January 2014

Leader Blind Spots  (Part 1)

I had a wonderful opportunity to appear on a local TV station recently, to talk about my work with leader blind spots and my new book, Simple Shifts.  In this short segment, we briefly covered three of the most common leader blind spots that I see.   I received lots of feedback wanting more information about these blind spots, so I’m going to devote the next six newsletters to each of the six I see most frequently.  Click here to view the 4-minute TV interview.

Leader blind spots are those unproductive behaviors that are frequently invisible to the leader, but quite visible to their teams, bosses, and peers.  Much like the blind spots we experience when driving, the things we don’t see can get us into the most trouble, and none of us are immune to blind spots.   Great leaders know their blind spots, and continue to work on seeing them from multiple perspectives. 

Understanding your Butterfly Effect

You are probably familiar with the theory behind the “butterfly effect” where a small change in one place can result in a large (often negative)  effect in another state.  The name comes from the example that a hurricane or large wind storm is created from the flapping of butterfly wings several weeks prior.

From a leadership perspective, the butterfly effect is similar.  Leaders are often unaware of the full impact of their behaviors on others.   For example, I’m currently coaching a leader who keeps his office door frequently shut which is sending a message to the team to “stay out”, even though it’s not his intention.  He says they can knock or enter at any time, so he didn’t see it as a problem.  But the feedback from the team clearly indicated that they see this leader as inaccessible.  That perception has created a loss of productivity, motivation and engagement.  The good news is that this situation is an easy fix.  

Unintentional Impacts

Here is a more complicated example of the ‘butterfly effect’.   I have yet to work with a leader who isn’t at least a little surprised by initial feedback that I do with the leader’s selected peers and direct reports and this client was no exception.  This leader was a highly skilled medical professional with great technical knowledge and expertise in charge of a team of over 100 professionals and technicians.  Her goal was to create a more energized, enthusiastic team of medical professionals, based on low engagement scores over the past several years. 

The important insight for her was to recognize her own ‘butterfly effect’ on the team.  The feedback on her strengths and opportunities pointed to a strong need to maximize her relationship skills with this team.  And because she was a self-proclaimed introvert she had discounted the value of building personal relationships with her staff and she was seen as disconnected from the team.  

While the goal was not to 'change' her into a relationship expert, there were simple steps she could take to connect with her team and create a new perception reflecting her true leadership intentions resulting in renewed energy with her staff.

We all have Blind Spots

It’s not hard to understand how we can be blind to our own contributions to the problems.  The key is to remain open to self-examination. 

What’s your ‘butterfly effect’?

  • Are your actions in sync with your words?  How do you know?
  • Are you creating unintentional perceptions that can hurt you?
  • How do your leadership behaviors enhance or undermine the results you are trying to achieve?

Take a few moments this month to reflect on these questions, and then ask some trusted peers or colleagues to validate your answers.

    Next month we’ll take a look at how important it is for leaders to shift between ‘being on the balcony and the dance floor’.

    Are you achieving the results you want?
    The best leaders make simple shifts or practical changes for big results.  I work closely with leaders to create practical solutions to achieve real success. Let me help you discover what's possible. Visit my website www.terrihughes.com for details.

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