We’ve all had those moments that stop us in our tracks. Moments when we receive feedback that not only surprises us, it literally leaves us scratching our heads. 🤦
Perhaps it’s a comment from a colleague about a leadership decision or a suggestion from a friend that challenges our self-perception.
What if these surprises weren’t just bewildering moments but windows into our leadership blindspots, revealing hidden barriers to our growth and success?
Sadly, most of us ignore these clues, dismissing them defensively and missing a golden opportunity.
If we remain unaware, these unseen obstacles can undermine our relationships and our effectiveness as leaders.
Not to mention, derail our careers.
It’s not your fault. It’s simply how our brains are designed. (Forbes)
Today, I’ll provide a roadmap through four simple steps to uncover our own blindspots.
Because once we do, we also find…
- Enhanced self-awareness
- Improved relationships
- Increased effectiveness
- Personal growth
- Professional development
So, here’s how to get started! Step by step.
💡 Step 1: Identify Defensive Reactions
Defensiveness is often our go-to reaction when faced with uncomfortable feedback. It’s important to identify when we:
- Point fingers and shift blame – “Accounting got the numbers wrong, so it wasn’t my fault.”
- Dismiss or minimize feedback – “That’s not exactly true; it wasn’t a big deal.”
- Justify or rationalize our actions – “That’s how they do it in every other organization I’ve worked for.”
These are common knee-jerk reactions, But, a defensive reaction can be a window into a blind spot.
💡 Step 2: Gather “Blind Spot Data”
We can probably all recognize a time when we’ve overlooked subtle cues, only to find out later that we missed something critically important. It’s like hearing our boss tell us that while our numbers in the last quarter were great, the bottom line hasn’t changed. We absorb the ‘numbers were great’…and ignore the tone and gravity that came with the ‘bottom line hasn’t changed.’
To avoid this pitfall, we should observe all the facets of communication, not just the parts we want to hear. Consider eye contact, tone, body language, and even the pace of the conversation. It’s all data.
💡Step 3: Seek Honest Feedback
Many of us fail to actively seek honest feedback about ourselves because, let’s face it, it’s hard! But, by not inviting candid input from colleagues, mentors, or friends, we risk remaining confined to our own limited view.
Taking the deliberate step to seek honest feedback and engage in open dialogue about our behaviors and choices is essential to uncovering our own blind spots.
💡 Step 4: Review Past Reviews
We get employee reviews no matter where we are on our leadership journey. It’s easy to take the feedback each year in isolation. But the real gold comes when we find patterns over multiple review periods.
When our manager five years ago told us that we rush to the finish line too soon, and our current board president tells us we don’t pay enough attention to detail…it’s the same message.
Developing the leaders you lead
These steps aren’t just about personal growth; they’re a blueprint for empowering others in your organization to grow and lead.
By recognizing and addressing our own blindspots, we model a culture of self-awareness and continuous improvement.
Identifying Defensive Reactions encourages a culture where feedback is embraced, not deflected. The more open we are to feedback, the more our emerging leaders will be, too.
Gathering “Blind spot Data” teaches your leaders to observe all aspects of communication. It promotes an environment of clear communication where the entire message is understood, not just what we want to hear.
Seeking Honest Feedback – By actively seeking candid input, leaders demonstrate that it’s okay to question and learn. This encourages a more transparent and honest work environment.
Reviewing Past Reviews – Encourages leaders to see the pattern in feedback over time, not just isolated incidents. This helps develop a deeper insight into areas that need improvement and reinforces a culture where continuous learning is valued.
The success of leadership isn’t just about one person at the helm; it’s about building a robust leadership bench at all levels.
By incorporating these steps into the daily practices of your current leaders, they will not only improve themselves but also foster a culture where leadership qualities are cultivated and celebrated at every level. This way, leaders build leaders, creating a more resilient and vibrant organization.
Are you curious about your own leadership blind spots? I’ve included a bonus quiz to help you figure them out!
What’s Your Leadership Blindspot?
Before we begin, keep in mind that this quiz is a tool to aid self-awareness and should not be taken as a diagnostic measure. The aim is to prompt thoughtful reflection on your leadership styles and potential areas for improvement.
Question 1: How do you generally respond to criticism?
- I listen carefully and consider how I can improve.
- I find it difficult to contain my defensiveness.
- I tend to dismiss it if I disagree with the point being made.
- I usually blame other circumstances or people.
Question 2: How often do you dominate the conversation during team meetings?
- Rarely. I make sure everyone has an equal say.
- Sometimes, I have a lot to share.
- Often, but I believe my points are vital.
- Always, that’s what leaders are supposed to do.
Question 3: When a project goes wrong, what’s your first instinct?
- I look for solutions.
- I look for the person responsible.
- I look for external factors that caused the failure.
- I look to move past it as quickly as possible.
Question 4: What’s your approach to feedback?
- I actively seek it from multiple sources.
- I wait for my annual performance review.
- I only trust feedback from a few close colleagues.
- I believe my work speaks for itself.
Mostly “As”: The Reflective Leader – You’re aware of the value of feedback and the importance of self-improvement. Keep fostering this openness in your leadership style.
Mostly “Bs”: The Defensive Leader – You might struggle with criticism and shift the blame. This could be your blind spot.
Mostly “Cs”: The Unaware Leader – You may overlook important feedback, focusing only on opinions that affirm your own views. This could lead to missed opportunities for growth.
Mostly “Ds”: The Autocratic Leader – You may believe your way is the only right way, missing out on valuable insights from your team.