I’ve worked in Corp America for 30 years, aside from incompetence and poor work ethic the main reason I see people hit career snags is due to their blind spots. I know that’s a big statement, but it’s true. Having transitioned from Corp America to leadership coaching I now help individuals work through their blind spots. Many times these blind spots have turned into career hurdles or even roadblocks. Unfortunately I know most people don’t have direct access to a coach. Therefore I hope this article will help raise awareness of the subject and encourage people to tackle their blind spots. I outline a few options at the end of the article.

Let’s start with the basics, what is a blind spot?   Webster says a blind spot is “an area where a person’s view is obstructed.” This can by a physical limitation such as a blind spot in the side-view mirror on your car, however that type isn’t very interesting for this discussion. In this context, a blind spot is a trait or behavior I have that I cannot see, but is a trait or behavior that others around me see. So let’s look at some real examples as a way to solidify:

Individual Contributors

  • Your view: “I am very careful with my work and always double check everything so that people can count on me. My boss appreciates my thoroughness” Their view: “She is afraid to take any kind of a risk or make any mistake, it slows her down and therefore I don’t think I want her on this new project”.
  • Your view: “I always try to explain the details about my work to my boss so that she understands everything, she appreciates it”. Their view: “This guy is killin’ me with all the details. I just need the high-level points and he takes forever to explain every point. I avoid him when I can because I don’t have time for him.”

Managers, Leaders, and Executives

  • My view: “I like-management-by-walking-around. Usually I stop by to get status to offer advice to my team members. On average I see them at least two times a day. They appreciate the support”. Their view: “This dude is a total micromanager and doesn’t trust me. He stops by all the time to check up on me and tell me what to do.”
  • My view: “When any of the executives give me a task I can knock it out of the park. I’m an execution machine!” Their view: “He’s great at getting things done but he’s poor at any type of strategic thinking.”

The last example is from my own personal history. It was particularly insidious because I thought I was doing a great job but my career was stuck because I didn’t have skills to think strategically and look for opportunities beyond my current tasking.

So hopefully I’ve convinced you that blind spots are real, they can have a impact on you, and by definition you can’t see them.  So where do we go from here?

Step #1 – Finding Tools You Can Use

Here are some suggestions:

  • A simple place I like to start is a personality profile such as ProScan, DiSC,  etc. Any of these are a good first step. They cost $50 on the web and if you take the time to read the analysis carefully you may resonate with some of the “challenges” for a personality type.
  • A 360 profile is similar to a personality profile however it will solicit input from your manager, peers, and people you lead. I favor these profiles because they give a much more accurate and complete picture. If facilitated correctly this can be a powerful tool to increase your awareness of how others see you.
  • Business simulation – There are many simple business simulations to observe how you react under simulated pressure, however I favor using an escape room. We own a mobile escape room that we take to companies where we have teams work through the escape room and we observe them through cameras. In this venue we can quickly identify blind spots for many of the team members.
  • Coach – If you have access to a coach or qualified manager I would highly recommend taking advantage of that opportunity. They are trained to help you identify your blind spots and put practices into place that will help eliminate your blind spots.
  • Close friends and co-workers – If you completely trust someone, can be vulnerable to feedback, and have a thick skin, then it’s possible to receive the feedback directly from the source. Be careful that you don’t push back on the feedback, just absorb the info and carefully consider it.

This is an overview to blind spots. In future articles we’ll explore non-work related blind spots, team blind spots, cultural blind spots, public identity, as well as techniques to work with each.