The City of Carmel, Indiana, where I reside, has decided to build as many roundabouts as possible to maximize safety and traffic flow. However, for those of us challenged by “the blind spot” when driving, two lane roundabouts are like a minefield of collision opportunities! I received a link today, (from a very loving friend who always insists on driving) to a Roundabout driving academy to help motorists! I have vowed to not take anything personally but………….I might look into it. I want to be a better driver and understand how to work with my blind spots!
On a personal level, I can feel it in my body when I am in my intellectual Blind Spot. The nature of communication around me sounds like a foreign language. My eyes start to glaze over and I feel exhausted. Based on the ideas in this article by DeAnna Murphy, this is a key opportunity to embrace the people and strengths that cover my Blind Spot. When I choose to identify feelings of uneasiness and discomfort as seeds of opportunity to understand something that does not come naturally to me……..ah, that is emotional intelligence! I have the opportunity to create interdependent relationships that will allow everyone in my sphere of influence to succeed.
Imagine you are standing in the middle of a large circle, with the circle representing a complex problem or challenge you are currently facing. There are multiple perspectives represented all the way around the circle, some of which are in the range of your vision, and others that fall outside of what you can see.
Using Gallup’s 25 years of research that suggests all possible strengths fall into 34 themes, you find these strengths around you. They fall into three broad categories:
- Primary Strengths
- Secondary Strengths
- Blind Spot.
Your strengths are like a contact lens, through which you see the world. Your Primary Strengths (your top 8-10 strengths) significantly influence what you value, how you prioritize things, and how you approach your work and your relationships.
Your Secondary Strengths (usually 6-8 additional strengths) also influence you, but they fall into your peripheral vision, and only influence you under certain circumstances.
But there are some strengths that are difficult or impossible for you to access–they are in your Blind Spot. They are perspectives and tools that are foreign to you.
Most of us are blind, or somewhat blind, to as much as 50-65% of the possible perspectives… although most of us also don’t think this is the case. The hard truth, however, is that what we are seeing through our lens is only a fraction of the perspectives that are available.
It is important to be aware of your Blind Spot, because it contributes significantly to your relationship tension and frustration. When relationships are not working well, productivity and engagement often disappear.Blind Spot collisions wreak havoc on teams and in personal relationships. Such collisions can injure your pride and reduce your self confidence. They may even make you cynical about ever being able to work with certain other people.
Time for good news, bad news.
The bad news is that there will always be individuals whose strengths may be in your Blind Spot, and vice versa. You need to accept this reality.
The good news, however, is that such people have the greatest potential to increase your effectiveness. The people with whom you have the most frequent Blind Spot collisions are likely your most necessary and valued strategic partners.
Why? They see what you cannot— and they can help you even more than those whose strengths are similar to yours.
There is, however, a big “if” to this statement. Those who are most different from you can be your most valued strategic partners only IF you see, understand, and value strengths— both your own, and those of others.
So, next time you butt heads with someone else, consider two possibilities:
- Each of you is in the other person’s Blind Spot, which is why it feels so difficult to work with that person.
- Back to back, working together, you might make an impressive team. All it takes is the vision to understand what you don’t see, and the determination to find partners who can help you eliminate the weaknesses that grow out of your Blind Spot.
I am looking forward to beginning the Strategic Strengths Coaching Certification Program with Strengths Strategy in just a few weeks. The insights and deep work this team of strategists has developed around the strengths and positive psychology model resonates with everything I believe in.
Earlier this year I did a short Strengths Presentation for a staff of 25. I met with the manager several times and each time we met he referred to one staff member that he really wanted to get rid of. This individual really rubbed him the wrong way and he was looking for a reason and way to let him go. When we began to analyze the overall mapping of the strengths profiles of his staff, I realized that this particular individual had the most diverse, unique strengths profile of the entire group. It was easy to see why he might not appear to “fit in”.
I shared this information with the manager and suggested that we even give him a special role in the workshop. As you might expect, things did not go exactly as planned, the manager maintained his overwhelming negativity towards this individuals work. I received a negative review of the workshop and the staff member who brought strengths that were unrepresented by another staff member was fired.
I will be honest, I felt like this manager was in my Blind Spot! What did I learn from this experience?
I think that I came into the situation with confident vulnerability and was not met with confident vulnerability on the other side of the table. Some people may feel that the strengths conversation forces them to take off their own masks. I happen to love my strengths but not everyone feels comfortable with their talent profile if they think it might not be good enough or what their employer, boss, or spouse needs. Furthermore, they may feel threatened by the strength profile of others.
My biggest take-away from this experience was that I needed to be more sensitive to others reactions to their strengths profile and the strengths profile of others. I want to create a safe environment for them to stand naked in front of the strengths mirror. Creating an environment where confident vulnerability is honored and trust has been gained should be a higher priority. Also, understand that confident vulnerability can be learned; it does not come naturally to us; it is a high level aspect of emotional intelligence!
DeAnna Murphy has over 7,000 hours coaching and facilitating experiential learning and leadership development programs – and is the founder and president of Strengths Strategy Inc., the leading strengths application organization in the world. Learn more at www.unlockingstrengths.com. She is the author of soon-to-be-released Unlocking Strengths, The Key to Accelerating Energy, Performance, and Relationships.