Blind Spots

I’m pretty sure we all have blind spots. I know I do.

Not knowing your blind spots and appropriately compensating for them can cause unnecessary problems for clients and coworkers.

Ray Dalio says, “The two biggest barriers to good decision making are your ego and your blind spots. Together, they make it difficult for you to objectively see what is true about you and your circumstances …”

So, the question is, how can I see and address my blind spots? That is the question I ponder in this article.

Why A Problem?

By definition, blind spots are, well, blind to you. The problem is when others see them repeatedly. Even if the blind spot is positive (too nice), it doesn’t look good when it goes unaddressed. It’s a bit of, “uh oh, here we go again!”

To illustrate this idea more clearly, here are a few blind spot examples:

  • Being a “lone wolf” not encouraging the collaboration and teamwork expected in the workplace.
  • Being insensitive to others in various ways, like talking loudly or in a harsh tone. Dominating discussions. Being consistently late. Using inappropriate language.
  • I am talking behind people’s backs. Gossiping.
  • I am disclosing inappropriate information to clients or coworkers.
  • Being negative. Or being cynical.
  • Thinking you’re “funny” when you are coming off as mean or, worse, “weird.”
  • You are not pushing yourself to your abilities.

All of these, believe it or not, are almost always driven by good intentions. The problem is the actor can’t see what is being perceived. The good news is all of these create a genuine personal development opportunity!

How to See Blind Spots

Learning about one’s blind spots requires courage and help from others. You can’t do this alone. What is essential is being open to feedback and having a sincere desire to grow. With this attitude, you can engage the right people to help you see your blind spots and make them partners in creating a better you.

Keep in mind giving and receiving feedback is a bit of an art. Giving feedback is as complex as receiving it. Taking a course like, “Giving and Receiving Feedback” helps, but not everyone does it well. So, go into this expecting a bit of indelicacy.

I suggest engaging your manager, coworkers, family, and friends on this treasure hunt. They can help you gain a 360-degree view of yourself you can never get without them.

Engage them in two ways. One would be slightly formal. “Hey, I’d like to get some feedback!” Frame the discussion with openness and a desire to improve.

Some questions to ask are:

  • What do you know about me? What could I change to improve my effectiveness with others or business?
  • What negative things might people say about me? I can take it!
  • Knowing me, what do you think people get wrong about me?

Another feedback you want is in-the-moment, right after a call or meeting. “Can I have some feedback?”

I like general open-ended questions for this type of feedback. What is essential is to get it right away.

  • How did that go?
  • How did I do?
  • What could I have done differently that would have driven a better outcome?
  • Anything else?

A Word of Caution

As mentioned, receiving developmental feedback can be difficult. If you want more, you best not look all pouty or hurt while you’re getting it. Don’t be defensive. If you do that, you won’t get any more.

Displaying enthusiasm is not the natural reaction to criticism. You take it personally, and it hurts a bit. It would help if you addressed this consciously. One way to take out the sting is to remember the person is giving you gold that can change your career trajectory!

Tying it All Together – A Story

I am passionate about this topic because I was a bit of a mess early in my career. I was opinioned, over-confident, and a bit of a lone wolf. Best, I didn’t see it. These were blind spots. I thought I was I was a good employee. It may have been because I was in sales, but little did I know I could have been better than just hitting my number.

Over the years, I sought feedback on all those points and was encouraged to develop myself. I took courses on feedback, collaboration, and facilitation. I earned a Master’s in Communication. But mainly, I consistently engaged my peers in helping me see my blind spots and hear what might be a bit uncomfortable to digest.

I was consistently praised for my teamwork and collaboration with the teams I’m on in my last half-dozen reviews. Best of all, I was told that I was highly coachable. What was a weakness has now become a strength.

I hope this encourages you to seek feedback and work on your blind spots. It’s helped me; maybe it can help you.

What blind spots have you overcome?

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