It’s the one lesson from my high school Driver’s Ed class that I didn’t really learn until I had an accident (or two) in reality with more times than I can recall that were “near misses” … My blind spot.
My blind spot while driving is the spot that even when I glance in my rearview mirror and both side mirrors, a perfectly placed car can be hiding just out of view unless I make the effort to turn quickly and regularly and intentionally check it. It’s an accident just waiting to happen. And even worse, the more I don’t check my blind spot and don’t experience an accident, the more I believe I really don’t need to look at all. Wrong.
We all have blind spots in our personal and professional lives too, especially when it comes to our leadership. And if we’re not careful, intentional, and consistent about checking for them, we miss them completely as well as their useful corrections and over time while we’re doing relatively fine, we erroneously believe we don’t really have them at all. But we do.
My friend and master trainer, Tim Thriepland, posted this list a while back and, running across it last week, it struck me as so relevant to my own quest for becoming a better leader and for all those whom I am currently coaching. Here are seven reasons leaders have blind spots. If you had to pick one, which do you most identify with? I think I can identify with a couple of these.
- Birds of a Feather: You hang with people who think like you and agree with you the majority of the time
- Credit Bias: You give yourself credit for success and blame others for failure.
- Illusion of Superiority: You over-value your strengths and ignore your weaknesses. (You’re just awesome!)
- Comparing Down: You compare yourself with those who are less skilled, successful, or talented in order to build yourself up.
- Intention over Behavior: You judge yourself by your intentions versus your actions. You always mean well. But others judge you by your behaviors. You often look disinterested, disconnected, or disgruntled.
- Competence transference: You feel that competence in one area makes you competent in many or all areas. This happens when those who can do something well falsely believe they can manage people who do the same thing.
- Self-Rejection: Proud people use blind spots to hide from their frailties and protect their egos.Why is it important to look for, learn from, and open up our blind spots? Primarily because your relationships and connections with others get better and deepen when blind spots are embraced. The more authentic you become the more people can truly connect with you. Connections are counterfeit when you present a counterfeit self. You can’t engage in real relationships when they don’t really see the real you. Blind spots create barriers in relationships that limit our ability to positively influence them. They also undermine our own potential because the same issues keep coming up for us over and over and without exploring the related blind spot which may be the cause, we don’t see it as our issue and we don’t take responsibility.
So if we’re blind to the trouble spot, how do we actually see it? We don’t. That’s the kicker. We start by validating the perception of others. Even if we don’t like them or agree, they are real perceptions. And most of the time, we should believe troubling feedback. When someone says, “You seem angry most of the time” … believe it. Say, “Thanks for letting me know.” And be curious. Ask, “What am I doing that makes me seem angry?” We have to be vulnerable enough to invite feedback from those we trust. We enhance our chances of success when we see ourselves honestly the way others see us. It’s incredibly useful in order to operate at our full potential.
Seeing and embracing our blind spots is not something many people will be brave enough to do but for those that do believe they have them, search out people who will enlighten them and then act to correct them… they will attract opportunities and richness of relationships that others will indeed envy.
“One is often unconsciously surrounded by one’s own personal reality.”
― Pawan Mishra