A Word of Reflection from Mark Peterkins, ACCI’s Chairman of the Board
I have fond memories of learning to drive a car at age 17. Like most young people today, I took driving lessons. It was so exciting to learn how to safely operate a vehicle. During in-car lessons, it was constantly drummed into us the importance of doing a shoulder check to make sure no one was in your blind spot before you changed lanes. Shoulder check, signal, shoulder check again, accelerate, move into the lane and cancel the signal. We did this over and over. Even yesterday as I drove to work, I was saved from a major accident because of a blind spot check.
Blind spots are not just a reality in driving. As leaders, we all have blind spots. Our self-awareness is lacking and often we are unaware of the negative consequences of our actions on the people or the organizations we lead. These might look like this:
Going it alone (being afraid to ask for help).
Being insensitive of our behaviour toward others (being unaware of how you show up).
Having an “I know” attitude (valuing being right above everything else).
Avoiding difficult conversations (conflict avoidance).
Blaming others or circumstances.
Why do we have blind spots?
Being overconfident or prideful sets us up to veer right into our blind spots. Our past successes convince us that we’ve got it all figured out and so we don’t feel the need to seek others’ perspectives. An overly optimistic personality or a position of power can lead to them as well. One study suggested that as you rise higher than middle management in leadership, you are more likely to have a lower EQ (emotional intelligence) and thus lower self-awareness…more blind spots.
So how can you reduce your blind spots?
A good starting point is to assume you have blind spots and take a humble posture. This is where we as Christians have an advantage. Humility should come easier to us.
Secondly, Invite help! Let your team know that you recognize that you’re not perfect and that it’s reasonable to expect you are unaware of the consequences of your actions. For me, I invited my team to talk about what I’m doing that might be unhelpful. I’ve told them that I’m simply going to listen. The biggest feedback I got? I was often distracted by my phone in meetings and thus not present enough. That was so helpful.
Thirdly, make it safe for those you work with to be able to point out your blind spots by listening carefully in an undefensive posture. Leaders will sometimes say they are open to honest feedback, but as soon as somebody risks providing it, they get shot down or dismissed. When this happens it becomes clear to everyone you are not open. As a result, you will no longer receive valuable feedback. When you receive feedback, thank your team for their honesty, take it in, reflect on it and then share what you are going to work on changing.
Finally, get a blind spot buddy or two and be accountable to them for changing your behaviours. Tell them what you’re trying to improve and invite them to gently point out to you when you might be repeating the unhealthy behaviour.
Perhaps it’s time for a shoulder check?
Assume you have blind spots. Take a humble posture. Ask the Lord to help you be open to hearing about your blindspots if you’ve never considered this before.
Talk to your team. Invite their feedback and make them feel safe.
Consider whom you might invite to be a blind spot buddy.
“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future” Proverbs 19:20