Watch your Blind Spots

By: Catherine Daw |  Published: FEBRUARY 2018

They lurk everywhere. And when you least expect it, they can cause all kinds of unintended havoc. Everyone has them – they are habits or ways of acting that everyone sees – except maybe YOU. By building our own self-awareness and identifying blind spots that are in the way of being an effective leader, we can work to know when they are occurring and what to do about it.

What does a blind spot look like? Is there a way we can figure out what blind spots we demonstrate and how we can better manage them?

Blind spots aren’t necessarily weaknesses – they can be habits or instinctive reactions to situations. A good example maybe you have a need to speed things up in meetings. So you may be interrupting people and not giving them time or space to be heard and understood. Most managers are not great listeners. Tom Peters talks about listening and its importance in this video. When we consciously work on being a great listener that blind spot (or habit) dissipates. Great listeners demonstrate a higher level of interpersonal skills and leadership effectiveness.

Even overplayed strengths can become flaws. For example, you may be known for your effective decision making. However, you may become or are extra cautious in how you make decisions. This could be viewed as risk adverse or even holding back progress. In a complex, high-demand, fast moving business environment, it could be seen as an obstacle. It could work against you or even frustrate your team. As leaders, reflecting on our strengths and how they may manifest themselves in our styles is important.

Studies show that 85 percent of our success as leaders is determined by our style, attitude, and ability to relate with other people. Many of the studies on leadership blind spots show a similar suite of possibilities:

  1. Insecurity: micromanaging, not giving credit to others, hoarding information, feeling threatened by others
  2. Too narrow a perspective: coming to a quick decision, using the same problem-solving techniques, resistance to change
  3. Communications: under communicating, poor listening skills, not effectively managing expectations

Raising our awareness to our blind spots is essential to making change.

Here’s how you can start to manage and overcome your own blind spots.

  1. Identify what you believe are potentially your top 3 blind spots.
  2. For the next week or so, notice what happens and how you act in those situations.
  3. Write it down in a journal and make observations on how people react to you. This will help you to see patterns and provide insight on what you may wish to try differently.
  4. Identify different ways you can modify your habit or behaviour to create a different result.
  5. Test drive, notice the differences, adjust, and reset again until you have changed a blind spot into an effective leadership skill.

Sounds simple! It can be if you consciously watch for blind spots and make change happen.