impact because they challenge your perceptions and perspectives of the world. These different perspectives allow you to be more nuanced in your thinking about how different parts of a whole interact, the variables that impact it, and the resulting implications. Your competitors are increasingly global, not just national or local. Therefore, such experiences help you to think more like (and outthink) your competitors, to anticipate trends, and to consider solutions and strategies from a broader array of possibilities.

How, then, can you stretch your perspectives to help develop your strategic thinking when working globally isn’t a possibility (or, at least, not yet)?

  • Regularly interact with people in a different function or area of the company. Marketers and engineers don’t think alike. Operations people think differently than researchers. See how someone different from you may experience the same issues or the organization itself.
  • Interact with those outside your industry.  For years, benchmarking was the buzzword when you wanted to get a more strategic perspective and to gain some competitive advantage. Benchmarking is often practiced with a closed-system approach. Life science companies benchmark other life science companies. Tech firms benchmark other tech firms. That’s important, but it’s also somewhat limiting, especially in a world where industries and disciplines are bleeding together like never before. The perspective of someone in a different industry about your issue or situation will cause you to think about the variables and interactions more broadly, more strategically. One of the things that made Steve Jobs so successful at product design was that he included perspectives he gained from things as diverse as digital animation, calligraphy and architecture.

When we hire people who are mostly like ourselves we multiply our strengths… but also our weaknesses and blind spots.

  • Hire people who are different from you. We’re all familiar with research which shows that diverse organizations are generally more successful. In addition to the typical diversity categories we’re used to thinking about (gender, race, age, etc.) we should look for diversity of thought, experience, and education, among many other factors. When we hire people who are mostly like ourselves, we multiply our strengths… but also our weaknesses and blind spots. Make sure to regularly ask those you’ve hired for their perspective and input on the business issues you are working to address.

Thinking about your daily business interactions expansively will help you develop the broader perspective needed for strategic thinking.

So, the story of the truck goes like this. The top of the truck was wedged against the underside of a bridge, and it could go neither forward nor backward. It just wouldn’t budge. Traffic was backed up and police and tow trucks were trying to figure out how to get it out. A little boy walked up and asked what was going on.  The police officer explained the dilemma. The little boy looked at him and said, “let the air out of the tires.”

10 Things that Keep You from Hiring Great People

Over the years, one of our most popular workshops is Accelerated Hiring.  That’s because hiring great people is one of the toughest and most impactful of leadership responsibilities.  A lot of hiring mistakes are self-inflicted.  Some are a function of the organization’s approach (or lack thereof).  As we come out of the Covid pandemic in the coming months, hiring will take off, and the competition for top talent will seem like a contact sport.

I love this article by Lou Adler about the 10 Things Managers Intentionally Do to Avoid Hiring Great People.  We address almost all of these in Accelerated Hiring.  See if any of these 10 things resonate with you:

  1. Filter candidates on skills and experience
  2. Target the wrong talent pool with the wrong message
  3. Using compensation to save time but prevent the best from being evaluated
  4. Looking for the person to fit the “perfect” job rather than modifying the job to fit the “perfect” person.
  5. Use of generic traits
  6. Believe gut feelings, first impressions and that the “halo effect” predicts performance
  7. Allow a hiring in your own image mentality to exist
  8. Use gladiator voting
  9. Accept a safe “no” vote with no proof that it’s justified
  10. Don’t make hiring managers responsible

Even the most experienced leaders can find it challenging when it comes to making such a critical talent decision.  Are you guilty of any of these?

Alignment + Agility = Competitive Advantage

Our previous two articles talked about creating alignment for success in 2021. First, your organization (and your teams) need a clearly articulated North Star and strategic clarity. Second, it is imperative to build a culture that reinforces alignment between how you work and what you aim to achieve. Alignment is essential for success. However, agility – in addition to alignment – will lead to competitive advantage.

Alignment without agility is stagnation.

Agility without alignment is chaos.

Over the past year, rapid response and breakneck adaptation have been watchwords for successful businesses in the COVID environment. The pace of that agile response has left people exhausted and organizations risking burnout among their teams. Some organizations have been changing so quickly that they have prioritized adaptation too highly. They are no longer aligned with or certain about their business strategy. And some feel they no longer recognize their culture. In a deep and dire emergency, business survival trumps culture.  Nevertheless, it has its negative consequences.

