Chrysalis Business Consulting
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Executive Blind Spots

Blind spots are habitual ways of thinking and reacting that limit our repertoire and put us at risk for making poor executive decisions. By definition, a personal blind spot is something we are not aware of, so I am always amused when executives tell me that they already know all about their blind spots. And it is t hose very blind spots that usually are our biggest weakness as leaders.

I am reminded of my client, Steve, a news reporter. Steve thought one of his greatest assets was his ability to elicit vital news tidbits from others by sharing with them his “insider information” about various political situations. Actually, it was his warmth and kindness that drew people to entrust their stories with him.   Whenever Steve accentuated and exaggerated his knowledge, he inadvertently diminished himself in other people's eyes, making them more reluctant to confide in him.

Is it possible that you make similar mistakes and don’t know it?

A well- known truth about organizational life is that the closer a person is to the executive suite; the less likely it is that they will receive honest feedback. This is true no matter how much leaders believe that their people are open with them.

There are four basic reasons for this:

  1. Leaders don't ask for personal feedback. They assume their self image is accurate.
  2. They ask the wrong people – people who will tell them what they think they want to hear.
  3. They ask the wrong questions – questions that are not the most relevant to their performance as leaders
  4. People are afraid to tell them the truth

Perhaps even more importantly, while you may not be getting accurate feedback, people are talking about your performance to others – they talk behind your back. What you don’t know is hurting you.

We all need honest information about how we are perceived by others and how that perception influences our ability to lead. So ask an impartial third party. Ask a colleague who knows you well. Ask your partner, your spouse, your children, even your in-laws. The harder it is for us to accept certain feedback, the more likely it is to be important. T his is true of our strengths as well as our weaknesses. Leadership is not for the faint of heart. Improve your performance. Find out about your blind spots. Then decide what to do about them in 2016.

Blind Spots: Part 2 - You Know Them… Now What?

One of the most frequent questions I get from clients is “I know I this is a problem for me but how can I change it?” I wrote last time about the importance of discovering our blind spots — those habitual thoughts and behaviors that operate outside of awareness and derail even our best intentions. Most of us only “take the blinders off” after we’ve had some feedback — from friends or family, colleagues, or through a personality survey — which helps us see ourselves as others do. While input can be enormously useful in professional and personal development, it can be difficult to absorb. Yet, listening to feedback openly and curiously is a vital first step in unlocking your potential for long-term success.

Consider executive coaching client Rahul, who recently had a feedback session following a 360° assessment.  It was easy for him to hear about his accomplishments over the past year, but being told about his inclination to interrupt and talk over others in meetings was bruising. Fortunately, Rahul had practiced some deep breathing before the meeting, which helped him stay calm.  He asked for specific examples of his tendency to cut others off and paused to consider what he heard. On reflection, Rahul acknowledged that “when I’m in a meeting, I usually focus on my ideas and solutions while colleagues are discussing an issue. I guess I’m so excited by my own thoughts that I don’t notice when I interrupt others and am not fully listening.” Rahul had the capacity to stand back and review his behavior objectively and dispassionately, which allowed him to examine his strengths and challenges in an honest way, and consider how others see him.

Developing self-awareness requires the ability to stay grounded and witness ourselves in an evaluative but non-judgmental way. Doing so nurtures a trusted ally for growth and change: an observing self.  The more we strengthen the part of us that is aware of thoughts and feelings, the less we live on automatic pilot and the more deliberate we can be in how we respond. By allowing thoughts and feelings to run through us rather than run us, we can observe our emotions and thoughts come and go, but not be at their mercy. Cultivating a witnessing self and responding from that informed place truly launches the process of changing long-held mind-brain-body patterns.

Next time, we’ll talk more about strategies for creating lasting change.

Wait…Don’t Make That Executive Hiring Decision Yet!

You are about to hire a senior executive who will help take your organization to the “next level.” You’ve talked to your colleagues, hired a top executive search firm, and narrowed it down to three excellent candidates, all with good resumes and stellar recommendations. At this point, most decision makers rely on their gut or intuition to make the final choice.

This approach often backfires because

  1. The qualities most important in leadership – adaptability, creativity, strategic thinking, and emotional intelligence – are the hardest to discern through interviews.
  2. Self-reports are limited by the candidates’ ability to accurately “self observe.”
  3. Feedback from others may be inadequate due to limited experience with the candidate, their agendas or personal biases.
  4. The selection committee may be overly influenced by a particular set of skills or experience in the industry.
  5. The candidates’ potential derailers go unidentified – resulting in costly “mis-hires.”

Using scientifically validated hiring solutions as a screening tool can help you eliminate critical hiring mistakes. Assessment solutions used during the hiring process allow you to remove the mask of interview “dating behavior” and ascertain with a high degree of accuracy who the candidate really is and if they are a good fit for your organization. However, it is critically important that you use a well-constructed measure that has been validated using large groups of business people to predict important aspects of performance in many job categories.

Does your method encompass the above criteria? Does it have global portability? Does it meet the highest federal standards for fairness in testing? You decide what the best process is for  your organization’s critical hiring decisions.

For more information, call us at (301) 943-3074 or (301) 943-3029 or email us at