How to Find (and Work With) Your Professional Blind Spots

By: Vicki Haverson

We all know that forgetting to check our mirrors and ignoring our Blind Spots when changing lanes on the motorway is dangerous. What is equally dangerous is ignoring our individual Blind Spots which can lead to destructive behaviour and the potential breakdown of relationships.

Every single one of us has Blind Spots. This is when our mind can’t take in information and, like a Blind Spot in your car review mirror, you can’t see it.

A Blind Spot can be defined as an ‘area where you lack awareness of your weaknesses.’ If you consider this from the perspective of your strengths, when we are in our Blind Spot we feel frustrated and confused. It can feel draining and frustrating - rather like the person in front of us is talking a foreign language that we can’t understand. We can’t see their perspective or meet our own needs, which is when our strengths can show up as weaknesses to those around us as we overuse them to compensate.

If you consider for a moment that there are 34 strengths in the ​Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment, and that we typically play to 8 to 10 of our strengths most of the time, it means we are completely blind to around 40 to 50% of the perspectives of other people around us who don’t share the same strengths as us. On the basis it would take 170 years to get good at all 34 strengths, every single one of us has Blind Spots. More importantly, because we all have Blind Spots, we all need to work with other people to gain a 360-degree view of a problem or situation.

A study by Korn Ferry Institute highlighted that in the workplace, our Blind Spots, which are also referred to as weaknesses, can become hugely problematic when they are ignored or tolerated. Leaders who ignore their Blind Spots can fail to inspire or build talent and instead under-leverage their team’s ability and undermine other’s contributions. They spend the majority of their time working independently or with other like minded people, ignoring the perspectives of others who are in their Blind Spot.

Imagine for a moment a Leader with the Clifton StrengthsFinder talents of Activator, Significance, Command and Communication, all influencing strengths. These strengths are more than comfortable in taking the leading and being centre of attention and bring a huge energy and momentum to projects. They also like to win, have lots of passion and are driven to be their best.

This particular Leader needs recognition and to know they have been seen and heard. They also need autonomy and without it have a tendency to go off on their own if they don’t feel fully utilized. When they don’t feel understood they can become more forceful and tell people what to do which to others might be discouraging, confusing and frustrating.

So how do you become Blind Spot aware? The first step is to understand what your strengths are and recognize your areas of non-strength – your Blind Spots. Learning about your Blind Spots helps you make intentional choices to be productive and flexible in new ways – to listen to others and understand their perspective by being curious about their assessment of an issue or situation.

Going back to our Leader, imagine for a moment they are managing someone with the strengths of Empathy, Relator, Individualization and Connectedness which are all Relationship Building strengths. People with relationship building strengths have the ability to see people for who they really are. They are also good at understanding how people feel and what they need and tune easily into the emotions of others of the situation. Often they are warm, smiley, genuine and caring. For Leaders with strong influencing strengths relationship builders can often come across as lacking in confidence and less effective in moving forward with the momentum they are looking for, particularly if their strengths sit in their Blind Spot. But what if the Leader understood what these strengths bring to the team and instead enrolled them to help pick up on the energy and emotion of others and provide meaningful acknowledgement and encouragement? Working together they would be able to achieve outstanding results.

Increased self awareness of our Blind Spots leads to higher performance and fulfilment, putting us in a better position to make decisions. If we refuse to see or acknowledge our Blind Spots there is a high price to pay, both personally and professionally.

This article previously appeared on ​LinkedIn.

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Vicki Haverson is the Director of Strengths-Based Development at Sparks International Training. She's passionate about helping change the landscape of the work place through understanding, developing and applying individual and team strengths.

Ellevate Network is a global women’s network: the essential resource for professional women who create, inspire and lead. Together, we #InvestInWomen.

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