On the other hand, some of my clients are already worried that, as we approach a post-pandemic world, the desire for a sense of “normalcy” and decompression will result in a temporary, but dangerous stagnation. It could be very tempting to feed the longing for some stability, and focus too heavily on alignment, deprioritizing agility.

And therein lies the conundrum. Organizations that build and maintain competitive advantage create a balance between two competing elements: alignment and agility. It can be convincingly argued that the benefits of agility are only achieved within the context of ongoing alignment with strategy and culture. It is also a fact that change and alignment are, at their core, competing forces that require constant attention.

How can you create alignment and agility within your team?

  • Clearly focus on only a handful of strategic imperatives. And don’t assume clarity. Revisit those imperatives regularly with your team and discuss how the team’s work contributes to them. Use them as your guardrails.
  • Help strategy bubble up from the bottom.  People in the organization who are closer to the customers, operations and technologies often see opportunities and threats more quickly than executives do. In my HBR article, “5 Behaviors of Leaders Who Embrace Change”, I shared these two ideas for building this capability in your team:
    • Make opportunity-seeking part of the regular conversation. Simply asking questions like “What are our customers talking about? What do you think they will want a year or two from now? What new trends do you think will impact us?” sends the message that looking ahead is important. And that you value their input.
    • Advertise successes. Nothing breeds success like success. Tell the stories at company events and recognize team members who are looking ahead and identifying opportunities. Demonstrate that the status quo is not enough anymore.
  • Encourage experimentation and learn from failure:  Too often, traditional organizations’ first response to a risk is to ask, “Why?” Change agility requires leaders to ask “why not?” and to establish opportunities for pilots, prototypes, and experimentation. Experimentation is an integral part of R&D. While an overall strategy informs the researchers’ focus, any R&D scientist will tell you that there are sometimes dozens of experiments that don’t get results and that, without those failures, they wouldn’t have been able to find the successes.
  • Reallocate resources with discipline.  As Sulls’ and Homkes research found, organizations tend to move too slowly or move quickly but lose sight of the strategy. I consulted to an organization a few years ago where moving too quickly without discipline was hampering their ability to achieve results. The CEO had started the company and was the classic early-stage entrepreneur; extremely responsive to market needs, ready and willing to change strategy, and endlessly shifting resources. However, the company was not early stage anymore and this nearly sole focus on agility led to a complete lack of follow-through, very little alignment and was seriously impacting results. The board removed him and named a new CEO who added a new level of discipline to resource allocation through a combination of centralized oversight and distributed decision-making.

Start 2021 with the ideas we’ve discussed in these three articles – defining your North Star, creating strategic clarity, building a strong culture and creating aligned agility – and you will have improved your ability to thrive.

The 3rd Key to Better Results in 2021

Everyone wants a competitive advantage. In our last article, we talked about the critical nature of purpose (a North Star) and strategic clarity. They provide much needed direction in a time of change and uncertainty. The third key to better results in 2021 is culture. And it’s considered by many to be the most important.

Peter Drucker famously said “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” and research supports that assertion. Just a couple examples:

Culture is what bonds people together (or doesn’t) – and it usually determines how effectively you pursue strategy. Whether your organization or team will be remote, blended or back in the office, one of your 2021 priorities should be ensuring your culture is positioning you to take advantage of opportunities.


Just Words on a Page?
Culture is often defined in terms of published values (or principles, philosophy, ideals). These statements are meant to guide the actions and decisions of employees throughout the organization. Do those statements actually create culture? The answer is no. Sull, Turconi, and Sull researched the correlation between 9 of the most frequently stated company values and how well the companies lived up to those values in their employees’ eyes. The correlation between the published values and actual values were very weak for all, and negative for four of them.  As the saying goes, “don’t pay attention to what they say, pay attention to what they do.”

Culture is a Reflection
It reflects how we actually navigate our relationships… with employees, peers, customers and business partners.  Culture is about where we spend our time. Do we spend more time fixing client problems than anticipating them, more time penalizing people for mistakes than recognizing effective behavior? Should we spend more time on service, on innovation or on building value? Ultimately, culture is the collective nature of what we value as a company. And it’s not what we write on a piece of paper, but what we do. Every. single. day.

