Blind spots are a lot like a game of whack-a-mole

by | Nov 1, 2019

How uncomfortable to realize that according to a study from Korn/Ferry Institute that we have at least three things about us that we can’t see, but others can.  That’s why they are called “blind-spots” and why it is important that we get curious instead of defensive.

I attended a conference a few years ago where a speaker started talking about blind spots and I must admit to getting pretty uncomfortable and a little curious.  He told us that we all have at least three things about us that need improvement and we are completely oblivious to this need. This discomfort was reinforced last week as I sat with a group of 90 leaders as we all reviewed a “personal development” report based on Patrick Lencioni’s work, The Five Behaviours of Cohesive teams.

We had shared discomfort as we read through our report and the honest summary of how we show up at work.  The facilitator told us to check off what was accurate and put an X or question mark beside those that we weren’t sure applied to us. He then told us that before we totally rule them out, we ask the people closest to us and I was reminded again of the importance of getting curious about our blind spots. The room was filled with nervous laughter. One participant later said that he shared with his wife who quickly told him there were no surprises for her in the report.  Ouch!

How uncomfortable to realize that according to a study from Korn/Ferry Institute that we have at least three things about us that we can’t see, but others can.  That’s why they are called “blind-spots” and why it is important that we get curious instead of defensive.

Around the table we would remind ourselves that this was feedback or someone’s perception about us that we could argue. Rather, they came from our own answers.  Collectively, you could see the group dig-in and explore the information that they were given.

It made me reflect back on the conference I attended a few years earlier and that we were all facing our “blind spots.”  At the time, I remember thinking how we can often so clearly see things in others like the person who wears stripes with plaid.  It seems obvious to the rest of us and yet we’ve all run that quick errand and hope that we don’t run into anyone we know.  Of course, we always do!

It gets a lot more personal when we realize that how we act every day could be different than what we believe we’re projecting. We’ve seen these people as well and if we’re honest, we are these people!

  • You know the person who believes they are a great team player, but they always look out for themselves first.
  • The individual who believes they are proficient in an area, but they aren’t.

How uncomfortable to realize that according to a study from the Korn/Ferry Institute, we have at least three things about us that we can’t see, but others can.

For absolute honesty, I always start with my husband. If you asked me if I’m a morning person, I would tell you that I definitely am! I wake up pretty happy and get going quite easily. I’ve recently learned this conclusion is true until I get to the kitchen and there are other people in it.

Not that long ago, my teenage son who is never up in time to be part of the morning kitchen routine, dazedly wandered through the kitchen while I was trying to get ready. After nearly running him over several times and my oblivious son finally becoming alert enough to see I was frustrated, he looked at my husband and asked what was wrong. My husband explained the morning truth to him. “You just need to realize that you’re in your mom’s way and not the other way around. As long as you realize that, you’ll be fine.”

I actually stopped in my tracks. Hadn’t I said a friendly ‘good morning’ to them both before I… oh no… before I started running them over? I started to think about their perception of the morning routine and realized that it likely wasn’t the experience I expected. How many times had I less than patiently waited for my husband to get out of the fridge or the cupboard so I could get my stuff?

Since that conference, I’ve tried really hard to hold up that mirror and look honestly at my reflection both at home and at work. Sometimes it can be quite uncomfortable and we need a little help. The report last week reminded me that my enthusiasm and need to get going isn’t always creating the collaborative environment that I value. I have some work to do.

So, the good news is that I’ve discovered two out of three areas where I can improve! The truth is that identifying your blind spot can be a bit like a game of “whack-a-mole.” I think that we improve in one area and it starts to give us more insight and awareness of where we can develop further.

To get started, step back, dust off the mirror and pay attention. There are messages all around us if we listen that will help us to identify our blind spots. Find someone you trust who can help you look in that mirror in a supportive way. You can also reach out to me and learn more about how you can get a personal assessment done and some support through coaching.

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