For every leader, there will be those things they know, that they can do well, and those things that they simply can’t see. It is in this second category that blind spots dwell, and it’s here where serious challenges to a business’s continuity will arise.
There are also important parallels between blind spots and my earlier post on stress. When you’re under stress, it becomes harder to identify those weaknesses that you and your business have. At its worst, stress might mean you panic in the face of a difficult decision or are unable to detect opportunities you haven’t noticed before.
Just as stress can cause a leader to ignore their blind spots, the answer to addressing both in your organisation is the same: resilience.
What is a blind spot?
One of the simplest tools I’ve used professionally to identify the weaknesses of your own perspective is the Johari Window, which tracks what you can perceive against what others can. Blind spots are those areas that you don’t see, but that others do.
The Johari window reflects a very simple truth about humans – other people will always be able to see things that you can’t. Other people will have skills that you don’t possess. They will have experiences that give them a unique perspective or an ability to diagnose problems better than you can.
One of the main causes of failure is inertia. Business leaders inevitably settle into a routine which reinforces their blind spots. In Scotland, people refer to this state of mind that nothing is going to change as “aye been” – it’s always been.
A business owner who has been in their role for many years will often become set in their ways as they see what works to make the company grow. That strength they have demonstrated in getting the business to that point is also one of the biggest weaknesses they face.
This is the space where blind spots occur, meaning leaders have to constantly strive to bring these points into their own line of sight and break that sense of inertia.
The blind spots of businesses
So far, I’ve focused on individuals, but there’s another side here; organisations suffer from the same problem.
There are plenty of reasons why a company might have a blind spot. It may be that the business is overconfident and complacent, to the point where it is ignoring changes in the marketplace or new competitors. Kodak is a great example here of an enterprise that underestimated the way the market was changing and had too much faith in its existing model.
While this might sound like a question of strategy, it’s actually a cultural weakness that was shared by senior management and permeated every level of the business. For leaders, it isn’t hard for their personal blind spots to become organisation-wide.
However, these two risks both have a common solution – expanding your team to include those who can help you identify and address those areas that you just can’t detect yourself.
Avoiding blind spots by involving others
There’s only so much you can do to address your blind spots without help from outside; from your family and from the team you build around you who can offer a critical perspective.
Bringing in different people to fill the gaps around you means choosing the right people. It’s important to have multiple perspectives and different ways of thinking. Everyone has their own unique perception, so you want to be sure you are seeing their blind spots and they are able to see yours. If you share the same weaknesses here, you aren’t going to be improving your decision-making.
Beyond these changes though, there is still room for you to make slight tweaks to your own work in order to build that personal resilience, especially if you are stressed. Consider taking time out to relax and reflect, even if it is just a 15 minute break at a coffee shop, which can help you remain focused and reduce those risks.
Lastly, make sure to involve your family. Your family and your personal support network are just as important as the professional team you have around you. Your family will also know you well enough to have a good idea about what your blind spots are and be able to help you address them. Chances are, they will have known about these for years, so it’s just a case of actually listening to them. If you are running a family business, this becomes even more important again.
Addressing blind spots through vulnerability
If there’s one overriding theme with all these specific strategies, it’s the idea of showing vulnerability and being open with those around you about your own limitations.
As Lynn Leahy explained; when it comes to addressing stress in your workplace, being vulnerable is incredibly important. It requires leaders to acknowledge they don’t have all the answers. Vulnerability is also necessary for building resilience to stress and also to offset the weaknesses that come with their personal perspective.
Blind spots aren’t going anywhere, so it falls on leaders to actively address them. Bringing in new perspectives to your team is a great start, but you also have to be open about your own limitations and ask for help from those better qualified than yourself. From there you can begin the process of identifying and addressing your personal blind spots.