Remember that your Blind Side is failure to see your leadership deficiencies. In football, the right-handed quarterback has a good left tackle in place to make sure the blind side is covered. A similar strategy also works for the Exceptional Leader, having someone who can bring truth to you so you can see and correct your leadership deficiencies. This where a good Executive Coach can be helpful.
Such deficiencies are as prevalent in a leader’s personal life as they are in their professional life. For example, a manager gave me a call, indicating that his Vice President suggested that he could use my help with some coaching. Evidently, the senior manager had seen some signs that this person was having difficulty in his personal life that was impacting his career. After a short introduction this man said that he was sure that his company’s leadership/management roles were not designed for married people. Since I knew many managers in this company who were successfully married, I asked him the reason for his conclusion. He indicated that most of the managers in the area where he worked were divorcing or having marital problems. He went on to say that the job demanded eighty hours a week and that his assistant managers were simply not ready for increased responsibility. His conclusion was that he had to carry all the load himself, possibly sacrificing his family for the cause.
After hearing this, I immediately ask him how his marriage was faring. He said he and his wife were getting along well. He said that his wife had complained about his work for a long time, but seems to have adjusted and had not complained for quite some time. I then asked him, “When do you think she will be leaving you?” He asked me what I meant by the question. I told him that my experience is that the early complaints were “yellow flags” letting you know something was wrong. They could have even been “red flags” warning you that she was at her wits end and needed you to tune in. However, the silence he had been experiencing was more than likely the “white flag” of surrender rather than a sign of happiness. I went on to inform him that for many women in such circumstances, it was only a matter of time before she raise the white flag and leave, because she had concluded that he was truly blind to the needs of his family.
The question and explanation struck a nerve. He paused and said, “Oh my God! ‘My brother-in-law has been sleeping on my sofa for a couple of weeks. ‘My sister-in-law finally left him. ‘When he came to tell us she left, he said he didn’t know anything had been wrong.” ‘However, we knew there had been problems for years.”
In that brief moment he became acutely aware of the meaning of the “blind side”. The last thing he wanted was for his wife to leave him and take the children with her. We discussed strategies for developing his assistant managers and delegating more to them, about communicating more effectively with his wife, and about leading a more balanced life in light of a long term vision that included personal and professional success. He made the right adjustments and called me three weeks later to let me know that his life and work were much more manageable.
Unfortunately, too many leaders come into my office, having been hit in their blind side as their spouse threw up the white flag and was on the way out the door. Some have been willing to do the hard work that allowed these relationships to be salvaged. Many waited too long before they opened their eyes and ears.
Pay attention to the flags of communication. Discover the intensity of emotion behind them. Don’t assume that silence is golden. Most of the time, it is not. The work of building a healthy marriage is worth all the effort you put into it. If you don’t believe it, ask your kids. Find some people (counselor, coach, pastor, friends) who will be truth tellers to you on a personal level as well a professional level. You may be fortunate to have a spouse who is really good at being your left tackle, and is committed to your personal and professional success. If so, count yourself blessed and return or forward the favor.