No leader ever gets excited about dealing with their blindspots. Do you?
A few years ago, Bill Hybels opened up the Global Leadership Summit by talking about the “intangibles of leadership”, including self-awareness and blindspots.
Hybels reported that according to researchers, we all have about 3.4 blindspots.
Blindspots are those areas that we perceive ourselves to be good or even strong at, but everyone around us knows it couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Since that message, I have often thought of one of my ever-present blindspots—the effect my poker face has on other people.
If I’m not smiling, I typically have a frown on my face. This has lead to problems more than once.
I’m not angry. In fact I’m rarely angry. It’s just that I’m almost always in deep thought and my thinking face looks a lot like anger.
My direct report, Eric, loves telling the story of the first time he met me for his interview.
“I walked in and saw this angry, stern-looking guy on his computer look up at me. It was Andrew. Then recognized me, said an enthusiatic hello and smiled really big then offered me a seat. I was completely thrown off!”
Around the same time, when Eric was asking around about what it would be like to work with me, a mutual friend of ours said to him “Good luck trying to read that guy.”
I even remember a long time ago—I’m thankful this hasn’t happened in recent years—close friends of mine would say to me, “Beal, when we first met I thought you hated me.” I was always stunned and heartbroken by this, but it happened so often that I couldn’t defend that it wasn’t true.
About a year ago, my boss and I met with a consultant to help us figure out how to best work with and understand each other. Many helpful things came out of that meeting, but the greatest for me came when she told me something about my poker face and my tendency to be quiet:
“Andrew, there’s this thing called the Law of Negative Inference. Whenever you don’t let your thoughts and opinions be known, the people around you infer the worst. Even if you think something is a great idea, by you not saying anything your team will tend to think you hate the idea, think they’re stupid, or that they don’t have your support. You need to speak your thoughts because your face is a terrible communicator.”
Since then, I’ve tried to lean in to that advice. It’s an uphill battle, but it’s one I am determined to win.
Whatever your blindspots may be, it is always a healthy thing to try and bring them front and center. Only then can we become better.
Here are a few tips and truths I’ve come to know about blindspots:
Your blind spots will likely grow back
None of us are able to see 100% of ourselves. And many of us have plenty to work on when it comes to bettering ourselves without having to also work on the things that are blind to us.
I referred to the effect of my poker face on others as an “ever-present blindspot.” This was pointed out to me years ago and yet I still find myself saying “Oh yeah, I forgot about that. I need to work on this.”
Your blindspot will tend to do everything it can to remain out of the spotlight. We must stay vigilant!
Get opinions from different viewpoints
“Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and my heart.” -Psalm 26:2
If you’re serious about doing something about your blindspots, then you need to take serious and uncomfortable steps in finding out what they are.
Ask at least three people: your supervisor, a friend, and a direct report. This way you get unique and honest comments from people who see you from three different perspectives.
Be prepared to hear surprising and even hard truths.
Decide if you care enough to address it
We’re not always in a healthy place to hear about weaknesses we don’t know about. Sometimes we need to deal with pride first.
A terrible thing would be to seek perspectives from loved ones on your blindspots only to do nothing about their responses. This can be very discouraging to those you’ve asked for honesty.
If someone ignores advice I give them, I tend to be hesitant in giving the same advice ever again.
It’s okay if you’re not in a place to explore your blindspots. There are certainly many other areas of ourselves to give attention to! Simply check your heart to see if you’re in a healthy enough place to follow through.
everyone around you wins when you deal with it
For whatever reason, you just don’t hear of people having positive blindspots. We tend to know the good things about ourselves.
Our blindspots are perhaps hidden from us because those around us want to be polite or don’t want to be nitpicky. But you can be your next paycheck that the people close to you know exactly what they are.
If you are humble enough to at least try and work on your blindspots, the loved ones around you will thank you. And their gratitude and positive feedback will only make you want to deal with your blindspots more.
Working on blindspots allows jesus to work, too
“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. -2 Corinthians 12:9
As leaders, we can forget the piece of wisdom that says to give Jesus the credit whenever possible. When working out of our strengths, it is easy and even natural to take the credit.
All of our blindspots present themselves as different spins on our weaknesses. Give your weaknesses and blindspots to Jesus in specific and persistent prayer. Then watch as you see good fruit and blessings come from areas of your life that only the Holy Spirit could make happen.
What are some other truths and benefits you have seen when it comes to blindspots and self-awareness?