Imagine being on the baseline of a tennis court and looking over at your opponent’s side of the court. You can see everything on your side as well as the other side of the net, right?If you’re taller than 5′ 6”, you can easily see the far baseline, then, depending on your height and exactly where you are standing, you can see much of the far court between the service line and the baseline. As you look in the service area of your opponent’s court, you’ll notice that your vision is blocked by the net. The white vinyl part of the net called the headband runs along the top of the net is entirely opaque, and that creates a blind spot. You simply cannot see what goes on when the headband is between your eyes and something you want to see on the other side of the court, like where your kick serve actually hit the line.
In a car, there is a gap in your visual field between what your side mirror shows and what you’d see with a quick glance to your left, which is why we’re taught to turn our head farther back before changing lanes or making a left turn.
In business, we all have blind spots, too. Often, because they are conceptual, they are invisible, and therefore even harder to detect than a 130 MPH flat serve that kisses the center line of a hard court. As I work with entrepreneurs and executives to improve their leadership skills, we talk about both relational blind spots and technical blind spots.
Here are three examples of relational blind spots:
Technical blind spots are easier to identify and alter: one version is judging new things by an outdated standard (e.g., “Why would anyone want a phone where you can’t feel the keys?”), another is favoring a discipline you are familiar with or interested in at the expense of criteria that your bosses/customers will be using to evaluate satisfaction (e.g. “Hey, we put on another terrific sales conference, didn’t we — what, how did we go over budget by that much!?”), and a third is focusing at the wrong depth, often on trivial details (e.g. “This health report is going to impact WHO policy and save thousands of lives through more efficacious disease management protocols, but I’d hate to send it out until we match the format of the footer we used 2 years ago.”).
Blind spots need to be recognized and acknowledged before they can be overcome. We can’t develop x-ray vision, but we can learn to neutralize and change habits that lead to conflict, poor communications, and distorted perspective. The people who follow us deserve better leadership over time, and that’s why the best leaders are not just open to learning, but are eager to learn new tools, new ideas, and new perspectives that can help improve their effectiveness and minimize their blind spots.
Your Steps on the Growth Path:
Bill Ringle is a CEO, former Apple exec, published author, and angel investor. Through Grow Business Now, he offers strategies and tools to elevate growth for executives and entrepreneurs from more than 46 industries. Bill has conducted nearly 200 podcast interviews on My Quest for the Best, where industry and business leaders share their secrets to success.