Build, Maintain and Adapt Intentionally
Our behavior is how we define, demonstrate, and continually recreate culture. As a leader, what actions should you take to build a culture that supports peak performance?

Start with your North Star and strategy: 
Purpose and strategic clarity need to be defined and communicated regularly. They provide the context and direction for the culture choices the company makes.

Align it with the company’s brand:
 Your brand is how your company is perceived and experienced by the customer and other stakeholders.  David Matting, Head of Trends and Insights for TrendWatching notes “There’s really no such thing as internal culture anymore. Your culture is always public, and it’s your most powerful, public-facing asset or liability.” It’s difficult to tell the market you are, for example, positioned around an outstanding customer experience when your business doesn’t support an outstanding employee experience.

Define the behaviors that epitomize values.
 Values are often stated as words or phrases like ‘act with integrity’ or ‘delight the customer’. What does that look like? Define the behaviors that epitomize those values. By watching how people behave, what they say and what decisions and trade-offs are made, any leader or employee should be able to say what your culture is.

Connect roles and work to purpose
.  What does a salesperson, developer, machine operator or the CEO do (and not do) that represents the best in your culture? Go beyond traditional job descriptions and define how that role connects to the purpose and culture. Hire for those attributes; expect them, celebrate them and reward them.

Actively and regularly assess.
Whether through surveys, focus groups or an assessment by an external consultant, regularly take a step back and assess how well people in your organization understand the cultural goals.

According to Gallup, Only 41% of employees strongly

agree that they know what their company stands for

and what makes it different from competitors

Leaders also should be asking how well their teams reflect the stated culture. It’s easy for employees and leaders alike to become unmoored from cultural goals. An honest look will continue to position your culture as a competitive advantage, including when it comes to attracting talent.


Adapt in real time.
 Change can’t wait. When the culture no longer represents who the organization or team should be, adapt it to meet changing needs.
By defining your North Star, creating strategic clarity, and intentionally focusing on culture, you are well on your way to creating competitive advantage and an ability to take advantage of the opportunities presented in 2021.

Our Most Read LinkedIn Articles of 2020

As we all welcome 2021, we thought we’d look back to 2020 and some of our most-read LinkedIn articles.


COVID has taught us that we can and must be able to change rapidly, to transform on the fly if need be. We’ve had no choice but to go more completely digital, transforming our customer, employee, student and supplier experiences. Truly listening with empathy, and being agile became key not just for leaders, but for everyone. Change can’t just be a priority for a few people at the top. It needs to be a priority for everyone. And, honestly, that’s kind of exciting. 

1. 10 𝑻𝒊𝒑𝒔 𝒕𝒐 𝑯𝒆𝒍𝒑 𝒀𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝑻𝒆𝒂𝒎 𝒊𝒏 𝒂 𝑫𝒊𝒔𝒓𝒖𝒑𝒕𝒆𝒅 𝑬𝒏𝒗𝒊𝒓𝒐𝒏𝒎𝒆𝒏𝒕: http://bit.ly/3q8oMg

2. 𝑺𝒊𝒍𝒗𝒆𝒓 𝑳𝒊𝒏𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒔 𝒐𝒇 𝑪𝒐𝒗𝒊𝒅 19: http://bit.ly/3qbjpi0

3. 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑴𝒐𝒓𝒆 𝑻𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒔 𝑪𝒉𝒂𝒏𝒈𝒆… 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑴𝒐𝒓𝒆 𝑾𝒆 𝑵𝒆𝒆𝒅 𝒕𝒐 𝑳𝒆𝒂𝒏 𝒐𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑭𝒖𝒏𝒅𝒂𝒎𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒂𝒍𝒔: http://bit.ly/39uetOF


NextBridge partners with you to create and execute pragmatic, sustainable business solutions. Please let us know how we can help you in 2021.

7 Tips for Better Virtual Reviews

Most managers have a hard enough time communicating with their team members. And doing so virtually is even harder. But there’s still good news for delivering that performance review virtually. A few basic techniques will go a long way to easing the difficulty.


Just like in-person reviews, the key to successful virtual reviews is to focus on the conversation.  It should be a dialogue between you and your team member that is focused on helping this individual perform at the highest level possible, to build on their strengths and support their development.  Here are 7 tips to make your virtual reviews effective.

