Have you ever been driving and decided to change lanes? You take a quick look around and all seems clear, then you make the move to the new lane and HONK! You’re about to cut into an oncoming car. A blind spot covered your view of the other car.
Leaders can have blind spots too. You can be moving along, feeling like things are going very well. Then HONK! You get surprised by a colleague or co-worker who drops a big bomb on your happy place. You had a blind spot.
What are Blind Spots?
In her book, Fearless Leadership, Loretta Malandro, PhD., identified 10 behavioral blind spots that can derail leaders.
These 10 blind spots are:
- Going it alone
- Being insensitive to how your behavior impacts others
- Having an “I know” attitude
- Avoiding the difficult conversations
- Blaming others or circumstances
- Treating commitments casually
- Conspiring against others
- Withholding emotional commitment
- Not taking a stand
- Tolerating “good enough”
We each have these blind spots, with some being larger for us than others. Just like in a car, knowing your blind spots is important as you can make some extra effort to ensure that you see what you are doing. And just like in cars, if you don’t know your blind spots, you can get into big trouble.
The first step in avoiding these blind spots is to understand them and what they look like. It is easy to identify these in people we work with, but it is difficult to identify them ourselves (thus they are called blind spots). Here are some behaviors that describe each blind spot:
Going it alone: when you do things without asking others for their input. Examples of this behavior include:
- not asking for help
- not accepting help
- not talking about the stress you are under
- not including others in decisions
- feeling like you need to get things done on your own
Going it alone is especially problematic for start-up entrepreneurs. When you begin a business, you think you know your idea the best. You’re not ready to let go and let others help build the dream. First-time business owners also may suffer from getting too deep into this syndrome. You’re just not ready or willing to open up to others.
Being insensitive to how your behavior impacts others: when you allow yourself to say or do most anything without sensitivity to the consequences or impact on others.
- not noticing how body language impacts others
- choosing words that can be mean or misunderstood provoking a negative response
- not realizing how you’re devaluing others input or ideas
You rationalize these behaviors by thinking that people hurt by your words will “get over it.”
Having an “I know attitude“: when you think that you are always right and those who disagree with you are wrong.
- not listening to others
- always coming up with reasons others ideas won’t work
- devaluing others ideas
- arguing with anyone who disagrees with you
- refusing to explore other options
- making assumptions about others’ intent or their ideas
Avoiding difficult conversations: you avoid conflict and stressful situations – so you avoid those conversations where that happens.
- not raising concerns or issues about others behavior
- avoiding talking about negative information (bad sales, company layoffs, etc.)
- softening tough messages and not talking about real concerns.
You only like to talk about surface issues.
Blaming others or circumstances: avoiding the need to take accountability or try to negate by shifting blame.
- always having a reason
- excuse or explanation for why something went wrong
- “yeah, but…”
- complaining about how it could have gone “if only”
- leaving a project when you see it is not going to succeed.
I like to think of these as convenient excuses.
Treating commitments casually: when you make casual commitments that you don’t keep.
- showing up late for meetings
- not getting projects done on time
- never making hard commitments in the first place
- always having an escape hatch
- using the “I’ll try” instead of “I will”
A leader’s ability to influence others is dependent on being able to make and keep commitments, regardless of how big or how small.
Conspiring against others: you engage in rumor mills and gossip or talk negatively behind peoples backs.
- talking one-on-one with others about how you think a project won’t succeed
- not talking in open project meetings
- discrediting others ideas or accomplishments
- displaying negative non-verbal cues such as rolling eyes or engaging in conspiracy theories
Withholding emotional commitments: you can agree intellectually, but withhold putting our heart and soul into a project.
- just complying with a decision meeting the bare minimum requirements
- resisting change, withholding support, going through the motions
Leadership requires genuine commitment. People around you can sense the false pretense of making the motion but not being committed.
Not taking a stand: sometimes when you know you should do something but you don’t because of how it could impact you.
- not speaking up in a meeting when you disagree with the majority
- failing to speak up when senior executives are around
- getting people to work around a problem instead of addressing it head-on
Tolerating “good enough”: when you settle for getting things done just ok, but don’t push you or your teams for excellence.
- not holding others accountable for their work
- accepting incremental improvements
- not willing to explore radical options
- staying inside one’s comfort zone
- not looking at what the future will require
Understanding the concept of having blind spots is the first step. Identifying our own blind spot is the harder part. To really get to the bottom of your own blind spot, you have to ask a few trusted confidants to work closely with you. They can better point out where they see your blind spots.
This is a hard exercise but one that is very beneficial. A review process called a 360 is also a useful tool. Many larger companies are using 360s on a regular basis as part of their leadership development programs.
None of us like to hear about our faults. Others don’t like to point them out. If you are open to growing and learning, then by identifying your own weaknesses, you can start the process of improvement and become a better leader and even a better person.
Blogpost written by Doug Thorpe. Visit Doug's website here.