To build a strong and effective team, you probably focus on the make-up and profile of your group or department. You might be forgetting to take a deeper look at yourself and your expertise.

By taking a deeper look, and focusing on learning, you can uncover and illuminate blind spots--areas where you continually fail to see the situation or your behavior in a realistic manner.

A leader's blind spots can inhibit and derail a high-functioning team, so a key focus for any leader should be to shore up their blind spots and developmental areas. As an executive coach, I observe a consistent set of blind spots. Here are three of the most common for you to watch out for:

1. Always wanting to be right

It's easy to get caught up in the quest to be "right" or correct in a meeting. You forget that sometimes, it's more important to be effective than right. Your ideas can be lost over time with the wrong focus.

This can take many forms. Some examples of success include backing off in a debate, compromising on a recommendation, or just simply listening to the other person's point of view. By focusing exclusively on your point of view or "being right," your conversations and recommendations can become background noise over time. In extreme cases, you might not be invited to future meetings.

The net result is loss of credibility and creativity. I once worked with a leader who vigorously debated every question about the recommendations that he submitted to his CEO. He became frustrated because, over time, he could tell that the CEO tuned out many of their conversations.

He wanted a way to be more effective with his manager. One of the solutions we agreed upon was to create a decision tree to evaluate when he needed to push his ideas and agenda and when it wasn't a priority.

This gave him the leeway to know when to push and when it wasn't applicable. And that allowed him to be more productive with his recommendations.

2. Not listening sufficiently

Leaders are expected in most cases to always have a point of view or idea to deliver. Sometimes, there's a faulty assumption that if someone isn't pushing a point in a meeting then they "aren't smart" or don't have a valid reason for attending.

Listening can be just as important as pushing a point of view. By listening, there is the advantage of being able to more readily read the room, listen to your gut and see the linkages, connections and possibilities of the ideas debated.

More importantly this gives the space of being able to make a more informed decision.  One client I worked with found that a simple tactic for him to slow down and listen to his team by asking the simple question of: "What do you think?" 

This helped him in two ways. He signaled to his to his team that he was listening, and he actually heard many more interesting ideas that what he expected.

3. Failing to mentor employees

It's hard to slow down when you're feeling pressured to deliver on results. Everyone understands that it's important to focus on the learning and development of their teams, but sometimes there just isn't enough time, or travel schedules don't allow for the face to face interaction.

One leader that I worked with found a means to supplement the more formal yearly feedback by creatively looking at his calendar. He implemented the option for feedback and interaction by scheduling in his calendar office hours once a week so that anyone could pop in during that time to discuss an issue or get some feedback.

He also scheduled in his calendar every month a reminder to provide feedback to his team. It didn't have to be formally written--a short conversation provided the means of transparency and motivation for his team. 

All leaders have blind spots and by watching out for these common ones you can be more effective.

Published on: Feb 1, 2019
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