What’s in Your Blindspot?

Like the rest of America, I fell in love with the new NBC hit TV Show, Blindspot.  The story follows a girl found in Times Square covered in tattoos all over her body.  It turns out the tattoos are clues to crimes that are about to happen, so the goal is to decipher them as quickly as possible to avert disaster.

I am definitely hooked on this new tv show!  Last week, I was joking with my fellow tribesman, Elementary School Principal Paul Erickson (aka @PrincipalPaul).  Paul and I are part of the #leadupchat Voxer group; his quick wit always accompanies his passion for education through his voxes.  One morning, he was on such a role talking through Hattie’s research captured in Visible Learning, I joked that he must have had the various effect sizes of the hundreds of influences on student achievement tattooed all over his body!
As I continued to marinate on the show and the thought of Paul covered in research data, I began to think about the title of the show, Blindspot.  A blindspot is an area where a person’s view is obstructed.  We think about blindspots when we are in the car driving.  As early drivers, we are told not to just trust the mirrors but look with our own eyes to make sure something isn’t hidden we couldn’t see previously.  Medically, everyone has a blindspot – it’s a natural part of how the brain and eyes coordinate and see information.  The trick is to recognize that blindspots exist and not rely on just what you see in front of you.  While recognizing some blindspots can avoid potential, lethal situations like driving in a car, some blindspots might not be as lethal or transmit to sudden or immediate danger.

What about the blindspots in your leadership style?  We all have them.  And, while some leaders will agree to the general sense that they have a deficiency in one way or another, many cannot (or worse, are afraid to) articulate them with specificity or clarity.  Instead, they lead like a driver only looking forward changing lanes without looking around to see those around him or caring what is around the next corner.

The first step for a leader is to recognize blindspots exist.  While many agree with the notion that “no one is perfect”, most are comfortable keeping that statement in a general sense and not probing further on where weaknesses lie for growth opportunities.  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Spend a few hours (not minutes) away from all distractions and reflect on your past year.  What went well?  What could have gone better?  Where do you think things tend to fall apart in your leadership? Write them down in a journal and refer back it to over time to look for similarities or trends.
  2. Ask someone who knows you well and who you trust.  Make sure you reserve enough time and have built the proper rapport and environment for that person to feel comfortable being open and honest.  You also need to prepare yourself to be in a place to not make excuses, not build walls, and not dismiss the feedback.  It might become emotional to hear things you may not expect, but for the sake of the organization and your growth as a leader, be open to listening.
  3. Conduct a 360 degree evaluation.  There are many paid and free tools to gather and measure feedback from members in your immediate work circle.  The goal is to determine whether there is consistency from various members in differing roles surrounding you, including yourself.  Again, look for trends and similarities in the feedback to make decisions on areas for growth.

Regardless of your method, knowing about your weaknesses is the first step in finding your blindspot.  With whatever you use to discover them, it is important to be trained in knowing what it is and where it is.  Then, as you continue creating plans and implementing strategies to grow in those areas, it is crucial to continue meeting with others and collecting feedback to monitor your progress.  The blindspot may never go away, but it may shrink considerably.   So, the more you keep it front and center, like tattooed to your body, the more you can be aware of it.  Your blindspot does not define you or who you are as a leader, but it may a mark on you even if you don’t want it to be shown.  And, with help in recognizing what your blindspot is, you can begin to work towards being a better leader.

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