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We all have blind spots

We all have blind spots

Posted on 30. Nov, 2016 by gilly in Coach's Wisdom

Stephanie was beginning to relax. The presentation she’d prepped so hard for had apparently gone well. The stylish slides were sharp and exactly as she’d wanted, the questions raised were serious, everyone seemed attentive, her boss congratulated her on his way out. It was Friday, coming up to 6pm, and Stephanie was ready for a celebratory glass of wine. Yet by the same time the following Friday, Stephanie came to the queasy realization that something was amiss. She even sensed that her feelings about how well that presentation had gone were just her own foregone conclusion. That whole ensuing week, no one referred to the meeting, none of the actions she assumed team members would embrace had materialized, and she received not a single follow-up email on any point made. What happened?

As a coach I meet many women—and men—in this predicament. Sometimes the sheer disconnect between what they experienced, thought or concluded and what really went on in people’s minds can be staggering. This unfortunately happens to us all. Why? Because we’re human, and human beings can have blind spots. Not only at work, and often in situations or with people who matter most. A good coach can help you examine your blind spots (you can’t easily see what you can’t see). Here are 5 shortcuts to start tackling this important work.

1. Get feedback

Ask someone you trust—friend, colleague, ex-colleague, client—to give you feedback about yourself. This should be someone who, like a coach, will be honest.

2. Reflect on mistakes made in the past

See what blind spots might have caused those mistakes. What was it you didn’t see, hear, or notice? What were you avoiding or minimizing? Is there a pattern—a type of blind spot that seems to occur more often? A type of situation that repeatedly poses risks for you?

3. Examine your patterns of thought

When something goes wrong, don’t just ask how did that happen? In your post-mortem analysis, go further and ask: what exactly was I thinking in that moment, and what could have caused me to think that way? For example, don’t just look at a project that failed to be completed within budget and decide that happened because I underestimated the cost of the vendor’s materials. Go further by asking: Just what was I thinking—what assumptions did I make, and what led me to make those—that caused me to underestimate what the vendor would charge? That way you’ll learn to look at your thinking rather than throw up a blame-list (towards others and/or towards yourself!) and discover potential blind spots that hampered your thinking.

4. Go from furious to curious

When you find yourself thinking what an idiot! How could anyone do that! How can anyone even think that way? Ask yourself instead, with an open-mind vs. that blaming energy, Hmm how might someone think that? What would motivate them to do that? People usually have good reasons for acting as they do. When those reasons aren’t apparent to us it may be because we have a blind spot. Lapsing into blame won’t help.

5. Tune in

Start paying attention (with your gut and heart, not just your brilliant mind) to that vague sense of uneasiness that something is amiss—in a meeting, a conversation with a colleague, or following a decision you made. When you have that subtle sense of misgiving, that’s generally a sign there’s something you glimpsed, but then dismissed as unimportant. If you revisit the incident in your mind, you might discover something, such as yeah, I actually had a feeling people weren’t responding to me like they usually do. You might then realize oh, I wonder if they were upset because of my announcement about an upcoming change? I never really dealt with their reaction to that.

Back to Stephanie and her blind spots. It didn’t take long for her to understand that she had mistaken her colleagues’ Friday-afternoon fatigue for intent interest, their polite state-all-the-right-things-questions for validation, their bored (but intent) gazing at her slides for admiration, and even her boss’s kind pat-on-the-back for an accolade. Stephanie had entirely misread the room and her impact on her colleagues. In coaching, she eventually recognized this, sighed and rolled up her sleeves to begin to begin to work on her blind spots.

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