As I coach and mentor professionals, I find a huge number of people who are on a successful career path but suddenly get blindsided by something they did not see coming. It is often said, “it is not what you know that will kill you, most often it is the things you don’t know that have the greatest negative impact”. I call this unknown territory your blindspots.
I can remember taking driver’s education classes in high school and before we were allowed into the car we had to watch films on driving. One of those films had examples of blindspots. It is that area just beyond your peripheral vision and yet it cannot be seen in your rearview mirror or your side mirrors. It is hard to believe, at that young age, you cannot see everything from the driver’s side of the car. Sure enough, you finally are allowed behind the wheel and the instructor stands at the side of the car, tells you to look straight ahead, then in the rearview mirror and then in the side mirror. Like magic, the instructor has disappeared! Now those of you reading this are experienced drivers today and you know there are definitely blindspots for every moving vehicle and they are different for every moving vehicle.
The same thing happens in life. We all have blindspots and they are different for each of us. They can cause us to have some bad experiences and even derail us on our path to success as individuals and teams. Here are some things to keep in mind.
- The first step to recovery is recognizing we have a problem. Do not deny you have blindspots like the kids taking drivers education for the first time. You have them and if you do not know where they are…. you are very vulnerable to being blindsided. Remember too, blindspots change as situations change. It is a lifelong battle.
- Discover your blindspots. The best defense is a good offense. Actively seek out feedback from others inside your organization. I am a big believer in 360 degree reviews for EVERYONE. Your peers, direct reports, supervisors and others you deal with in different groups within your organization should be encouraged to give you feedback on a regular basis. This intentional and regular exercise will enable you to identify your blindspots.
- Don’t let love blind you. Sometimes we become complacent because “life is good”. We love our job. We love our team. We love our success, etc. We feel all warm and cozy and that is good. Too much of anything can be damaging. Too much warm and cozy can lead to complacency. What happens with complacency is it eventually evolves into ruts and ruts are nothing more than graves with the two ends knocked out. Once people get in a rut, they tend to develop bad habits. We lose our drive, our edge and BOOM! There’s that blindside accident.
- Seek out mentors and coaches. People who are not afraid to tell you the truth and challenge your thoughts and actions. Sessions should include both praise and opportunities for improvement. You want and you need honest feedback on a regular basis. It is good for the soul and it helps keep you accountable, motivated and inspired. (May I suggest, if your current coaches and mentors do not do this, seek out new ones.)
- Expect the best but always be prepared for the worst. I have seen people rush into job changes, career changes, investments, new strategies, new markets, new relationships, etc. thinking this new endeavor is going to be the answer to all my problems. Just like changing lanes on a freeway, change requires us to take a moment to stop and check our blindspots before actually initiating the change to another lane or something new. If you do this, you dramatically reduce your chances of being blindsided.
Again, you have blindspots. We all do. I hope you recognize them so you avoid being blindsided. Go Get’em! 🙂