1. Provide the review ahead of time. Give the person at least an hour or two to look at it prior to your conversation. That provides enough time for them to process the information and get beyond any initial reactions. They can “walk into” the meeting more composed, with thoughts and questions more fully formed.

2. Set the stage. Put aside your Zoom fatigue and use video (not the phone) so that the conversation feels as much like in-person as possible. If you usually rely on others to manage video calls, do a dry run so you’re able to focus on the discussion, not the technology. Know what you’re doing to do if there are connection issues. Reschedule as a video call, not a phone call.

3. Start with empathy. Begin the conversation by recognizing 2020 has been challenging and talk about specific challenges the individual has faced. Ask how they are doing (yes, even if you asked them that last week – you want to build empathy as part of the virtual conversation). 96% of employees believe showing empathy is an important way to advance employee retention. 92% believe it remains undervalued. Empathy will make a virtual conversation go more smoothly.

4. Focus on strengths.  Recognize their hard work. A great deal of research shows that managers and organizations should focus the majority of their feedback on a person’s strengths. The 80/20 rule on the ratio of positive to “corrective” feedback might look more like 90/10 this year. Of course, poor performers will require a higher ratio of “corrective” feedback. But if you go a bit easier on most people’s performance than you might normally, it will pay off in 2021.

5. Listen carefully. Active listening is harder on a zoom call. But it builds trust and shows respect. Employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. Don’t interrupt. Allow the other person time to respond. Remember there can be video delay.

6. Don’t shortchange the review. We’re all tired of endless video calls. For many, they’re more taxing than face-to-face meetings. It will be tempting to create a shorter than normal agenda or rush through the meeting. Resist that temptation. Especially in a year that requires a little more managerial TLC.

7. Beware of an office bias. If you have a split office/remote team, remember that many managers still have a bias toward people who work on site. In a year where many people don’t have a choice, it’s important to not penalize people for their work arrangements.

Improve Your Global Mindset and Strategic Thinking

Recently I had the pleasure of talking with a Danish company at their annual meeting in Dubai. It reminded me that some of the most instructive client relationships I have (especially the long-term ones) are those that provide me with a global perspective. It also reminded me of this newsletter article I wrote several years ago…

Some of you may have heard the story of the truck stuck under the bridge and the dilemma of how to get it unstuck. If you don’t know it, I’ll share it at the end of this post.

I thought about that story at a recent professional meeting where the topic was developing a global mindset. All of the speakers had interesting perspectives to share and one in particular made a point that was particularly thought-provoking. His company’s research had shown that experiencing another culture had a significant impact on one’s strategic thinking. He further explained that “experiencing” a culture didn’t mean going there on vacation for a week or two.

It is immersive, longer-term experiences like ex pat assignments or managing global teams where you had to travel to work within their culture. The speaker noted that these assignments have this profound impact because they change your perspectives on the world, how it is organized and how it functions. These different perspectives allow you to be more nuanced in your thinking about how different parts of a whole interact, the variables that impact it, and the implications.

How, then, can someone stretch their perceptions and perspectives and develop their strategic thinking when working globally isn’t a possibility?

Seek out Projects That Involve Global Teams.  It’s not the same as working overseas, but working on projects with global teams is a great start. It will expose you to different ways of thinking, conversing, and decision-making. Regardless of your role, really listen to others.

Regularly interact with people in a different function or area of the company. Marketers and engineers don’t think alike. Operations folks think differently from researchers. See how someone different from you may be experiencing the same organization, issues, etc.

Interact with those outside your industry.  For years, benchmarking was the buzzword when you wanted to get a more strategic perspective and to understand the industry more broadly. The problem is that it is a closed-system approach. Biotechs benchmark other biotechs. Car manufacturers benchmark other car manufacturers. The perspective of someone in a totally different industry about your issue or situation will cause you to think about the variables and interactions more broadly, more strategically. It helps you see the forest for the trees. One of the things that made Steve Jobs so successful at product design was that he thought about products and perspectives he gained from things like digital animation architecture.

Hire people who are different from you. I hesitate to say hire for diversity because too often that is narrowly defined. In addition to the more commonly referenced and important diversity categories, we can hire for diversity of thought, experiences, and education. Also, the US has new populations from other cultures within the country that can be brought onto teams. So, if working globally isn’t possible, the US still has a rich population of people to choose from. Then, regularly ask those you’ve hired for perspective and input on the business issues you are working to address.

