For over 50 years, I was colorblind – not in a metaphorical sense, but literally colorblind. Then one Christmas, I received a special gift that changed things forever. The gift? A pair of sunglasses that are designed to help individuals with colorblindness see colors they couldn’t see on their own. The first time I saw “green” at a stoplight, I was blown away! What was always a white light was now a vibrant image! AMAZING. I’ve spent so many years trying to figure out how to see color on my own, but it took the help of someone else giving me a tool designed exclusively for people like me.
If you’re a leader in the workplace, like it or not, you have blind spots you can’t see with your own two eyes. For example, some leaders tend to become know-it-alls, thinking that if they show any weakness, they can’t effectively lead. In fact, the opposite is true.
Other times, it’s an organizational/institutional problem. Too often groups focus only on the short-term bottom line, failing to address the real, long-term need to develop their leaders. They must realize that their leaders are the ones responsible for connecting the employee to their purpose and cause around meaningful work – not the leader who is trying to catch you doing something wrong! Organizations must learn to assist their leaders in development, respectfully addressing their leaders’ blind spots so that they can become a more productive employee and be more satisfied in their career for the long haul.
Whether you are identifying your own blind spots or your manager has brought them to your attention, it’s essential that you stop projecting and guarding yourself as perfect. Do that, and you can begin the process of learning the first rule of being an excellent leader: Own the fact that you have blind spots. Once you acknowledge it, you can begin to address blind spots in yourself. Remember this life lesson: “What you can’t do for yourself, you can’t do for others.”
So what steps can you take to confront blind spots and become a great leader? Here are four:
- Create a safe place. Unless someone feels safe in getting feedback from others, chances are they won’t be willing to take a risk or be vulnerable. Find a location where you can have some privacy for one-on-one meetings.
- Seek out a professional you trust. The process of identifying your blind spots is difficult, and you need someone you feel will allow you to fail without judging or condemning you. Hire a coach or counselor, or talk to another leader you respect.
- Establish the goal. Outline a plan and action to follow. Talk about conflicts you are trying to resolve. It’s often in these conversations that blind spots appear.
- Create ground rules. Develop deadlines and create rules to manage differences. In other words, have the “it’s ok to agree to disagree” conversation. This is how you establish accountability.
The first step to overcoming your blind spots is to acknowledge that you have them. Only then can real leadership be developed.