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One of the things you learn in drivers training is about the existence of blindspots and why becoming aware of your blindspots is critical to your safety. But we have blindspots outside of our car as well. While not being aware of them might not be fatal, they can have a huge impact on our success, satisfaction, and happiness. When you can become aware of your blindspots as a leader, you can address them and become more successful and effective. Here is how you can do that.
Why Awareness Matters
If I don't know about the blindspot as I drive and change lanes blissfully unaware of the danger, an accident (or worse) could occur. Here is the point: If I don't know the blindspot is there, I can't do anything to overcome or avoid the potential crash.
Outside of our car, our personal blindspots could be strengths or weaknesses, but we typically think about them in connection to weaknesses or shortcomings. Just like while driving, if we don't know they exist, how can we learn from them to grow and improve?
In short, becoming aware of, and understanding our blindspots could be one of the most important steps in your personal and professional development. In your leadership role, since people might not share your shortcoming with you, being aware of your blindspots could be the most important next step in your development.
Newer cars use technology to help with our awareness of blindspots -- lights and noises remind us to stay in our lane or check before making a move. As humans, we don't have beepers or flashing lights, so we must find other ways to become initially aware of and overcome our personal blindspots. There are four overarching ways you can use to cast your eyes on and make you aware of your blindspots.
- Get feedback from others. Since we are blind to these behaviors, traits, idiosyncrasies, and habits, we need someone to tell us what we can't see. For a variety of reasons (especially if you are their leader), people won't always share what they see; you must ask. Ask people for feedback, explaining to them that you want to improve. Remember, if it is a blindspot, by definition, you might be surprised by your newfound awareness. You can ask for feedback, individually, in a team or group setting, or anonymously through a 360 assessment-type mechanism.
- Get a coach. Hopefully, you see your boss/manager/leader as your coach (and they value that role too). Often, they are in a great position to help you see a blindspot but also to help you work on the actions to overcome, develop, or learn from them. You can also reach out formally or informally to others to help you overcome any negatives of your personal blindspots, either as a supplement to that coaching or as a replacement if your leader isn't willing or able to support you.
- Look more frequently. The best drivers check their blindspots regularly. How closely are you checking yours? Once you know they exist, one of the best things you can do is to keep checking on them as a way to avoid or overcome any negative effects they are causing in your results or relationships.
- Resist explaining them away. When getting the feedback or coaching about your blindspot, be careful about explaining. Our explanations typically will reduce the likelihood we will get more feedback, lessen our understanding of how important the blindspots might be, and serve as a rationalization that the problem isn't that big or important. None of these outcomes are helpful at the moment or in the long term.
Being aware of your blindspots is important to your growth and development. Now that you know they exist (and how to see them more fully), you have a source for improvement. In an upcoming article, I will help you create an early warning system for them so you can avoid or adapt to them in real time.