Working with Your Blind Spots Can Help You Grow
We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know
Last week I had a long conversation with a colleague who is also a close friend. She offered her perspective and feedback on creative work I completed over the summer. In addition, she helped me take a close look at my process and structure for working. My friend and colleague’s long history with me gave her a birds-eye view of some of my blind spots. A blind spot is when we don’t know what we don’t know about ourselves. Working with our blind spots can help us grow.
Our Blind Spots Can Hurt Us
Most of us live with psychological blind spots and they get in our way. Blind spots can lead to conflict and frustration and limit our effectiveness at work and in our relationships. You may be leading a business or non-profit organization. Maybe you are a middle manager or a first line supervisor. Perhaps you are an individual contributor or small business owner. Or you could be outside the world of work. Regardless of your life situation, being open to learning about qualities others know about us that we are “blind” to can certainly help us grow. How to get started? Be curious and open to learning how others see and know us.
Working with Blind Spots Is a Process
There’s a model I call the Ladder of Learning which identifies four stages of movement related to blind spots. The four stages are. . .
- Unconscious incompetence (operating from the blind spot)
- Conscious incompetence (we are aware of the problem behavior and can’t stop doing it)
- Conscious competence (we catch ourselves and do something different)
- Unconscious competence (we successfully made a change)
Blind Spots Are Hard to See Without Help
To move up the blind spots Ladder of Learning, you will probably need help. Here are three strategies for getting started. You could try them individually or together, depending on your life/work situation.
- Identify people in your life that you trust to have your back and give you honest feedback. Ask them to talk candidly with you about. . .
- What they see as your strengths, development needs and your blind spots.
- Ask for specific examples of how your blind spots impact their ability to work and/or live well with you.
- With the feedback you are given, determine your “one big thing” that you commit to work on changing about yourself. Your “one big thing” is the one thing about you that if you were to really make progress on it, would be life and career changing.
- If you work within an organization, ask about being evaluated through a 360 degree feedback assessment. If your organization agrees, make sure you ask for feedback from a variety of people. Include your boss, your peers, your subordinates and your clients. Make sure you ask people who you consider your supporters AND others who may be more critical. Remember that the purpose is to find out others’ perceptions of your blind spots and the impact of the blind spots.
- Hire an Executive or Life Coach to be your ally as you work on addressing your blind spots. Making changes in ourselves that “stick” and last is easier with support from a coach. Many organizations support employees working with a coach. Don’t be afraid to ask.
5 Tips for Moving Forward
- Having identified your blind spots, it’s time to work on them. Congratulations! As a result of your willingness to be curious, you’ve moved from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence. That means you are on your way. Remember — working with your blind spots can help you grow.
- Recognize that changing can be hard. Having a partner on your journey really helps. This can be your boss, the friend(s) who helped you with seeing your blind spots or an Executive or Life Coach.
- Cultivate the habit of asking your change partner(s)s the following questions, and seriously consider their responses. . .
- What am I missing?
- What am I not seeing?
- What else could be true?
- Work on only changing one thing at a time. If you’re like most people, you will slip up and down the Ladder of Learning as you move from blind spot to awareness to making a change that “sticks”.
- Be patient with yourself and stay open to the feedback you are given. Set goals, break them into smaller steps, monitor your progress and celebrate your success.
Ginger Ward-Green and David Green