For the past several weeks since my new book Blindspots: The Hidden Killer of Sales Coaching was published, I’ve been on a tear spreading the word about this phenomena I call blindspots. I’ve suggested that they are killing your coaching and leadership.
It’s possible that some of you are still struggling to understand how this really affects you, because you believe you’re doing just fine, you know there’s always room to improve, and you don’t believe you have any problems that could be having a significant effect on your leadership.
I understand how this is possible. I denied my blindspots for many, many years. In the book I share my story of what it finally took for me to see clearly.
In this blog I want to tell you about two very well-known leaders who fell hard because of their blindspots. I would bet my next commission that both men would’ve said that, before the respective pivotal events that rocked their worlds, they too were completely blindsided by what occurred.
Before the start of the 2018 college football season Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer unwittingly professed to his own blindspot regarding his program. Meyer was heavily criticized for not being 100% transparent with information he knew regarding an assistant coach. This was serious stuff – an investigation into a domestic abuse allegation made by the wife of an assistant coach on Meyer’s staff. Meyer was also heavily criticized for not knowing more about this situation.
The PR damage crushed Meyer, the football team and the university. Though Meyer was never seriously considered culpable regarding the allegations, and the assistant coach was never charged, Ohio State president Michael Drake suspended Meyer for the first three games of the season.
Why did coach Meyer think it could be OK to not be fully transparent with what he did know? I’d say it was because of a blindspot.
In the press conference the day before his first game back following the suspension, Meyer was asked if he thought that members of his staff were reluctant to bring him negative information. “I hope not”, he said. People need to feel comfortable coming to me. I always thought I created that atmosphere.” Well, maybe coach was wrong.
If you’re a college football fan you know that Urban Meyer strikes a serious and intimidating demeanor. Would you like to bring him bad news? His blindspot was in not seeing that his serious, intimidating demeanor might actually create the opposite of what he wanted – instead of people feeling comfortable coming to him with negative information his demeanor discouraged them from doing so.
I know people who personally know coach Meyer. I have every reason to believe that he is a good man who cares deeply about his players and coaches and his community. The expectations of a public figure like coach are reasonably high, easily matched by the public’s appetite for castigating perceived missteps.
The second public figure is Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau. Recently, someone uncovered photos of the PM at a party when he was 29 years old dressed in a ‘black face’ costume. Other, very public political figures have dressed up like this in their pasts. Most educated people should know by now that this behavior is considered very offensive to black people.
Mr. Trudeau was quick to confess to the “massive blindspot” in his thinking. He said, “I have always acknowledged that I came from a place of privilege, but I now need to acknowledge that comes with a massive blindspot.”
This is not the venue to debate anything about these two events and the sensitive subject matter of both. I would bet my next commission check that both Meyer and Trudeau are deep down good men with honorable hearts, and like all people they made some big mistakes due to their blindspots.
The paradox of the blindspot is that these hard lessons are gifts meant to teach us something about ourselves. I wouldn’t begin to attempt what those lessons are for Meyer and Trudeau, but if they don’t learn big from the lessons then the gift is wasted.
In my next blog I’ll reveal some of the reasons that you get in your own way.