“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.