Knowing your weaknesses helps you become a better leader. Being mindful of a bias or hole in your approach alone assists in mitigating it. Even better, communicating your problem areas with your team can go miles in preventing misunderstandings and poor communication.
But how do you uncover blind spots... you are blind to them!
We can assume that if we are naturally uninterested in something, we most likely haven't developed nuance and strength in that area. So looking at areas across your business and your personal life where you are interested verses uninterested may give some clues about where your blind spots are.
Here is an example of one I walked through recently. Fill in 1-10 how interesting the following areas are to you. Be sure to do this based on natural interest, not what you believe is important, or where you feel you are skilled.
- Design of appraisal and reward systems
- Management of financial risk
- Product positioning
- Product or service quality
- Project management systems
- Employee morale
- Relationships with customers
- Relationships with Suppliers
- Relationships among R&D, marketing, Operations
- Equity / Fairness
- Cost Consciousness
- Organizational customer focus
- Continuous Improvement
- Cross Functional Cooperation
Note: This is from The First 90 Days.
For me this look something like this:
Now we can take these scores and look at their corporate areas and functional areas to find where we score low.
As can be expected, I am most interested in the technical side of the business, and less interested in making sure every gets along and is happy. This opens the door for a lot of problems to bubble up. Not everyone has my focus on the "machine" and building it day by day, whatever it takes.
Without being aware of this weakness, a number of issues could arise making the operation less stable, or worse.
- Inter-department conflicts and communication problems
- Projects getting dropped at handoff
- Data protecting/hiding between people
- Growing distrust between working groups
So what do you do with this information and how do you change your leadership because of it?
Here are a few implementable ideas
Communicate it to your team
Share with you team that you have some weaknesses in certain areas. Ask them for feedback, nudges, and polite acknowledgements when they feel you are missing something in one of these areas.
Write it out
In our documentation, I have a "Working with me" section. Write out your weaknesses, why they are there, and again ask for candid feedback.
Look for articles, books, and other helpful materials to beef up your weak spots. For me I have been reading more books on leadership, teams, communication, and emotional intelligence. I may not be as interested, but that is not an excuse to not become a master in this area.
Watch your wake
A great way to see how you are doing in your blind spots is to watch the performance of those areas after you touch them, interact with them, work on them. If people are happy and working well together, the business is growing and pleasing customers, and the culture is healthy, then the actions you are taking may be working correctly. Find some measurements, use surveys, or whatever means necessary to understand the health of these areas over time.
Ask others on your team who may be better to help or even manage those areas. A company works best when individuals are working in areas of interest and skill. Just because you have a certain title, doesn't mean you cant ask for help, delegate a responsibility to someone better, or flat out move it off your plate.
Share the exercise
Asking others on your team to do the same may build trust and empathy inside of the team. Creating strong ties that transcend business is key to an effective team that can execute well.