Sucker-punched: Why Watching for Blind Spots is Mission-Critical

Bright Spots:  the places in our world where success is being created, where things are working well, where we are getting things right.  Being aware of our Bright Spots, and paying attention to what works and why, helps us better learn how to map a path toward success in the future.

Blind Spots:  the places where our failures and foibles, liabilities and lost opportunities lurk.  Blind spots are the aspects of a situation we are unable to see or understand.

Question: Why would anyone want to learn about their Blind Spots?

Answer: So that you don’t get Sucker-Punched.

I have been sucker-punched by a Blind Spot and I lived to tell you about it.

Here is what I have to say:  It stinks.  (I could be more colorful.)  And it can really cost you.

Thankfully, there are a number of things you can do to learn the landscape of your Blind Spots.

I encourage you to practice these Blind Spot Banishing Skills, so that you don’t have to “learn from experience” (a nice euphemism for “I got Sucker-Punched”.)  How to see your Blind Spots:

Blind Spot Banishing Skill #1:  ASK

Be Curious.  Ask questions that are calibrated to help you discover the pitfalls and perils that lie just beyond your awareness.  Questions like,

Ø  “What am I missing that others are concerned about?”

Ø  “What are 3 different ways I could be looking at this situation, and what would you suggest I do differently based on those other points of view?”

Ø  “How might other people be interpreting my actions? What am I doing to contribute to these impressions?”

Blind Spot Banishing Skill #2:  IMAGINE

Think about the situation from the points of view of others who are impacted or involved.

Ø  What do they believe is true about what is happening?

Ø  What facts do they have?

Ø  How might they be interpreting those facts?

Ø  What experiences do they have that contribute to their different beliefs about the same events?

Blind Spot Banishing Skill #3:  RELATE

Build relationships with both confidantes and detractors.

We need all kinds of people to help us understand the way we come across.  I have learned some of my best lessons in life from people who were not the easiest for me to be around.

Ø  Create the conditions for people you disagree with or lack chemistry with to be honest with you about how you come across.  Their insights are a real gift.  Really!

Ø  Have candid conversations with confidantes as well.  A confidante is someone who can give you hard feedback, and you, for whatever reason, can hear them.  They will give you invaluable insight, particularly if you ask in an intentional, open way.  And because they “get” you,these people are often able to explain how to apply both their feedback, and the feedback you get from your detractors.

Blind-Spots are great until they cost us.  It is so easy and comfortable to be unaware of how we come across with what we say and do. However, moving through life blissfully unaware of a lurking liability is not the way for a leader to succeed in the long run.

So, stay open, be curious, invite new insights, and build relationships with people that are both easy and challenging for you to connect with.  When we show others we are open, curious and care about how we come across, you will find they are more willing to share with us that one piece of advice that might make all the difference between success and failure.

If you have a story to share about how you Banished a Blind Spot, I invite you to share it with me.  I would love to use it in an upcoming Lessons Learned the Hard Way series.  

You can email your story to me at


What type of peer are you?  How would your direct reports talk about you?  How about key customers?

I have recently been working with a team that is struggling with trust issues at the Executive Level.  This is a progressive company that has had tremendous success in the past and has cutting edge ideas that are reinventing the business they are in.  However, the Executives can barely stand to be in the same room.  Have you ever been in this type of situation?  I believe you probably have been at some point in your career.

I want you to think about a peer you really trust.  What is it about this person that allows you to open up and share your ideas, concerns and hopes?  We do an exercise at Voltage called Elements of Trust.  There are 6 characteristics of Trust and we ask people to rate the following elements from 1-6 (1 is high, 6 is low) reflecting how important each element is to each person.

6 characteristics of Trust

·       Time

·       Standards

·       Competence

·       Involvement

·       Sincerity

·       Reliability

Many times trust issues result because we value different things.  If you value competence highly and someone says they can do something but then does not perform the task appropriately, you are going to have a trust breakdown.  They may have been sincere, on time, and involved you and others but, if they miss the result, it will still be hard for you to trust this individual.

We took the previously mentioned Executive Team through this exercise.  Two had standards in their mind that had not been expressed.  Another two really cared about sincerity and thought competence could be grown over time.  However, another two thought you had to have proven competence or else they would not want to work with you on the project.  They realized that some of their challenges were because they valued different things and this understanding helped them in resolving their trust issues.  Try the Elements of Trust exercise at your organization and see what you discover.