Reduce your blind spot

Feb 13, 2020

The best way to lead with clarity and confidence is to recognise your blind spots. Patrick Gallen explains how.

Blind spots, by their very nature, are unknown to almost every leader. We don’t know what we don’t know, which makes reducing blind spots so difficult. How can leaders understand their blind spots, and take corrective action to mitigate against potential unintended consequences? The answer is feedback.

By seeking feedback from a variety of people at all levels of your profession, leaders can increase awareness and understanding of their performance. In order to create an environment where people are confident to give their leader feedback, trust must also be prevalent.

It can be difficult to ask for feedback and yet, we know that it is essential to give and to receive it. The temptation is to only ask for feedback when we know it is going to be positive, but the feedback we get when we know we have done a good job is unlikely to decrease a blind spot.

The Johari window model, developed by psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham, is often used to explain how leaders can increase their awareness and decrease their blind spots. The model is useful because the four boxes (or windowpanes) show the difference between what is known/unknown to self and others. The only way to decrease blind spots is to ask others to share what they know about the impact of your actions, things you do that others appreciate or don’t, etc. Once feedback is shared, it increases the size of your ‘open arena’ – traits known to yourself and others –  and is no longer in your blind spot.

Three quick steps to addressing your blind spots

  1. Address your blind spots by acknowledging that you have them. We all do, so let’s not pretend otherwise.
  2. Get into the habit of asking for feedback. After every meeting, speech, presentation, or project, ask someone who observed you in action – from a new intern to the CEO – to give you honest feedback. To make it easier for them, you could ask them to name one thing you did well, and one thing that could be even better next time. This gives them permission to give you a positive point and a development point and creates rapport and trust.
  3. When someone gives you feedback, do not justify or explain why you did or said things the way you did. Simply thank them for their time and effort. After you have done this for a short period of time, you may start to notice a pattern that could be a blind spot revealing itself.

Lead with clarity

As the old hymn Amazing Grace goes, “I once was lost, but now am found. T’was blind but now I see”. Clarity of vision is critical for leadership and will help you lead with confidence and grace.

Patrick Gallen is Partner of People and Change Consulting in Grant Thornton NI.