Imagine for a minute that you have some habit or behavior others don’t like. It affects your relationship with co-workers and makes it harder to effectively work together. The problem is that you have no awareness of this behavior. This habit of yours is a blind spot.
I feel confident in saying that most of us have a blind spot. Some of us may have several. It might not be a big deal, but it does have an impact on our ability to get things done when working with others.
A blind spot creates problems for individuals. So what is the effect of the collective blind spots for each member of your executive team, project team, or department? Depending on how many blind spots there are and the seriousness of each, the impact can be crippling to the group’s effectiveness.
Creating awareness of blind spots is the first step in the process of overcoming them. In the perfect world we would each have a trusted friend or mentor who would tell us the cold, hard truth in a manner that allows us to hear it. Some of us are lucky to have a person at work who is willing to do this for us. Most of us don’t.
360 degree feedback
There is another way of building awareness. It’s called 360 degree feedback. This is a process where co-workers provide you with anonymous feedback via a survey. Raters typically include your manager, peers, subordinates, and sometimes internal or external clients. As part of this process, you would also rate yourself.
Once all the ratings have been collected, reports are generated. Numerical summaries along with charts illustrate the scores for each rating item, along with groupings of items that collectively represent key competencies.
A blind spot is revealed whenever there is a significant difference between how people rated themselves and how others rated them. If the raters were generally higher, most people consider this a pleasant surprise.
It’s when they are lower that the tool’s power starts to kick in. This feedback might be the first time people learn that others don’t think their skills or abilities are up to par. It can be a tough discovery.
Once I participated in the process. It didn’t take much scanning of the results before I discovered that people questioned my honesty. This was a significant blow to my self-image as a guy who is extremely honest.
Now that I knew what people were thinking, I wanted to find out why they thought that. So I shared with some co-workers what I learned from my report and asked them to give me some ideas about why folks might not trust me. It didn’t take long before I found the answers.
First, people told me that I talk fast. This was not news to me. I’d always been a fast talker. What was news is that some of my raters equated my fast talking with trying to slip one by them. It was then that the phrase “fast-talking salesman” came to mind.
Second, people said I have a dry sense of humor. It was so dry that often they couldn’t tell if I was joking or serious. In their uncertainty, they would be cautious and a bit skeptical with everything I said. Again, the feedback that I delivered humor with a deadpan style wasn’t news. The blind spot was not knowing how it affected others.
Act on what you learn
Gaining awareness of a blind spot is just part of the solution. The second part is to make adjustments. Doing so might require you to build some new skills. It might be that you’ll have to change a habit. In either case, you are in for some hard work.
Learning about blind spots is rarely easy. But when it comes to professional effectiveness, knowing is far better than not knowing.
Which leaders or groups in your organization could benefit from participating in 360 degree feedback? If you want to talk it through, contact me for help.
Image credit: Can Stock Photo