I was backing up in the parking lot of the Sonic Drive-In and I was confident I was in the clear. Then “Wham!” He was in my blind spot. Thank goodness it was only a car and that the damage was minimal.
I really had good intentions when I was backing up. I was hoping to allow another car to back out of a stall and get going to their destination. I’d love to tell you that it was purely altruistic, but the truth is I really wanted that last spot in the lot, so I could get a drink and relax a while before I was off to my next meeting.
That’s the way it is with blind spots. More often than not, we fail to see them until they have a negative impact. And sometimes we are surprised by the impact, because they not at all what we intended.
I was coaching a leader recently whose peers and superiors indicated that her communication style was limiting her growth and advancement. I immediately noticed that she would constantly interrupt me with various terms of agreement all the while I was talking. It felt to me as if she was convinced that she already knew what I was planning to say and that she simply wanted me to hurry and finish. I felt rushed and thought she was not listening. This was the same feedback she had received on her 360 and from her manager. When I brought this to her attention she had what I call an “aha” moment, finally able to see this blind spot.
In her culture of origin it is perfectly acceptable and expected for these various terms of continuous agreement to be given during a conversation to demonstrate that one is truly listening and paying attention. The “aha” for her was that this was being perceived as rude and possibly even arrogant in a North American culture.
Another leader I was coaching was convinced that he was not risk averse. However, his 360 and personality profile indicated the opposite, i.e. a high level of caution and a perfectionist tendency that insisted that everything be just right. His blind spot! His “aha” moment came when he understood that what felt risky to him and pushed his “caution button”, was low-level risks for others in the organization who needed him to push the envelope a little further. He realized that this would require him to step out of his comfort zone, but he also came to feel more reassured that his organization would have his back when he tested the waters.
Another entrepreneur I was coaching was a perfectionist with the best of intentions. Her primary method of management was to point out the small percentage of the things that her team was not doing exactly right. She did this in a manner that left people feeling scolded and beaten down, an outcome that she really didn’t like. Her “aha” moment came when she realized that her leadership team was at risk of bailing on her.
These “aha” moments came because this is the first time they actually realized the impact of their blind spots. This generated a high level of motivation for all three of these leaders to change. But will they be successful? The biggest challenged they face going forward is whether they can catch themselves prior to exhibiting these behaviors, and change them before they result in further negative impact. Not only are these behaviors ingrained due to years of repetition, they have served a valuable purpose in their lives.
For some, the “aha” moment is enough to help them complete the transformation. Others will need help, support and accountability to alert them when these behaviors show up. Others will need to dive a little deeper to determine the purpose these behaviors have served for them and then determine whether they can relinquish them.
Blind spots! We all have a few. These three leaders have demonstrated openness to discovering theirs and a commitment to changing all that is required to ensure that their damaging behaviors are extinguished.
How about you? Have you discovered your blind spots? Be really careful before you say “yes”, because blind spots are almost impossible to see. That’s why we call them “blind spots”. What do you need to do before you hear the “Wham!”?