Blind spots. We all have them. Yes, even YOU have them. For many of us, these blind spots are related to those traits or behaviors of those that we hold most dear. For some, they are about areas of our own traits and behaviors.
What is a “blind spot?”
An optometrist would tell you that it is a scotoma. It is a small area that exists where no vision is present. One of these occurs naturally in every person because the light-sensitive layer – the retina – is not continuous. There is a tiny gap in the retina where the optic nerve, which takes the visual information to the brain, leaves the eye. We are not normally aware of this blind spot because the brain “ignores” this small patch of missing information and “fills in” the area with other information that the brain knows about whatever is the field of vision. Pretty cool, huh?
What does it have to do with leadership and emotional agility?
As leaders, we all have certain areas within our leadership scope that we do not see with the ease and accuracy with which we see other areas. As I said at the outset, many times the blind spot is that young leader that we are mentoring that is getting on the nerves of every other person on the team. But, because we have developed a great deal of affection for them, we may not see some of the rough edges that everyone else sees. It is in our blind spot and we don’t even know that it is there because we don’t “see” it.
Likewise, the same can be said of our own behaviors. We have a habit or a behavior that is so ingrained us that we assume that it is normal and that everyone else accepts it as normal. Maybe we interrupt others when they are talking. We don’t think we are interrupting, we just have this really important and relevant thing to share and we just can’t help but blurt it out. Everyone else in the meeting cringes or just stops contributing because they don’t like being interrupted and we don’t even realize that we have hurt them and stifled their participation.
How do we fix it?
The first step is to be open to the possibility, and reality, that we have blind spots. Once we do, then we become open to determining where they are and how to fix them. Here are some ways to fix them:
Don’t assume that everyone “understands” — Don’t fall into the trap that comes from the belief that everything we do is welcome, funny, adds value, or is culturally relevant to the situation. We see so many of the rich and famous who fall prey here. They think that because they are doing it, it must be OK since no one has ever told them otherwise.
Don’t assume that you know it all — Although related to the assumption that folks understand, it is different. Here the assumption is also that you are right. Don’t assume that your previous experiences will always work in today’s changing marketplace.
Don’t assume that you are alone — Reach out to those around you and seek constructive feedback. Acknowledge that you have become of the fact that you have some blind spots and ask someone that you trust to help you identify them.
I am, and always have been, a huge fan of 360 Tools. A 360 survey or questionnaire that is sent to a few of the folks that you interact with most frequently will help you identify blind spots. Send them to folks that you trust and whose judgment you value. And then receive the feedback and use it to identify your blind spots. Develop a plan to fix them, Become an even better leader as a result.