Horse drawn carriage

Leadership Blind Spots – How to remove the blinders?

Are you struggling with leadership blind spots?  That is not a fair question because a blind spot is inherently not known.

The photo was taken on Mackinac Island and is typical of what one might see on Main Street in the downtown area during the summer months.  Horse and carriages.  Mackinac does not allow motorized vehicles for personal or commercial use.  Although the municipality maintains an ambulance and a fire truck, horses, bicycles and walking are the main sources of transport.  

If you have not visited, definitely check the island out. The views of the Straits of Mackinac and the Mackinac Bridge are spectacular.  It is one of my family’s favorite vacation spots.

In a certain sense, it takes you back in time to a slower pace. There are great restaurants, hiking, and history.  Walking just 10 yards down Main Street, you will experience sounds and smells you will not experience in any other hamlet.  Horses clomping, wagon wheels, the smell of fudge and horse manure.   There are 13 fudge shops on the Island and there are about 600 horses in the summer.  You can do the math!

 

Bridge in the night sky

 

Where are your blind spots?

Most of the horses on the Island wear blinders as part of their tack.  A horse’s natural peripheral vision or the arc of their vision is 340 degrees; compared to human’s 180 degrees.  For focus, and safety of everyone, the horses are given blind spots on purpose.  Humans tend to create our own, not on purpose.

Let’s start with what is a blind spot.  It is when an entrepreneur thinks they have a certain skill and believes this skill is a strength.  For example, I used to think I was effective at articulating my ideas to my team.  I thought of it as a strength.  In fact, I was really strong at painting a picture of what a customer told me they needed to my creative and operations team.  I was concise, detailed and provided the team with what they needed to be successful.  We won a lot.

I interpreted this one area as a strength to be a strength across all my communication with the team.  However, it was a huge blind spot.  20 years ago I was not great at communicating my expectations of people or processes which caused me to burn through receptionists at an alarming rate.  My operations manager recognized this, and removed me from the process of managing his team.  

However, through dialogue with my team, I realized that I needed to slow down.  Check in during the conversation and make sure that the person I was talking to was still with me.  You see, as the Employer, the employees were sometimes intimidated to ask questions or push back on my dumb ideas.  I had to develop better skills at recognizing this.  

For me, it was easy once I learned where my blind spot was.  I treated internal conversations much like I did a sales conversation with a prospect.  I listened more.  I asked questions.  I slowed down.  It was on me, not the people who were on my team! 

Korn Ferry released a studied that indicates 79% of leaders have at least one blind spot in their skills.  However, there was some good news, kind of, 40% of leaders have “under-used hidden strengths.”  Reading the study is a great idea, if you want further information.  Find it Here.

 

Vector cars showing blind spots

 

We have blind spots in our vehicles.  However, the technology in your car helps you avoid accidents and be aware of the blind spots. Although using your mirrors and turning your head, still works and makes you a better driver in conjunction with technology.  

What technology is available to an entrepreneur to figure out your blind spots?  There is lots of literature out there on the subject.  Some of it is driven by data and other articles are based on opinion.  

I will share 3 ideas that I have personally used to reduce my blind spots.  These ideas are actionable because I put them into action.  

Please note, these are simple ideas, but you must be open to hearing the truth.  I love this quote from David Horne.  Keep this in mind as you navigate these ideas. 

 

Your ego is the most expensive thing you’ll ever own.

  1. Challenge Your Assumptions.  Entrepreneurs operate under a set of assumptions that may not be entirely accurate or up to date.  Remember my example from above?  By consciously questioning your assumptions based on the reality you encounter, you can identify potential blind spots and gain a deeper understanding of yourself, and your business.  I assumed I was great at all communication when I wasn’t.
  2. Seek Outside Perspectives.  As an entrepreneur or CEO, it’s easy to get caught up in your own ideas and perspectives.  Seeking input from outside sources, such as mentors, advisors or even customers, can help you identify blind spots you may have missed on your own.  I was asked to sit on a client’s Leadership meeting and provide feedback to the President.  He asked for this feedback in front of the team at the end of the meeting.  He did this on purpose because he wanted to demonstrate humility and that if he was open to feedback, perhaps the entire team should be.  That leadership team has more effective meetings due to the feedback loop created in that meeting created by the President.  
  3. Continuous Learning & Self-Assessment.  I believe most entrepreneurs are lifelong learners.  However, I think in this context, the entrepreneur must have a clear intent about learning.  Socrates said, “to know theyself is the beginning of wisdom.”  Once a quarter reflecting on one area of self-assessment.  A great place to start is to ask your direct reports to give you one strength and one weakness to work on.  Don’t let them wimp out on the weakness.  Dig in to the details and why they feel that way, but you must be positive.  Go do the work to remove the blind spot, and most importantly, check in with them and share your progress, ideas, and struggles.  Keep the communication loop open with them to demonstrate commitment. 

 

Go find your under-used strengths and leverage them.  

I would love to hear your progress.  As always, reach out if you have questions.  I love helping entrepreneurs gain ground.

Check out this book I wrote about The 7 Critical Mistakes CEOs Make With Their Sales Oragnizations!