The surprising truth about executive blind spots and trust
No one likes to hear about their blind spots. We might even dismiss them – thinking they don’t have a big impact. Yet, as we all know, “Objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear.”
Our teammates are our best side mirrors. Executives who hear directly from peers about their blind spots become more aware. Their teams build greater trust. They also perform at a higher level.
Why then do so many executives resist hearing about their areas for improvement? Unless you’ve been in an accident recently, you may think you are checking your side mirrors at a steady clip, but you may be one lapse of judgment away from damage. The same holds true at work. We often mistakenly assume we’re good to go with our teammates, but we’re swerving into their lane, constantly tailing them, forgetting to yield, or racing by without caution or discernment.
Imagine for a moment that you are receiving direct feedback from your teammates and hear one of the following:
- You talk over everyone in meetings, dominate, and never listen fully.
- You don’t speak up during key conversations. We never know where you stand on decisions.
- You play favorites, and it’s apparent to everyone.
- You don’t complete projects on time.
- You complain a lot and shoot down nearly every idea we suggest.
- You don’t give enough direction on priorities.
- You don’t set clear expectations.
- You have so many ideas. Too many ideas. We don’t know which way is up. We need focus.
- You’re guarded and uptight.
You get the idea. Feedback is as individual as humans are.
It’s easy to see why it could be challenging at first to take in such direct feedback. Every executive responds differently. Why?
- It can hurt. (Yes, it can sting).
- We all work hard. Therefore, we may think hearing negatives negates the positives. (It doesn’t).
- We tell ourselves the person giving the feedback has more issues than us; thereby refuting the feedback altogether (A mind game that doesn’t serve).
While some advocate for 360˚ reviews, the fact that 360˚ reviews are anonymous defeats the goal of building trust within an Executive Team or Leadership Team. It’s not that they can never be helpful; they can. Giving direct feedback face-to-face within a team setting, though, can be a starting block on the road to building organizational health.
Learning about our blind spots is just the first step though. Acting on this new information is what helps us overcome them. If you’re struggle with listening, for instance, you might set the following intention for a quarter:
“In every team meeting, I will actively listen to two team members before speaking up.”
You might also ask for feedback from a team member every other week, who could help you gage your progress. The goal is not the formula in this instance, per se, as much as increased awareness and practicing, so that active listening becomes more habitual.
We all have blind spots, just as we have strengths. There’s no shame in having areas for improvement. Trying to minimize or ignore our blind spots would be the same as trying to minimize or ignore our strengths. It can have the same effect on teams. That’s the surprising truth about executive blind spots and building trust within teams.
Are you ready to adjust your mirrors?