Thinking about your daily business interactions expansively will help you develop the broader perspective needed to think more strategically.

So, the story about the truck stuck under the bridge goes like this…  A truck was stuck under a bridge, backing up traffic. The police, fire and tow truck drivers were trying to figure out how to get it out, but they had no workable solution.  A little boy walked up and asked what was going on. The police officer explained the dilemma. The little boy looked at him and said. “Let the air out of the tires.”

Among other things, the story illustrates how important it is to look for and value unique perspectives, especially those outside your typical orbit. Something a more global perspective can provide us.

Growth by Design

I was having a conversation with a CEO earlier this week. The business is very successful and healthy. But like most CEO’s, he is concerned with growth and what’s next for his company. During our conversation, we talked about taking a step back, what I sometimes call taking in the view from the balcony. This view allows you to see how the different aspects of the business and organization are working together (or against each other) to achieve today’s results. And begs the question… how effectively will our current structure and processes spur that next phase of growth? Taking this view helps you to create growth by design, making it easier to align and integrate purposefully. And it prepares the organization to take that next step.

Growth by Design is our framework for helping clients build an organization that can propel them to the next level. It has three core components.

  • It’s starts with compelling clarity, ensuring alignment of the vision, mission, goals and culture. Every leader and every employee should know at all times exactly what their priorities are and how they fit with the strategy and goals of the organization. A how they both serve the mission.
  • Second, you need to leverage the critical drivers – understanding and instilling the growth imperative, making change agility part of your company’s DNA, and ensuring you have the talent to innovate and execute.
  • Third, the organization needs to build adaptive structures and processes– both business and human resources/talent processes and structures — that meet today’s needs but also prepare the organization for what’s next.

Asking the right questions and finding the best answers will help even the most challenged CEOs and senior teams cut through the fog. Building a compelling strategy for what lies ahead… begins by design.

How To Leverage A Toxic Boss

Virtually everyone has a bad manager story. But what about truly toxic bosses? According to a study by the Employment Law Alliance, nearly 50% of all employees have had a toxic boss at some point in their career. I know I have.

Should you run away from him as fast as you can? It depends (see below).  Skillful management of the situation can actually be a career advantage. Accomplishing results under a difficult boss builds Emotional Intelligence, develops resilience and gets you noticed. Not bad if you can handle it.

Two caveats before we begin:

  • A single toxic behavior doesn’t make for a toxic manager. Like most things, there are degrees of toxicity. Be careful not to generalize. For example, someone may have astronomical performance expectations, but otherwise is a likeable, capable manager. Or another manager may be insensitively blunt, but fair-minded. These managers happen to have huge blind spots that need to be brought to their attention.
  • Not all toxic bosses are alike. Some are bullies who yell and scream. Some are sophisticated manipulators… quiet but tyrannical, with a complete lack of empathy. Check out Roy Lubit’s article for more details on the different types of toxicity.

Typical Approaches

We aren’t going to completely rid ourselves of toxic bosses anytime soon. When you review the literature, you’ll find there are different strategies you can try that can help the situation but each has its drawbacks.

  • Lie Low. Acquiesce to her demands, try to avoid confrontation, hope that it gets better, or one of you leaves the company. This only works when you’re 100% sure she’s not your boss for long. Otherwise it’s demoralizing, creates a victim mentality, and invites further and deeper abuse.
  • Reason With Them. Try to engage, explain how he makes you feel, or try to “work out” your differences in a heat-to heart. Unlikely to work. If this is someone who purposefully or uncontrollably makes your life a living hell, he doesn’t care how you feel.
  • Report Them. You’ve had enough, so you bring it to HR. It’s often the “right” thing to do, and some situations almost demand it. Know that it’s a big risk. HR usually has a high bar to side with you over your manager. And you could win the battle but lose the war. You could get an undeserved reputation as a tattle-tale or a malcontent which could follow you for years. The good news: more organizations and HR functions are clamping down on toxic bosses, particularly around harassment. Get unbiased advice and proceed carefully.
  • Fight Them. Confront them aggressively. Or use passive-aggressive tactics like pretending you didn’t hear them or acting out behind their backs. A Baylor University study clames it’s the most successful approach (which tells you how bad the others are, by comparison). Be extremely cautious. It requires excellent EQ, otherwise solid performance, and not a little luck. And it’s not exactly taking the high road.
  • Leave the Company or the department for another role. This is often an excellent option. But not for everyone, and it can take several months to find a better situation. Also, don’t be surprised if you run into him again. Maybe because of a reorganization. Maybe as a project manager. Or hired to replace your boss at the new company. I’ve seen it happen.

