Careful! It’s a trick question! Other ways to ask the same question are:
“What do other people see that you don’t?”
“What are you oblivious to?”
“What do you not know that you don’t know?”
I often have some fun when speaking to a group by asking, “Who knows what your blind spots are?” A bunch of hands always go up. Then I ask people to consider what the word “blind” really means.
“Blind means that we don’t see it. Right? Blind means that we are in the dark. Right?”
Hands start dropping.
Now, I don’t do that to embarrass people. The reality is that most people think they know what their blind spots are. Right off the bat, we can reflect on how irrational that is. Some of this might be defense mechanism, we are often aware of at least some of our short comings and the last thing we want to do is add to the list. The result is that we avoid seeking what is out of sight (things that we are blind to). This cost of this is really high, and believe me, I have been schooled by my blind spots on many occasions (finding out only in hindsight of course!) Just how high is the cost?
Jen Shirkani wrote a book a few years ago titled Ego vs. EQ that might the very best book (and a great audiobook!) on the subject I have read. In her book she says:
“In all of my work with executives, I have found the shared challenge of these highly intelligent, very talented leaders to be an inability to fully assess their own leadership effectiveness.”
To be an effective leader, we must be self-aware and be able to better lead ourselves. Simply assessing our effectiveness on our own is foolish, arrogant, not to mention impossible if we are looking to do it accurately. We need tools to help us, kinda like we need a flashlight when the power is out. The list of tools for blindspot discovery include:
- Personality Assessments (Insight on how you were born)
- 360 Degree Assessments (Insight on what others think)
- Coaches who we trust (encouraging, candid, insightful, and who will hold us accountable)
- An ability to discover things about ourselves from feedback, even from feedback that is delivered to us poorly
- An attitude that is open
Confession Time: One of my personal weaknesses throughout my 30 year career is that I haven’t taken feedback very well. I have often taken it personally because it unearths baggage I have (which is not carry-on). I can often go into “Overcoming Objection Mode”, which many of you who have been in sales can relate to. That has not served me well. The good news is that I have been blessed by caring mentors and some amazing authors over the years who have at least moved this out of my blindspot and into the open where I can do something about it. (Every person who ever lead and managed me just did a synchronized eye roll.)
When we seek to shine the light on our blindspots, we can discover some wonderful things like strengths that we did not know we had. In fact, good things are often in our blind spots! We can approach important things more successfully when we get a full and clear view. How cool is that?
Alright, so here’s the thing, I am not trying be negative here, I just think there is a distinction that we (everybody!) need to make. We need to focus on the positive, we need to start with our strengths, BUT we cannot ignore what trips us up (and this is often in the blindspot). There are many studies which show that people are becoming less and less open to negative feedback—and give pushback to getting feedback on things that are not going well. DANGEROUS! Dangerous because it can back off leaders/managers/mentors and cause them to hold back helpful and constructive coaching (criticism) that we need to hear. Sometimes we are fine with backing a mentor off because we avoid getting the feedback and the potential pain we think it could cause us.
The truth is, only the people who have the courage to seek out the darkness of their blindspots will reach their full potential. The best leaders will be able speak the truth in love and will have the courage and skills to seek the same. The last thing organizations need are sunshine artists that blow a bunch of candied smoke.
I am a big fan of the SWOT analysis. I really love it because it is such a simple tool. You can do one on the back of a napkin, on a plane, on a train, with a fox, in a box (you get it). If you are not familiar with it, the SWOT analysis is a simple tool that has you take inventory of a situation, person, customer you are trying to woo, or product you are trying to improve. It’s incredibly useful. The four areas that you take inventory of are:
What do I have going for me? What is good that I can build on?
What do I have going against me? What is not what I would like it to be?
What is the potential? What is there for the taking if I reach out and grab it?
What is hiding in the weeds that could mess me up or make it worse?
At The Impact Foundry, we have put a small spin on the SWOT. It’s called “The Blindspot SWOT” (say that three times fast!) It is a tool that you can use today. It’s simple to use, and it can be used thousands of different ways. Here is how to do a Blindspot SWOT (see image below):
- Do a SWOT analysis.
- Really think about it and write down your thoughts.
Now the Blindspot SWOT part!
- Show it to someone else.
- Ask them for feedback. “Is there anything that you think is in my blindspot on this?” would be a great question to ask them!
- Shut up and listen.
- Ask them questions to get clarification.
- Write down what they say. You just lifted the big black circle off of your SWOT. Congratulations! Most people don’t make the brilliant move you just made!
- Move forward with better insight and greater trust to get real next time.
A whole group or team can do a SWOT and bring it to a meeting ready to rock and roll!
This gives introverted, processor people meaningful preparation for the meeting and keeps the extroverts from doing all the talking! Everybody will come with something to share. Collaboration and innovation will result.
A cohesive team that has a high level of trust will accomplish much more. By having authentic conversations that get real, we help each team member to better understand their individual strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, as well as their blindspots.
When we get to our blindspots, we get real!
Be kind and keep it real with yourself and your team.
The Impact Foundry brings proven experience to businesses who desire meaningful growth. Our solutions are tailored to fit your business needs—always relevant, always fresh, always forged to suit your business’ strengths and challenges. The motto “Serviam” on our logo is Latin for “I will serve”. That’s how we do business. We serve our clients with integrity and a desire to shape, mold, and build strong leaders who impact their organizations. To discuss how we might be able to support your team, contact us at email@example.com or 630-923-8604