Leadership Blind Spots: Your Sh*t Shows Up

As a leader, your actions, decisions, and behaviors are amplified under a red-hot spotlight. Employees are watching, waiting, and judging your actions.

However, rarely do leaders turn that light’s heat on themselves and take a long, hard look at their impact. Usually, they prefer to focus their energy on “fixing” their businesses’ systems and processes in hopes that doing so will sort out efficiency and productivity issues. They’d rather not look at how they, as the leaders, are affecting the results. But it’s time to take stock.

If you ignore your leadership bad habits, they will erode the success of the company. It’s time to look at you. Your sh*t shows up each and every moment. You can’t hide.

We all have blind spots, and most are constructed from our past experiences. In fact, 89% of front-line leaders have a blind spot that affects their leadership. This happens because all of us are “making meaning” from the information we’re receiving through our five senses, reconciling past, present, and future in an instant in an attempt to be decisive and credible. Blind spots are typically old patterns formed from belief systems that are rooted in the past —often learned from parents. When that “ belief” has not been updated to your present circumstances, it is easy to confuse that belief as being true when, in reality, it is 27 years old and way past its due date.

Blind Spots In Action

Many leaders expect people to convert to their idea or adopt a new strategy but don’t flex in their approach. When the conversation gets stuck or zags instead of zigging according to leaders’ expectations, leaders often act out.

One of my clients is a prime example. She’s the only female on a special project team. Although she’s deeply intellectual and a pioneer in her field, since she was little, she’s always had to “fight to be visible and to prove her competence.” Although she’s 40 years old now, her old belief of fighting for visibility has not shifted. This is her pattern, and it is how she operates in most exchanges with her colleagues. It has been said numerous times, “She has a seat at the table”, yet her belief that she doesn’t influences her behavior, and she behaves in a manner that is counterproductive.

She’s in. She has influence. But she doesn’t believe it. She’s so used to fighting for recognition that she is stuck in the old mindset and cannot see that she has arrived — and that her relationships have eroded.

Her way forward is to examine her belief blind spot — to learn when to engage, when to create dialogue, and when to pause or push. Rather than assume her colleagues are against her, she learned to reframe her belief to be more agile and influential during her interactions.

Know Your Triggers

In my experience with my coaching clients, three basic needs become activated: a need to feel competent, a need to feel important, and a need to feel liked. These three needs are in tension, and one typically dominates. People are genuinely blind to how these three elements blindly influence their decisions.

When you are blind to something, you don’t know what you don’t know. The way through is to ask for input and feedback. Get curious and investigate to discover your “what,” “why,” and “how.” Take pause to understand what’s working for and against you in your practice; then, determine where to adjust and rotate.

This isn’t about change. It is about shifting and polishing. When it comes to uncovering blind spots, I teach my clients to activate through these three pillars:

1. Are you leading, or are you bleeding?

Whether you think your sh*t shows up or not, believe me — it is showing up!

Your words and actions are amplified. As much as you think you can hide it, people will step around and avoid your sh*t because they don’t want to be associated with or affected by your mess. So you might as well get ahead of it and do something about it rather than try to avoid it and assume no one sees it or is affected by it. Your sh*t shows up — every single moment.

2. There is no perfect leader.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so get clear about what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and why you’re doing it.

Your job is to create the culture and atmosphere within your business and team. Your flaws and imperfections will show up as you activate within the culture you are setting. If you aren’t attending to the culture or paying attention to how you’re showing up, there’s a strong likelihood that the culture will take on a life of its own and grow out of your control. Be an active participant, and observe how your words and actions affect others. This will show you where to adjust.

3. Get raw feedback.

A way to discover your blind spots is to ask for feedback. I recommend a verbal 360-degree feedback assessment.

A coach will interview a minimum of 10 people (a maximum of 20) to get a holistic view of your behavior and impact. Three hundred sixty degrees means your manager, your upline manager or board, your peers, and your direct reports. Include interdepartmental colleagues and internal customers, such as finance or procurement, as well as cross-functional customers.

This qualitative feedback assessment is raw and disorientating because you see your sh*t in graphic detail. The interview consists of specific questions that are broad yet narrow enough to create a conversation in which the interviewee can express honest, specific feedback. During the feedback review session, I hear too often, “I didn’t know,” “I thought this was the right way,” “This is embarrassing,” or “Do you think I can change this?”

The goal is to notice patterns and garner clues about what you need to shift in your behavior in order to have a positive impact and see better results. You discover a baseline of where to start to adjust. The good news is that you can change because behavior is a choice — it is your choice how you want to show up.

Just as your computer asks you to update your operating system, your blind spots need updating, too. Your current belief system needs to be upgraded in order to continue working efficiently and performing at a high level. What are your beliefs that are holding you back?

(Photo by Ben Rosett on Unsplash)

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