It is Officially Spring! I am writing this on the first day of spring, 1 September. It is also Father's day here in New Zealand, hope you had a fabulous Fathers day if you are a dad. May you lead strong and true in that very important leadership role.
There is nothing like the role of parent that gives you the opportunity to face that most dreaded thing that can make any courageous leader's blood run cold. The fact that we may be less than perfect. And even worst, that we might be the root cause of the actual problem. Gasp!
Yip! We all have blindspots.
The thing is, we are totally oblivious to them, but just as the unfortunate gentleman in the picture above, they are glaringly obvious to everybody else. This reminds me of one of the first bosses I worked for as a Legal Typist, he was a lovely round, absent-minded man, with a giant walrus moustache. He would come in almost every morning with egg on both his moustache and tie. The people in the office would have a giggle as he walked in, but not mention it to him. I would take him his coffee and give him a tissue and mention that he had a little brekkie left over before he got to any clients. He was always grateful.
This is not always the case. In most cases, if people have a less than secure boss and they try point out the blindspot, they very well might be met with anything but gratitude. I can't tell you how many conversations I have had with people who are distressed and demotivated by a boss's actions or behaviour and when I ask them if they have brought it up with the boss, they recoil, "No ways I could call him or her on that!" The sad thing is 9 times out of 10, it probably would be a career limiting move. This saddens me, because right there is where the toxic culture starts. No Trust and yes right from the top! And that's not okay!!
I know from personal experience the painful discomfort of the realisation of a personal failing that I have been totally oblivious to. It's an awful place to sit in, and sit in it, we must - if we want to be courageous, legacy leaving leaders. It means having to listen, resist the temptation to defend ourselves and to get curious, to ask questions for clarification, not defense or attack and then to apologise and make amends or adjustments. You might need to do that in more than one meeting. You may need to circle back once you have digested the information. And that is okay.
This stuff is simple, but as with anything worthwhile, it's not easy. I recently asked five people for some honest feedback and I only got two person respond. This tells me this whole thing isn't easy, not for the giver nor the receiver. But if we want lasting, healthy teams and workplaces we really do need to get comfortable with this stuff. As leaders we need to lead the way. We need to create an environment that allows this honest and open and even candid atmostphere, without fear of backlash and with genuine receiptiveness for adjustment.
Are you that kind of leader? Is your team able and allowed to give you, the leader, feedback? Do they know how to? Honestly, I don't think many of us know how to do this well. I think we should learn.