Yes, your Leadership Team has Blind Spots they don’t know about (that’s why they’re called blind spots).
I was recently in a manufacturing facility and had the opportunity to have an abbreviated plant tour. The manufacturing leader was clearly very proud (and rightfully so) of what had been accomplished and the overall operations looked great. On a couple of occasions on this tour, I could clearly see some eye rolling from the employees.
I’m not entirely sure what the eye rolling was all about, but it was clearly a symptom of something going on in the facility. A number of times I’ve had senior leaders share with me that everything is great, employees are happy, turnover is low and everything is peachy keen. (I think one of them actually used the term “peachy keen”.) Often, senior leadership truly believes that everything is great. The problem: it’s often not great. I may not always know all the issues or the root causes, but in this specific manufacturing facility, I could certainly see some symptoms for concern. Even when things truly are going well, there are problems and concerns that left unattended, can snowball into bigger issues.
Blind spots are called blind spots specifically because you’re not aware of them.
When you’re in a leadership role, you shine light on your blind spots by being intentional about gathering information from the people that you have the privilege of leading. Depending on the quality of the relationship you have with your direct reports, you might be able to gather this information directly by having open and honest, one on one dialogue. Ask what you could do differently to help each person be more effective.
When you directly ask for this type of sensitive (and potentially negative) feedback, it is critical that you restrain your defense mechanisms! Now is not the time to defend yourself or justify why you did or didn’t do something. Now is the time to listen intently, even if it is painful, (and especially if you disagree). Listen attentively and understand the feedback your reports are taking a risk to share with you. Never, ever punish someone for giving you information that you may not want to hear. You may choose to disagree with the feedback (potentially at your own peril), but always be thankful and appreciate people who are prepared to give you candid feedback.
If you’re uncertain about the strength of your relationship with your direct reports, then use indirect methods to gather information. At Acuity, we’ve developed a Leadership Report Card. This tool solicits confidential feedback from your reports on the issues that research demonstrates matter the most. This provides you with the information and analytics to understand your strengths, weaknesses and blind spots as a leader.
This is important stuff: Your leadership of your team members has influence on your direct reports’ engagement (and performance) more than any other factor.
If you want to become a stronger and more effective leader of people, you have to be intentional. You have to be intentional about knowing your people. Know their strengths and play to those strengths. You must be intentional about knowing that you’re not perfect and you will need to change or modify your leadership approach from time to time.
Shine a light on your blind spots. It may be painful, but if you’re willing to change and grow, it will be worthwhile for you and your team. Being a great leader requires you to become aware of your blind spots. If you choose mediocrity at best, expect employee eyes to continue to roll.
Do Leadership topics interest you? Sign-up below to subscribe to Acuity’s newsletter.
If you would like to learn more about our Intentional People Leadership Program – click here.