Leadership is a lot like getting behind the wheel of a semi-truck. No matter how good a driver you are, there are physical limitations to your success. When changing direction, you rely on mirrors and signals to help overcome your blind spots. Bigger vehicles possess bigger blind spots – and bigger risks if these blind spots are not well-managed. Confidence and ability can only take you so far. Awareness and honesty about your blind spots are necessary to lead others and businesses with total efficiency.
In business, blind spots are areas in life where you continually fail to see yourself or the situation realistically. This failure is damaging not only to the individual, but to the employees and the company as a whole. Often, indifference and disengagement follow leadership operating from a blind position, and the organization falls behind projected growth.
No one is perfect. Traits that lead to positions of power can also create the blind spots that bring about epic downfalls. For instance, you need confidence to rise to the top, but if you become overly confident, you end up in a position of weakness. You may fail to see when others don’t like you or fail to recognize opportunities that allow you to stay ahead of the competition.
In working with hundreds of leaders, we’ve identified a few of the top executive blind spots. You may see yourself in some of these illuminations or you may find that you’re just not where you want to be in your leadership or business performance. Either way, I’M NOT MAD YOU Consulting can help.
Common Leadership Blind Spots
- You do it all, and believe it must be this way. Going it alone and being afraid to ask for help is a sure path to burnout. We see a lot of bright startup entrepreneurs fizzle out because they take on every role – either because they believe they are most capable, or because they want to maintain full control over every aspect of business. There is huge value for both short-term and long-term sustainability in being able to delegate.
- At the top of the pile, you assume people like you. Self-awareness is integral. Think of all the qualities you possess. Some aspects you may view as positive can be perceived negatively by others. For instance, you may see yourself as an actionable “problem-solver.” However, others may view you as a “know-it-all” if they’re looking for compassion, rather than suggestions. Or you may have come a long way in your personal journey to transform your anxieties into boundless energy that helps you attack any obstacle before you; yet, others may find this enthusiasm tedious or difficult to work alongside.
- You cover for others and try to cover up your own mistakes. Sometimes leaders have blind spots when it comes to individual employees. Individuals do not always perform to their skill levels or as expected in a new role. If you truly want this person to succeed, you could form a blind spot and overlook certain issues. This problematic approach leads others to believe you’re granting special accommodations to a weak worker. If you jump in to save the individual, it sends the message you don’t truly find him or her capable. Choosing to be effective is better than choosing to be right in these circumstances. You may have to own up to making the wrong decision.
- In your pyramid view of the way it works, you believe your success trickles down to the masses. One would reasonably assume those at the top maintain the highest levels of self-awareness to attain such greatness. However, studies show self-awareness and emotional intelligence actually decline as leaders ascend through the organization. “Middle managers stand out with the highest EQ scores in the workplace because companies tend to promote people into these positions who are levelheaded and good with people,” explains Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0. For directors on up to the CEO, EQ scores dramatically decline because they enter an environment that naturally erodes emotional intelligence. They spend less time engaged with staff and the customers, and find themselves alone at the top and out-of-touch. They get a more stressful work load, less time for sleep and self-care, and may not realize how these stressors trickle over into their day-to-day emotional states. Do you know your customers’ and workers’ pain points? Are you in touch with what they feel they need in order to succeed?
- If you’re in conflict with co-leaders, you assume it’s because they are inferior. You may have a brilliant mind and quick approach to the critical functions of your enterprise, but fail to rally workers to your cause. You may be right, but slowing down the conversation with one-on-one meetings and small group discussions could help the staff to better understand issues from your perspective, while also helping you realize perspectives you hadn’t considered before. Your way of thinking and problem-solving is one way, but not the only way. Leaders must be careful. As Psychologist Abraham Maslow once put it: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” Leaders, by nature, move quickly to solve problems. However, this can sometimes lead to a narrow perspective, tunnel vision, and attempting to apply cookie cutter solutions to every problem, rather than taking the time to find the right solution. Deep down, insecurity drives the superiority complex. This can be the most difficult truth to recognize, but symptoms include: difficulty giving credit to others, hoarding information, feeling threatened by others’ success, blaming others, and micromanaging.
- You don’t have someone who can be really honest with you. Conflict avoidance is a very real situation in workplaces. As a leader, you have to believe that you know what’s best for your target audience and your employees. You have to be able to give voice to the corporate culture of your business and make crucial decisions along the way. Yet, you also need to have people around you who are unafraid to let you know if you might be going down the wrong path. All too often, we inadvertently surround ourselves with “Yes Men” and people who worry that telling us the truth will jeopardize their careers. It’s ideal when subordinates can deliver the best possible news to their superiors, but the real world doesn’t work that way all the time. Sometimes we can’t get deliveries out on time, sometimes there are personnel conflicts, sometimes a new market venture is going to cost more than it’s worth, and sometimes a product we thought would dominate the market is destined to fall flat. And who is there to be heard?
How To Turn Blind Spots Into Opportunities
All this goes into what I’M NOT MAD AT YOU does and why outside consulting is so effective at helping business leaders put a spotlight on their blind spots in order to succeed. We know you hire us for an honest assessment that is 83% faster than other consulting companies, and helps open the door for growth, learning, and performance. Our group examines your past to identify patterns, conducts W.A.T. Assessment Interviews to uncover unique blind spots, and adds diverse experience to your pool of knowledge. Awareness of blind spots doesn’t automatically resolve them. It takes the right consulting partner who can help you through the unsettling feelings to see the bigger picture as you transform your leadership with eyes wide open.