You often hear about executives who are only focused on the big picture or interested in receiving updates with a 30,000-foot view.
While it’s understandable considering the many important things on their plate, having such a narrow focus can result in blind spots that can impact a company’s performance.
A Korn Ferry study found that blind spots can have a negative impact on a company’s rate of return and that 80 percent of the leaders surveyed were unaware of at least one of their blind spots.
While this can be a cause for concern during normal conditions, blind spots can become a major issue when organizations encounter turbulence and significant change. During these times, executives with a full grasp of their operations – from the bottom line to the frontline – have a higher chance of achieving a successful outcome.
As change practitioners for over a decade, we’ve come across several common blind spots that executives have when trying to address change. The good news is that through exploration and great effort, any blind spot can be addressed.
Here are five common blind spots that we’ve encountered and measures that we’ve recommended to address them.
Overconfidence: Many executives that we have collaborated have become conditioned into believing they can handle any situation they face due to the past results they have achieved. It’s resulted in a sense of invincibility.
We often address this by challenging their assumptions positively and thoughtfully by asking open-ended questions. We also count upon influential members of their inner circle to help change their attitude slowly.
Cognitive bias: Some executives find it very easy to get caught up in the momentum of a change effort and are resistant to reviewing new information or allowing for outside input.
We often address this by coaching leaders to relinquish their attachment to the outcome by inviting multiple and diverse perspectives and looking at the problem from the point of view of the end-user.
Sometimes personal values also get in the way of seeking outside help. Executives are often natural risk-takers who are highly self-confident, and they can easily get overambitious and underestimate the effort involved. We take the time to highlight that the pace of change can’t be dictated and that leading change takes a specialized skill-set that we can offer.
Impatience: Many of the executives we meet with want to implement changes as fast as possible and often think they can handle it themselves because exhibiting any sense of weakness diminishes their power and influence.
In these scenarios, we spend a significant amount of time educating our clients about the time, resources and energy that it takes to lead a successful outcome.
Prone to groupthink: Due to a lack of diversity on their leadership teams, executives are often surrounded by people like themselves and get stuck thinking in one way.
We often use coaching to create environments of psychological safety – where people from all levels of an organization are invited to share their good and bad feedback. This helps executives step out of their world view.
On occasion, we’ll go a step further and do a deeper dive on the feedback received and highlight the impact of ignoring the warning signs provided by their people.
Instinct over insight: Senior leaders tend to have a bias towards decision-making and often rely their on gut and intuition to make decisions and take action as this Irish Times article reported.
We often address this by offering different perspectives, including asking open-ended questions or leveraging the power of coaches or mentors within the organization. Data – achieved through survey results – can also bolster our recommendation and approach.
Time for reflection
Even before COVID-19, being a senior leader had its share of challenges and demands. They have only grown since the pandemic.
Now more than ever, leaders need to take a moment to identify and reflect on their strengths and weaknesses to elevate their performance and that of their organization.
If you need a little help in broadening your perspective, we are always available to assist. Just send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.