Sudden Breakthroughs in Subtle Blind Spots
Successful leaders have the wonderful capacity to tragically misjudge themselves.
We snicker or cringe at people who believe they’re great singers, when they can’t carry a tune. But, what if you’re that person? Truth be told, you have blind spots.
The most common blind spot is believing others have them, but you don’t.
Blind spots are unrecognized weaknesses, inconsistencies, or failures that propagate the comfortable myth that you’re succeeding when you’re failing.
Blind spots shorten reach, shrink impact, diminish satisfaction, and frustrate others.
5 leadership blindspots:
#1. Over-estimating your strengths. You think you’re a great communicator. They think you’re boring.
#2. Over-estimating your approachability. You see yourself as welcoming and open. Teammates nickname you, “Pitbull.”
#3. Over-estimating your listening skills. You think you’re exploring options. In reality, you’re killing ideas, cutting people off, and talking too much.
#4. Over-confidence in your solutions. You call it problem solving. They call it defending your viewpoint and devaluing theirs.
#5. Over-confidence in your ability to understand how others think and feel. You call it insight. They call it out of touch.
From blind spot to breakthrough:
Blind spots become breakthroughs when you see and solve them with others.
- Say, “I have blind spots,” even if you don’t see them.
- Have conversations about blind spots with trusted allies. One way to spot blind spots is for someone else to point them out.
- Take a 360 degree evaluation.
- Resist the inclination to deny. Go with, not against.
- Explore recurring frustrations.
- Examine negative patterns or failures.
- Design solutions with others. Go with their gut, not yours.
- Try new behaviors that feel awkward.
- Seek feedback frequently.
What are common leadership blind spots?
How might blind spots represent opportunity?
Dan, I don’t know how you come up with what you do.every.single. day. The five leadership blindspots are so true. It’s interesting that to be a leader involves taking risks and one way we’re able to do that is by being overly optimistic about how good we are. The up side is it allows us to put our vision out there because we really believe in it and we beleive others will too. The downside is if our optimism isn’t informed well einough then it’s destrctive over-confidence.
Also, I don’t know of any leader, or anyone, who would say, “I don’ have a blind spot.” However, if we’re not asking for feedback (and as you said, “frequently) then what we believe is the blind spot(s) we say we’re acknowledging aren’t that big of a deal. That is really just another way of saying “I don’t have any blind spots.”
That Paradigms video of Joel Barker 20 years ago was a wakeup call for so many people, focusing on our blindspots and the need to continually view things differently. It was a primary influencer for the development of the Square Wheels tools we use.
Stepping back from the wagon and taking a dissociated view of the world around us is a key to the possibility of seeing things differently. Listening to other people and THEIR views of the situation is another great strategy.
It is dangerous to know THE answer. (That is THE as in “Duh!”)
Perspective. Breakfast of Champions.
This is an awesome post, Dan.
It seems to take an atypical amount of courage for a leader to act on any of the suggestions and it also seems “worth it” in the big picture.
Excellent and thought provoking post. The third sentence really hit me. “What if you’re that person?” I realize that intellectually, I know that I have blind spots. However, practically or behaviorally, I don’t know that act like I know that I have blind spots.
I need to practice being truly intentional about asking for honest feedback more often – and not just on the “big” things, but the “little” things as well. Because relationship, and indeed life is in the “little” things. That is my huge opportunity in dealing with blind spots.
Thanks for the prodding!
It true that leadership begins with the heart. The shared blind spots are practically experienced in everyday work life.
I think there is a likelihood that some leaders (maybe we should call them ‘managers’ not leaders) take the phrase “fake it ’till you make it” the wrong way and think it’s important to act in control and sans weakness no matter how insecure you actually feel. That’s not being a leader. Leaders teach us how to be vulnerable and honest that we can’t possibly know everything and be mistake-free even for one day. A mistake could be as simple as not noticing that a coworker was trying to make eye contact and smile to acknowledge you while your head is buried in your smartphone email.
Asking your team to be constantly vigilant for your own blind spots and to call them out to you in a caring and shame-free manner is a total win-win.
Thank you for your own humility and blind spot acknowledgement Dan.
Great post, Dan. I agree that it’s important for leaders to not only admit they have blind spots, but then also to follow up to identify where they may be. I am partial to 360 assessments to help with the latter piece (particularly, when they’re anonymous and employees feel they can be candid).