The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision – Helen Keller
Max Lucado shares a story about Bob Edens. For 51 years he was blind and could not see a thing. His world was a black hall of sounds and smells. He felt his way through five decades of darkness. And then, he could see. A skilled surgeon performed a complicated operation and for the first time, he had sight. He found it overwhelming.
“I never would have dreamed that yellow is so…yellow,” he exclaimed. “I don’t have the words. I am amazed by yellow. But red is my favorite color. I just can’t believe red. I can see the shape of the moon- and I like nothing better than seeing a jet plane flying across the sky leaving a vapor trail. And of course, sunrises and sunsets. And at night I look at the stars in the sky and the flashing light. You could never know how wonderful everything is.”
Sight is a beautiful thing. Blind spots, especially for leaders, can be problematic. A story in QSR magazine cited a study by Development Dimensions International that said 91 percent of managers have at least one blind spot, and the average manager has three. Brad Thomas, a manager at DDI said, “Those blind spots don’t just hurt the individual who has them, they can hurt the entire company.” Leaders today must be aware of their blind spots and be willing to correct them. What are yours? Here are four common blind spots you need to see and why they matter.
The effect of a bad attitude. Zig Ziglar said, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, determines your altitude.” This is a powerful truth to know. It is even more powerful when you can practice it. The attitude you have is one of the most contagious and visible characteristics of your leadership. It is important to understand the effect that your attitude has on the culture of your company.
Your attitude is the thermostat by which others around you will conform. On average, the attitude of your team will not rise any higher than yours. If your attitude is poor it will be reflected in the company’s morale, performance, and is an indicator of its future. Simply put, you cannot allow a bad attitude to be a drag on your company because it is a blind spot for you. Pay attention to it and check it daily. After all, it is a choice.
The consequence of prejudices. This blind spot goes far beyond the scope of any racial implications. It is the result preconceived notions you make about colleagues, clients, or customers. It is making and embracing assumptions that may not be accurate based upon your limited understanding.
When you allow your prejudices to influence you as a leader you are allowing them to define you as a leader. Instead, why not abandon your prejudices and look upon everyone with an open mind, give clients the respect they deserve and your customers the benefit of the doubt. Prejudices have no place in your business and they certainly have no place in your heart. It is a blind spot you need to see and remove.
The price of poor people skills. This blind spot is the source of many of your leadership headaches. Your business savvy and skill will be undermined if you lack courtesy and respect. It is one thing to possess the ability to cast vision and manage the company’s bottom line, but if you can’t have a 30-minute lunch with a client without checking your phone messages five times it screams of poor etiquette.
Frederick L. Collins said, “There are two types of people in the world: those who come into a room and say, “Here I am!” and those who come in and say, “Ah, there you are!” People skills will make you or break you in leadership. Take care of people and they will take care of you. It is a blind spot you simply cannot ignore.
The trappings of an over-inflated ego. This blind spot will destroy your effectiveness if left unchecked. Colin Powell said, “Don’t let your ego get too close to your position, so that if your position gets shot down you ego doesn’t go with it.” Unfortunately, many leaders are trapped in the surroundings of their own creation that skewers reality. As a result they see the world they work in through the lens of “yes” people which can hinder more than help.
Blind spots can cause problems regardless of who you are but for leaders it has a far-reaching effect. The blind spot of ego is overcome by humility and serving others. Keep a healthy perspective of who you are and keep it grounded in reality. By paying attention and keeping yourself accountable you can steer clear of these pitfalls and lead with clarity.
© 2013 Doug Dickerson