A Better Way: Manage Your Boss

This is not a tongue-in-cheek suggestion. You should think about this like you would a project or a developmental assignment. Approach it with some rigor and discipline. There are three main considerations.

Manage Yourself: This is the most critical element of managing your manager. You must reframe how you think of your boss and your relationship. You will certainly need to make adjustments along the way, but you must fully commit to this new approach.

  •  Make the Decision.  Is this the right approach? If so, attack this as a project, and think about it objectively. Put the focus on you… your performance, your career, and serving your clients’ best interests. While thinking about things like “destroying your boss” might feel good in the moment, the negativity will eat you up, and make it much harder to accomplish your goals.
  • Be Positive and Maintain Your Self-Esteem. Keep focused on the end result. Management usually knows who the difficult bosses are and they’ll be impressed with how you handle yourself in the toughest of situations.
  • Don’t Let Yourself Get Isolated. Continue to build your network. Maintain your visibility. Bounce ideas off trusted peers. Promote yourself discretely.

Be Openly Respectful even if he or she doesn’t always deserve it. Don’t engage in gossip or character assassination. Don’t make your boss look bad. It’s likely other people know at least a little about your toxic boss’ behavior.  They are also looking at you and evaluating how you respond. And wondering, “would he treat me the same way behind my back?”

Know Your Manager: The better you understand what makes your boss tick, the better you can avoid, counteract or even leverage their own behaviors to everyone’s advantage. This is a capability that’s useful as you work with even the best of managers.

  • Put Yourself in Their Shoes. Work to understand the challenges and pressures the boss is facing and be empathetic. Like you, she may have overly aggressive goals, too much on their plate, not enough resources, unrealistic timelines, or maybe even a toxic boss themselves.
  • Ask Yourself What Motivates Them? When irritated by someone, most people perceive what motivates themselves in a positive light and routinely question the motivations of others. “He makes my life hell because he’s on a power trip.” Maybe. Could it also be that he is struggling to be a good manager and doesn’t understand that this isn’t how you do it? What have his bosses modeled for him?
  • Learn Your Boss’s Strengths and Weaknesses. Employees and their managers are linked together whether they like it or not. So it is really important for employees to pay close attention to a manager’s work habits, management style, and how they operate on a daily basis. Observe:
  • Likes and dislikes?
  • Emotional intelligence?
  • Personality quirks?
  • What things set off the boss?

There is no substitute for finding out what makes a boss tick and understanding the things that motivate him or her. Failing to do so puts you at a disadvantage when developing strategies to work more effectively with your boss.

Collaborate: Even the worst bosses appreciate employees who help them look good. And, it’s relatively easy to work productively with people you like. Learning to collaborate with even the most difficult people will develops your EQ and boosts your career.  

  • Get Aligned. Do you know and FOCUS on your bosses goals? Have a conversation about goals, responsibilities and tasks.
  • Communicate Their Way. Some people prefer to talk things through while others prefer to think about it first. Some people like long narratives, others prefer a few bullet points. Some want frequent communication, others don’t. Learn what your manager likes. And, don’t be afraid to ask. They will probably appreciate that you are taking their preferences into account.
  • Be a Problem Solver. Never identify a problem or bring a complaint to your boss without having a at least one potential solution in hand that you have thought through. Better yet – provide options. Even bad bosses like employees who solve problems for them.
  • Communicate in Writing as Much as Possible to ensure you’re on the same page and that you’re able to demonstrate your work. Make sure you adapt that writing to your boss’ preferences. After important meetings, send emails to confirm what was agreed upon.
  • Pick Your Battles. This isn’t about subservience. You should still maintain your dignity, and stand up for yourself when necessary. The more you know about your boss, and the more you demonstrate your collaborative behavior, the easier it will be to address your concerns. Don’t do it often. Don’t do it in front of other people.
  • Know When It’s Time to Go. Even if you do all of the above, you may decide that you can’t work in this situation. Decide when and how you’ll move on. Do it with grace and with a focus on maintaining as positive a relationship as you can. Burning bridges doesn’t help anyone. Document truly toxic behavior in case you need to provide it.

