As I was summarizing the work of my team and looking ahead to the next few years, I was asked a straightforward question about a key aspect of our work. And I didn’t have an answer. While we have had strong performance and are driving the key metrics and processes, there was another aspect that we had not focused on, but as pointed out was clearly important. We had a blind spot.
In a moment like this, where we learn of a blind spot we are faced with a choice: deflect or own it. Deflection, excuses, and complaining will never be an excuse in a case like this. Rather, appreciating the insight, even thanking the person and moving to address it is always the appropriate path. The challenge for leaders of any organization is identifying blind spots from both all types of causes.
Here are a few ways we can work to minimize our blind spots:
As we have talked about on the blog before (http://www.5for5blog.com/5-for-5-blog-empathetic-listening/, http://www.5for5blog.com/friday-unwind-empathy-seeing-people-as-real-people/) empathy is a critically important skill for leaders. Too often we charge ahead thinking that we understand what the needs of our management, clients, and employees are. But in reality if we are not listening, empathetically, truly understanding their needs, we are creating a blind spot.
A strong purpose
Purpose is a north star. As we have talked about previously (http://www.5for5blog.com/friday-unwind-find-your-why/), without a strong WHY we will never be able to set the vision we need to lead our team. In the absence of purpose, people default to managing to every metrics, rather than leading towards a focused outcome aligned with a strategy toward making a difference bigger than the team. Purpose helps us avoid blind spots. But also not, too much focus also creates blindspots and hence why the items in this list should be used together.
Soliciting feedback is also a critical step in minimizing blind spots. Whether the feedback comes in the form of your own board of directors, 360 feedback, or candid regular feedback, having people that will give you solid, objective input on your performance with regards to their expectations is critical. On our team we ask everyone to go through one informal 360 feedback cycle each year. All respondent input is confidential and addresses four simples:
- STOP – What are we doing today that we should stop doing
- CONTINUE – What are we doing that is adding value and should be continued
- START – What is an action or input that we should begin doing to further our collaboration
- ROLE – We ask each reviewer to summarize what they believe the ideal contribution is for this role. This asks the person to for what might be out of the role and less about the person directly.
When we combine these inputs, it gives us a good composite view of what the people who work with the reviewee are looking for from that person. Being open to that feedback and learning is critical to avoiding blind spots.
Time to reflect
Lastly, leaders need to create the space to reflect on how the work the team is doing is aligned and impacting clients, customers, and the rest of the organization. In the light of empathetic inputs, feedback, and measuring all of this with our purpose, we need to be open to new opportunities and well as areas we are not matching up with the support needed. Seeing blind spots is challenging, but the mindful and purpose driven leaders will be open to any opportunities to course correct, avoid blind spots, and continually add value.
Here are this week’s 5 for 5 articles:
100 Blocks a Day – by Tim Urban
- SO WHAT: How do you spend your 100 blocks in a day?
What Separates Champions From ‘Almost Champions’? – by Brad Stulberg
- SO WHAT: Keep. Getting. Better.
Beating yourself up – by Seth Godin
- SO WHAT: Why beating yourself up is a waste of time and energy
How the Very Best Strategists Decide – by Mark Chusil
- SO WHAT: Given this is budget season, I highly recommend leaders review this article, specifically because you are being asked to predict what will happen (vs. what could happen)
2016 Update: What Happens in One Internet Minute? – by Kelly Leboeuf
- SO WHAT: Just fascinating.
All the best, kevin