October Monthly Update from Craig Clark
That’s why they are called blind spots!
“If you knew it was there, they wouldn’t call it a blind spot.”
-Roy Williams, Wizard of Ads
Shortly after Marlene and I were married, I had an opportunity to work for a training and development company that we both admired. It required a move from Austin to San Francisco, a place we both liked.
The opportunity was sudden and I was there several weeks before Marlene wrapped things up and joined me.
The job was intense, demanding, long hours and required me to step up my game significantly. Fortunately, I had a mentor. After one of my regular calls home I was complaining to Jerry, “Marlene just doesn’t get it! I’ve tried to explain what this is like and yet she still…blah, blah, blah.”
He listened patiently, like a good mentor, and then softly said “Craig, you don’t listen to her.”
Stunned, I promptly protested, “Jerry what do you mean, I’m in the listening business!”
He just repeated himself, adding “you listen to her like you know what she means, and how things are, and you know what’s really so about things.”
I started to protest, then it hit me, he was spot-on. Since I was older than Marlene, more experienced, then of course I knew!
I would hear what she said and then give her the benefit of my imperial wisdom. That was my first memory of a blind spot revealed. The first of many, I might add.
If you are human, you have blind spots and they can cause you to perform in unproductive ways.
“Hidden within your blind spot is your limiting factor, the thing that holds you back and limits your success”
If you want to overcome them, which is where real progress happens, you have to find them and that requires another set of eyes.
That’s why they call them blind spots
As we grow from infancy we are shaped by our experiences, the impacts of life, the messages from our parents, from our peers, advertising about what we should do, how we should be, etc.
Ruiz, in The Fifth Agreement, calls this our domestication.
That process gives us a particular view of how we think life is and how we are in life. We form strategies to succeed based on that life view.
We succeed to the limit those strategies allow and the more we succeed the more confident we become in our strategies. What we don’t see is those strategies also have impacts on others, usually unintended, and those impacts can impede our progress and intentions.
If you have an aggressive management style and you get some feedback that people find you a little pushy and sometimes abrasive you may think, “well that’s just what you have to do to get things done.”
What you don’t see is then people will often work around you, avoid you if possible, and withhold information. All actions that impede our progress.
On a societal scale the constraints that diversity issues, the biases, put on our society is largely a function of blind spots.
Dr. Mahzarin Banaji Co-authored a book With Anthony Greenwald, Blindspot: The Hidden Biases of Good People, in which they identified some common biases that produce blind spots: (they also discuss ways to correct them)
Confirmation bias: Looking for qualities and behaviors that confirm your beliefs about someone and ignoring those that contradict your beliefs.
Halo/horns: When one positive or negative impression of someone carries over into all future interactions with that person.
Prototype bias: Assuming that someone is the perfect fit for a role or task based on stereotyping.
In our work with executive teams, part of our process is to distinguish blind spots, how they work and their impact.
We set a group up to have a one-to-one conversation with each other where they give feedback on their perceptions of the other’s blind spots, as well as the emotional impact and how they compensate in their behavior.
People are always amazed by what they hear.
What gets revealed is people had no register for the unintended impacts they often make. What’s refreshing is how quick they start to self-correct, when a blind spot is revealed, which almost always takes another set of eyes.
From blind spot to breakthrough. Real personal growth takes a willingness to be introspective, it is a quality of leadership and a portal to greater performance.
Fortunately, I had a mentor that opened my eyes to a blind spot that was having an unintended impact on my wife.
When people realize their impact they usually are reliable to self-correct.
After that conversation I promptly called Marlene and shared the whole conversation I had with Jerry. I apologized and promised I would endeavor to always listen to her as if whatever she said was real for her in the moment, and anytime she felt I wasn’t to please tell me and I would correct.
Her quiet emotional response was that I had no idea what a blessing it was for her to hear me say that. I later discovered that had I not discovered my blind spot, communicated and corrected so early in our marriage, she may not have joined me in San Francisco.
By the way, she rigorously took me up on letting me know when she felt I wasn’t listening. It’s been some of the best trainings I’ve ever had. I’m a better Man for it.
Give your life a boost, go find your blind spots!
Below are listed some references to help you:
- You Have Blind Spots: How to Find Them & Take Action
- Are You Blinded By Your Own Behavior? How to Identify your Trigger and Adjust.
- Overcoming Leadership Blind Spots
- CEOaction.com (especially read the pledge)
- Professor Max H. Bazerman’s book: Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do about It.