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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:
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!