How can leaders address their blind spots?
For more than 50 years, I have been color blind, not in a metaphorical sense, but literally color blind. Last Christmas I received a special gift that changed things forever. The gift? A pair of sunglasses that are designed to help people with color blindness see colors that they could not see on their own. The first time I saw “green” at a stoplight, I was blown away! What was always a white light is now a vibrant image! AMAZING. I have spent so many years trying to figure out how to see color on my own, but I needed the help of another person who gave me a tool designed exclusively for people like me.
If you are a leader in the workplace, whether you like it or not, you have blind spots that you cannot see with your own eyes. For example, some leaders tend to become know-it-all, thinking that if they show any weaknesses, they cannot lead effectively. In fact, the opposite is true.
Other times, it is an organizational / institutional problem. Too often, groups focus only on short-term results, without addressing the real long-term need to develop their leaders. They must realize that their leaders are the ones responsible for connecting the employee to their purpose and cause around meaningful work, not the leader who is trying to catch them doing something wrong! Organizations must learn to assist their leaders in development, respectfully addressing their leaders’ blind spots so that they can become more productive employees and be more satisfied in their long-term careers.
Whether you are identifying your own blind spots or being brought to their attention by your manager, it is essential that you stop projecting yourself and protect yourself as perfect. Do that, and you can begin the process of learning the first rule of thumb for being a great leader: Recognize the fact that you have blind spots. Once you recognize it, you can begin to address the blind spots in yourself. Remember this life lesson: “What you cannot do for yourself, you cannot do for others.”
So what steps can you take to tackle the blind spots and become a great leader? Here are four:
1. Create a safe place. Unless someone feels safe receiving feedback from others, they are likely unwilling to take a risk or be vulnerable. Find a place where you can have some privacy for individual meetings.
2. Find a professional you trust. The process of identifying your blind spots is difficult and you need someone who feels like they will allow you to fail without judgment or condemnation. Hire a coach or advisor, or talk to another leader you respect.
3. Set the goal. Outline a plan and an action to follow. Talk about the conflicts you are trying to resolve. Blind spots often appear in these conversations.
4. Create ground rules. Develop deadlines and create rules to handle differences. In other words, have the “it’s okay to agree to disagree” conversation. This is how liability is established.
What will you do to address your blind spots? The first step is to acknowledge that you have them. Only then can real leadership develop.