Leadership blind spots, Chapter 3: How to build or rebuild your positive professional reputation to succeed as a leader

People today have become mad about feedback.  We wear specific types of clothes, measure our health state with phone apps, answer questionnaires about our mental and psychological state of mind, wear trackers, showing how our heart is functioning, check social media to see how they position according to the levels of likes they receive,  etc.  Everyone wants to know how are they doing among others. But when it comes to a professional reputation, many people are reluctant to find out what others think about them. We want to learn and grow, but on the other hand, we want to be accepted the way we are. Sometimes feedback may be uncomfortable,  but you can’t effectively manage blind spots and accelerate in your career if you don’t get relevant ongoing feedback about your reputation. And to achieve that you don’t need to guess, you only need to ask. But when asking you need to focus on being targeted on a particular aspect you want to further grow or change at the current moment. There is a simple principle here: AS GENERIC AS YOU ASK THE GENERIC ANSWERS YOU WILL GET.

To get more easily  to the desired targeted feedback about your reputation  you can use three methods:

  • Gather input from people you trust and interact with  regularly;
  • Design a questionnaire you can distribute to others;
  • Get participation in a comprehensive 360 assessment;

You must understand and accept that your intentions can be great, but the actual impact is what gets noticed. By comparing your reputation goals with the feedback you gathered from others, you can now identify the areas where you have gaps. Those are actually your leadership blind spots.  But you must also accept that some of the blind spots you identify are not necessarily negatives. They may be things you just undervalue All the points you identify,  whether positive or negative are your blind spots or disconnects. You must find them to understand what is blocking your success in a particular area of development. After you identify the disconnects your next step must be to plan actions to transform them by focusing on specific areas, instead of general issues and emphasize on your hidden strengths and talents.

To move forward in this process you need to:

 – Consider disconnects

 – Analyze examples in a context

 – Keep an open mind when considering situations

Assumptions about blind spots can be very dangerous. When leaders make them, blind spots can undermine their reputation and career. Some of the assumptions leaders must take are in areas as talent acquisition, vision, communication, motivation, performance, capacity, etc.

Strong example for that in the talent acquisition area is when a leader is more likely to hire similar-like people.  That strategy,  even though it looks like the best possible is not always winning. By following this plan leaders lose the opportunity to get diverse thinking and innovation into the team and that reflects in a negative way also on them.

Another strong example you can easily find in the is of communication. The leader thinks that by default as he has all the contacts and resources to finish the job, also all team members are in the same situation. But the reality shows that often performance struggles because people don’t have contacts, neither the resources they need.

To avoid pitfalls in these areas, as a leader you must think outside the box and talk frequently with people from your team to identify current status and opportunities and needs for change and support. Also, you will need to realize and accept that in order to be successful, flexibility is not your enemy, but your friend. 

To plan your work on the blind spots you must first as a leader accept that you now work in a changing environment. Most people, even after moving to new positions follow the maxima:  “If it is not broken then don’t fix it”.

Moving through their professional path these people develop a formula that helps them to progress as individuals. They meet deadlines and goals,  work long hours, etc.  Then they get promoted to a new role and things stop working for them.

They follow the proven formula, but they don’t get results. And that causes their teams to begin to struggle, to perform below the standards and these newly promoted experts fall short as leaders. What you must understand as a leader is that when you move to a new role the formula of success also changes. If you don’t understand and accept it you can create a major blind spot that holds can hold you back. To manage this you will need to agree on three critical for success shift:

Shift your perspective from tactical to strategic
That means to think beyond your daily team performance and consider much larger business implications. 

Shift your focus to building and sustaining relationships
You must understand that you are not playing a solo game anymore. Your success now depends on your ability to work with and through other people. You have to focus on growing as an expert in reading people and connecting with them., no matter the level they are on.  

Shift perceptions
Shape the way you are perceived by others. To achieve that you will need to increase your executive presence. That includes changing not only your physical appearance but also the way you speak, give presentations, etc.  To make that possible you must focus on making knowledge acquisition your top priority.

Once you realize that there is a new formula you must use,  you can then apply your work ethic in a fresh way,  helping you to achieve success on a new level. If you recognize the roadblock you will be able to make the shift.

But on your way to become a more influential and strong leader, you must face a threat, masked as another blind spot. This threat comes from overusing the strengths you have built on your path for growth up to now.  Some of the strengths that have made you successful in the past and have separated you from others and granted you your rewards and even your next role may now block you in your new role as a leader.  The overuse of strengths are showing as four different blind spots:   

Overly result oriented
Some people achieve early success as hard driving and goal focused. Once they move into a leadership role, they may tend to over-rely on that approach. They push their teams to the limit and giving the impression that they aren’t considering the people side of the equation.

 Overly risk averse
Some leaders have a reputation on being methodical and thorough, they know every compliance rule or financial regulation and they keep their teams out of troubles in many cases and occasions by knowing what not to do. But at some point, these leaders become known as the ones who are pointing on the pitfalls in every new idea. These people see themselves as practical and realistic, but everyone else sees them as inflexible and opposed to innovation.

 Overly  composed
Some people excel by maintaining composure even during a crisis. These people who can hold it together when everything is falling apart are critical in a fast-paced and highly competitive environment. Their calm demeanor gives them an edge over coworkers who panic in an intense situation. They adopt that attitude in every situation and with every group.

 Overly  passionate
Some people have charisma and enthusiasm,  their teams love them, and they present really outstanding results. But as those people rise through the company ladder, they keep ratcheting the passion that they have been rewarded for in the past. Colleagues begin to view them as overzealous and relentlessly vocal.

You must understand and accept that leveraging your strengths can lead to success but overuse may lead to blind spots.   

If you use old methods in a changing environment, then you are planning to block your own progress. Knowing isn’t enough. You have to apply what you have learned. But to succeed you will need to follow the principle of applied self-awareness.  To apply the plan for working with the blind spots you have identified you will need to follow clear strategies that can guarantee you that your success. Here I’m offering you  three different strategies that may  help  you:

Focus on what matters
Understand that when identifying blind spots you may uncover more than one. You will need to focus only on those that affect your ability to lead.  To achieve that ask yourself questions about what skills and attributes you need to be a successful leader, what from those skills and attributes are most valued, by your company or in your industry, etc. If you have identified blind spots in those areas you must start with them to make the biggest impact.

Target your growth
Get specific about areas for development. Address all the nuances that can make an impact on your development and how others experience you. Create a plan so that you can close the unique gaps that are holding you back. And don’t go general.

Maintain a balance between fixes of your blind spots
Adjust your behavior slowly to improve your impact while still aligning with your natural tendencies.

Make the process continuous
Understand that blind spots are not a one-time issue. Nuances change over time when you move through different positions and start working with new people. The best professionals know how to get moving feedback, adjusted to the time and position they hold that they can make adjustments to close any gaps.

If you consistently take actions to manage your blind spots you will optimize your effort and increase your impact on the business and influence on others. Consistency seen as the catalyst and careful planning with small steps and focus on specifics can help you experience significant improvement in your reputation and your career path.

Read the previous chapters:

Leadership  blind spots: Chapter 1-  What you need to know to understand the leadership  blind spots

Leadership  blind spots, Chapter 2 – How to identify  blind spots  and plan your growth as a leader

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