Every situation is different. Make a decision with eyes wide open about who you are, what you are willing to tolerate, what the pros and cons are. If you’re lucky, you may never work for a toxic boss. However, managing your boss is good advice no matter the circumstances. It allows you to take control of your performance and gain some control over the relationship with your manager in a way that helps you, your boss, and your organization.

Which Blind Spots are Hurting You? Your Team?

“Knowing yourself is the root of all wisdom.”
– Socrates –

One time when working with a coach to prep for a job interview, I was videotaped.  I was completely unaware of some of the things I was doing.  With the help of the coach I was able to see the behaviors that could interfere with my success.  I was made aware of my blind spots.

The most successful leaders I work with are always looking for ways to continue improving, and that includes uncovering and addressing blind spots… which often change over time.

Blind spots can be feelings and thoughts we have, mental models we employ or behaviors we exhibit that we aren’t fully conscious of.  Or behaviors that we just aren’t aware are producing a negative result.  These could include overestimating your change agility or being too data driven.  Perhaps relying too heavily on your own enthusiasm for a project, or not knowing about a new market disruptor that is about to impact your business.  And we are all familiar with leaders who don’t see how their communication style is impacting others.

Not understanding your blind spots can significantly limit your success as a leader.  It limits your team’s performance.  It can even cost your company its market and customers. 

Some leaders don’t understand that they are shutting down innovation or new thinking.  I work with teams all the time where performance is hurt by members who don’t realize, for example, that they’re interrupting too often, or conversely, not vocally contributing enough.

Kodak famously had a blind spot about the impact of digital photography on their market.   They chose to do nothing with the very technology that was invented by one of their own engineers in the mid-1970’s. From the executives’ viewpoint, they were incredibly successful.  They dominated the market.  Why worry?

Other people usually see your blind spots long before you do, so you don’t want to be unaware of them for long.

One of the best way to discover them is through frank feedback from others, coupled with self-reflection.  Here are three approaches to gathering feedback that, when used effectively, will uncover your blind spots:

  • Conversations focused on feedback.  You may be thinking, I’ve asked people to give me feedback and I don’t’ get any.  Don’t discount the fact that you may be getting feedback, but it’s either too subtle or you’re not tuning into it. Remember – it’s a blind spot. And many people are reticent when given general invitations. Can I really give feedback about anything?  It’s more effective to ask for feedback about specific situations or behaviors.  If you’re having trouble with employee feedback, ask a peer you trust.  If it’s a team issue, ask someone who worked with you on another team.  Finally, if you’re known for not asking or for not reacting well to feedback, it’s going to take a while.  Be patient.  Keep at it.
  • Formal 360 feedback.  Handled correctly, this can be a powerful tool for collecting feedback because it is often gathered by someone other than you and then shared with you. This can help people feel safer about sharing what may be unpleasant for you to hear. I use a mixed approach of a survey tool and confidential interviews to help the executives I work with gain a 360 perspective.
  • Validated, reliable self-assessment toolsthat generate in-depth feedback about your personality preferences.  They are predictive of how you typically behave in various situations. I’ve found Insights DiscoveryTMto be one of the best of these tools.  It’s easy to use and utilizes a straightforward framework that generates nuanced, personal results.

Simply becoming more self-aware and identifying your blind spots is not enough.  You can know that you’re coming across as a jerk and still continue to be a jerk.  You need to be purposeful in applying that awareness to your own improvement.  Some people refer to this as mindfulness – being self-aware and acting with intentionality.

Follow up on your new awareness with an intentional approach for development.  It should include:

  • Yourself through coaching or numerous different learning opportunities
  • Your team through conversations focused on how each other’s strengths and blind spots impact the team, as a start
  • Your organization through purposeful development of a culture of self-awareness and intentional action.

There are a number of strategies and techniques you can employ to overcome blind spots.  If you’d like to continue the conversation, please contact me at 978-475-8424 or e.onderick-harvey@NextBridgeConsulting.com.