A blind spot is something about yourself and/or your actions that you don’t see clearly or are afraid to acknowledge. Blind spots are like interior fault lines. They surface out of a lack of self-awareness or simply a gap in information.
But as a high performer, you’re supposed to be perfect. You don’t have any blind spots, right? Wrong!
Everyone has blind spots, whether we acknowledge them or not. The higher you climb the ladder of success, however, the more others assume you have all the answers. That’s when you are most likely to fall prey to your blind spots.
5 Ways to Address Your Blind Spots
Whether you are a newly minted MBA grad or a talented researcher, if you are flagged as a high performer, you will find yourself surrounded by people eager to push your development. Feedback and learning are abundant. You are coached, mentored, and sponsored.
But as your expertise develops, the people around you may feel leery pointing out your blind spots, especially if you are in a leadership position. As your knowledge increases and your successes mount up, you may eliminate some of your blind spots, but unfortunately new ones will often replace the old. Blind spot mitigation requires continuous effort.
If you want to identify and confront your blind spots in the workplace, here are five strategies I recommend:
1. Create an Honesty Pact
Find a trusted stakeholder and make an honesty pact with them. Everyone needs someone to provide direct and honest observations. Your development is not served well if those who surround you feel squeamish about giving you feedback. Better to hear tough feedback about your blind spots than to be blindsided by them.
2. Nurture Self-Awareness
Ask yourself how your actions affect the people around you. Answering this question requires a high level of emotional and social intelligence.
When you are absorbed in your own agenda, you may overlook clues that you are missing the mark. These clues can show up in the people around you as apprehension, a lack of inspiration, an unwillingness to share opinions or be accountable, unusual aggression, or passive responses. When you see and feel these things happening, check in with your honesty stakeholders to make sure your actions are appropriate and self-aware. And remember that when someone is triggered by your actions, they often stop listening and retreat inward.
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3. Take Time for Self-Reflection
Take five minutes at the end of the day to jot down a few questions you wish you had asked of yourself and others. Self-reflective questioning teaches us to be more inquisitive about our surroundings, our situations, and ourselves.
As a high performer, you are trained to pursue a specific agenda. As your responsibilities increase, you may move away from curiosity and toward ticking off items on a checklist. A habit of self-reflection will reenergize your natural curiosity, and the more you practice self-reflection, the more likely its benefits will be available to you in the moment.
4. Embrace Challenge
Getting outside your comfort zone is a must if you want to understand people and experiences that are unfamiliar to you.
Ask yourself: What did I learn today? Did I discover a new perspective I had not previously considered? Was I curious why that person held a contrary perspective to my own, or did I just defend my opinion?
Embrace new knowledge and human interaction continually, and your sphere of understanding will expand as well.
5. Explore the Moment of Pause
Pausing offers you a valuable space to choose how you want to respond. In this space, check in with your objectives and ask yourself if there is a blind spot you are ignoring.
The length of a pause can vary according to the situation. If you find yourself in need of a pause, try one of these three strategies:
• Rephrase the information you are hearing. This gives you time and shows your audience that you understand the question and are not jumping to conclusions.
• Ask for an opinion on how the team might solve the issue. This reiterates that you believe in your team and you don’t always need to be the problem-solver.
• Stop and say you need to think about it. Set a time frame within which you will provide your opinion, direction, or answer — and be sure to follow through. Trust will be eroded if your word is not your bond.
Recognizing that you have a blind spot is an important first step, but being aware of it does not make you immune to its effects. If you want to create ongoing growth and development, you need to own any and every opportunity you are offered for self-discovery. You must also make sure your actions reflect that discovery.
Melinda Harrison, PCC, OLY, is a former Olympic swimmer and professional certified ICF PCC-level executive coach. Her upcoming book, Personal Next: What We Can Learn From Elite Athletes Navigating Career Transition, releases April 21, 2020.