By E. Elizabeth Carter
Drivers learn that every car has a blind spot so you have to be extra careful when you want to switch lanes or are backing out of a parking space. Many people also have to watch out for blind spots when it comes to their careers. How they perceive themselves may be very different from how others, including bosses, employees, external stakeholders, and colleagues, view them. In addition, they may downplay or disregard some of their blind spots due to insecurity, ego, envy, etc. It is these blind spots that can affect an interview, a promotion, a committee appointment, or even a “seat at the table” in senior or executive level meetings.
Some of these blind spots can be not showing appreciation to others, admitting when you are wrong, being a good listener, and/or being honest with others (and yourself).
So how does one combat this? The first thing you need to do is reflect. Review old performance reviews and think about where you have succeeded and when you have failed. Are there patterns to your behaviors? Do you act differently under stress and say or do things that you later regret? Are you the type who acts/speaks first and then asks questions later? Or are you the type that does not speak up even when you disagree on a topic? Do you have a hard time listening to feedback especially when it is critical of your performance? Are you too hard on yourself? Are you a perfectionist? Do you play the victim?
Once you have had a tough conversation with yourself, write down some questions you can ask others (or use the ones above). By asking the same questions of each person, you avoid forgetting to ask something but more importantly you can quantify their responses. Their perceptions of you may differ based on level of person and/or circumstances i.e. people from your former company versus now but hopefully you will start to get a picture of how others view you.
Another aspect to identifying your blind spots is taking some assessments. I prefer the DISC which is an online assessment tool that explains “how” you behave, not “why” you behave. The two-graph version is the best in that it gives you a graph of yourself at work and also one at home. Ideally the graphs should be the same but there are times when they can be very different such as when someone is experiencing bad economic times, stress, and personal trauma.
Some companies also use 360 assessments where employees, peers, and supervisors can anonymously provide feedback about a person. The positive to this one is that others may feel uncomfortable saying something negative to a person face to face or they may fear retaliation. The negative is that the person being assessed cannot ask follow-up questions to drill down further.
Armed with all this information, your blind spots should be evident. It may be very difficult for you to acknowledge some or all of these but that is natural. The key here is to be more aware of your actions. Developing an action plan to alter some of your behaviors is necessary if you want the perceptions of others to change. It will take time so patience is important and be kind to yourself. Trying to swiftly change will not be sustainable and it could be detrimental in the long run to your career.