Your Blindspots Are Killing Your Coaching and Leadership

Your blindpots are killing you and everyone else. They’re killing your coaching and leadership.

Blindspots are behaviors you exhibit, routinely, regularly, that prevent you from creating an emotional connection with the people you lead.  They’re blindspots because you don’t know you exhibit these behaviors.  They’re hidden to you but are usually in plain view of everyone else.

The problem with not creating an emotional connection with the people you lead is those people won’t give you all that they have to give, and eventually their performance suffers.  Just think of a sports team – did former US Women’s national soccer team coach Jill Ellis know how to get everything her players had to give?  Did Tiger’s father know how to motivate Tiger in his prime? Did Michael Jordan inspire his teammates?  Yes, yes and yes.  They all made emotional connections.

No manager or leader is immune to having blindspots.  Everyone is cursed with them.  Titles don’t matter.  Nor does years of experience.

Let me give you a personal example of what a blindspot looks like.

I was playing golf with my father Monty and good friend Ned several years ago. On the 3rd and 4th holes I made birdies. My friend Ned was giving me high fives and big smiles. When I made birdie on the 5th hole, my third birdie in a row he was really excited. I admit I was a little amped up too.

I then birdied the next two holes to make it five in a row and by now Ned was roaring with praise. He couldn’t have been happier if I were his own flesh and blood.  Dad on the other hand, didn’t say a word.  Not even a ‘great job’ or ‘keep it up’.

Several weeks later Ned told friends my birdie binge story at a party and finished it by saying, “And you should have seen Monty. Boy was he pissed!” I was really surprised to hear Ned say this because I was there of course and I didn’t think Dad was mad. Plus I know Dad and he would have no reason to be mad at me for making a bunch of birdies. Still, Ned clearly got that impression?  How?

Dad can come across as very serious, reserved and quiet.  A guy with a good poker face.   When I played competitive golf in high school he taught me to not get emotional because that usually lead to making a mistake.  I didn’t think twice about it at the time.

Years later when I started writing Blindspots: The Hidden Killer of Sales Coaching this story came into my head because I thought it was a textbook blindspot example.  Let me tell you why.

I called Dad and asked him if he was mad at me making those birdies, though I knew what the answer would be.  Then I asked, “Can you think of any reason why Ned would have thought you were mad at me?” Again, Dad was flabbergasted, speechless.

This is why Dad’s behavior was a blindspot.  Dad had no idea he came across to Ned like he did.  You could even say I had a blindspot too in not seeing what Ned saw.

Let’s change the players and the narrative.

Let’s say you’re a salesperson and you have a manager who doesn’t know that he doesn’t endear himself to you. There’s no emotional connection. Maybe he always tries to impose on you how he used to make sales calls.  He doesn’t let you have your style, which is just as effective.  Maybe he does a poor job of recognizing your efforts, and you need that emotional fuel to keep going.  Maybe he steps in too often on sales calls with you, dominating the meeting without that being the pre-call plan.

This would annoy the hell out of most people.  It would cause some to leave to go work for a different manager.  If your manager does this once, he’ll do it eight hundred times because it’s how he’s wired.  It’s a blindspot.

Let’s change it again.   One of my clients has a challenging salesperson, a prima donna who puts lots of points on the board but who creates more chaos in the home office than a two year old at Target who was just picked up from a sleep deprivation clinic.  This salesperson consistently has unreasonable high demands, has short lead times for what he requests from people that support him, never wants to play nice with partners, and has been known to undermine those who challenge his domain.  Other than that he’s a charm.  Here’s a shocking statement – people like this don’t think for a second that their behavior is in any way inappropriate.  Their blindspots are hidden to them but are in plain view of everyone else.

If you’re wondering if blindspots are some kind of a death sentence, a flawed character trait that can’t be controlled or contained, it doesn’t have to be fatal.  But doing something about your blindspots is no easy adventure.  Self-awareness is big first step.  Being honest with yourself is key.  Being vulnerable is important.

Don’t think that blindspots are limited to behaviors that are biting, or toxic.  I know a manager who cares so deeply for her team that she’s always putting them first, and believe it or not that’s sometimes a blindspot. If she doesn’t take care of herself too, and sometimes before others, she might lack the energy and insight to look after her people properly.  I know another manager who’s blindspot prevented him from doing what was pretty obvious to me and the person who hired me to coach the manager – he couldn’t fire one of his salespeople that should have been let go long ago.

Blindspots affect your leadership and coaching and ultimately the results you seek.  The good news is there’s a way to deal with them.  It will take commitment and effort.


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