Leadership Transformation Blog  

Leadership Blind Spots: Reveal, Be Curious, and Evolve

by | Mar 28, 2023 | Leadership Strategy

  • Do you work hard every day and yet feel like others don’t appreciate your value?
  • Are your suggestions, recommendations, and feedback ignored, or met with defensiveness?
  • Are you met with silence or disengagement during meetings?
  • Do you find that others don’t include you in important conversations and work around you?

You may wonder if your leadership approach is the problem, but you aren’t sure where you’re going wrong. This is called a “leadership blind spot.”

Leadership blind spots are common, and they influence the way we approach workload decisions, colleagues, and pressure. They are informed by our own biases, past experiences, and insecurities and subconsciously guide our behavior. Like The Johari Window (see graphic), how we come across to others is not always obvious to us,1 and your blind spot may be hindering your leadership performance.

You may think that your inhibitions, stressed mindset, and perfectionism are things you can mask and internalize deep down. In reality, these issues resurface in many of your interactions and management decisions. You may think, “That’s just who I am,” and your colleagues just need to accept your methods. However, these issues do make an impact in the way you are perceived and can prevent future opportunities in your career. And, it’s up to you to do something about it. 

The good news is that you can turn things around, and that you aren’t alone. If you have courage and the right attitude, you can 1) reveal, 2) become curious, and 3) evolve beyond your leadership blind spot(s). Let’s start with an example.

Curious to find out what may be holding you back? Take the "WHAT'S YOUR #1 LEADERSHIP BLIND SPOT QUIZ" and get your free results report!

Leadership Blind Spots: Curtis’ Story

“Curtis” was a highly skilled, senior level software developer for a large tech company. He worked hard, and was passionate about engineering quality products that would make life easier for the end user. He generally worked well with colleagues on his project team, and yet he noticed that when he offered feedback during peer-reviews, they became defensive. Curtis was confused. He didn’t know what else he could try to get others to recognize the good he was trying to do through his honest, frank feedback. He chose to turn to our coaching team for some support.

1. Reveal

Curtis explained the situation to his leadership coach. As they talked about what Curtis was experiencing, he realized that as he attempted to communicate needed improvements during peer reviews, the feedback was mistaken as criticism by his colleagues. He also recognized that the perfectionism he’d struggled with inside himself was leaking out and being interpreted by others as being arrogant and overly-insistent. These were his leadership blind spots.

2. Become Curious

Curtis’ coach invited him to become curious instead of feeling misjudged or helpless. He became curious about his perfectionism, and realized it was rooted in his need to prove his worth and assuage his fear of rejection. He let his need to be perfect take priority over the process of growing, learning, and contributing with his team. Curtis also became curious about what he could do differently during these peer reviews. He realized that when he gave feedback, he didn’t clearly communicate his intention or his vision for the end user, or how their work had future impact on the department. Further, he didn’t communicate how he respected and trusted his colleagues and their abilities. This gap in communication caused his peers to feel frustrated and invalidated. His curiosity created a readiness in him to figure out what he could do to improve his interactions with his colleagues.

3. Evolve

With his coach directing his efforts, Curtis altered his approach for providing feedback to his peers. He found the words to communicate his vision, his respect, and his commitment to his colleagues. While he maintained the same standard of work quality, he was more collaborative and open to understanding his peers’ approaches and intentions, and also made a point to recognize what was going well. He committed to sharing his vision and this helped him overcome his individual desperation for perfection. The feedback he offered became seen within the context of a shared vision, and the peer reviews became more collegial. The overall product was also produced and delivered more quickly. Curtis also gained more respect from his manager, who invited Curtis to lead workshops about furthering his vision for creating superior products and team-building in the department.

Like Curtis, you can work through your leadership blind spots and elevate your approaches with your colleagues.

Let’s review the three-step process again:

Reach out and Reveal

Have someone help you reveal the blind spot(s) in your Johari’s window. Sometimes it’s noticing something that doesn’t seem right. It takes strength, humility and self-awareness to do this. A great starting point is an assessment, which you can take here. Our principal consultants can help you understand what isn’t obvious about your typical leadership approach.

Keep Calm and Become Curious

It can be humbling (and even embarrassing) to realize that some of your typical leadership tendencies have created problems. Don’t stress. No one is perfect, and most people act and react due to past negative experiences in order to achieve certain goals and, ironically, avoid problems. Simply notice, and be curious about when, why, and how certain undesired feelings or tendencies appear. Choosing to be curious suspends frustration and judgment, and opens your mind to new possibilities. It may help you to write down your observations and thoughts as you meditate over your behavior, and then to think forward to how you want things to change. Sharing these with a coach can help you move forward more quickly.

Evolve with Support

With your observations logged in your mind (or in your journal), you can make small, pivot-point decisions that will help you turn outward and react with more intention. Like Curtis, you can notice and question your approaches that are not serving you, and make small changes in the way you approach conversations, set expectations, and manage your workload.

We recommend going through this process with support. Uncovering and unraveling these beliefs, behaviors, and habits takes time and typically requires long-term effort even and support will help you make the changes you want (and need) to make. A coach is a wonderful resource to guide you through the ups and downs of making these changes, especially as new and increasingly stressful scenarios occur. While you can lean on family members, colleagues, and occasionally trusted mentors to make changes, a coach is an advocate you can turn to with complete honesty and without judgment.

Revealing your blind spots is a brave and fruitful exercise that will help others respond to you positively. Others will recognize you for the value that you are. If you are interested in being guided through this process, you can book a call here with our coaching team.

Curious to find out what may be holding you back? Take the "WHAT'S YOUR #1 LEADERSHIP BLIND SPOT QUIZ" and get your free results report!

Source

1. Luft, J., Ingraham, H. (1955). “The Johari window, a graphic model of interpersonal awareness.” Proceedings of the Western Training Laboratory in Group Development. Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles. https://www.gartner.com/en/human-resources/glossary/johari-window#:~:text=The%20Johari%20Window%20is%20a,by%20combining%20their%20first%20names.

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