You can’t manage what you can’t see. I’ve said these words often, yet their clear, immediate truth escapes me when I’m lost in mindless blindness. Who, me? Yes, I’m prone to terrible vision when I feel sleepy, annoyed, anxious, hungry, defensive… and the list goes on.
So what to do in a world of the blind leading the blind? It helps to acknowledge reality: no one has perfect vision. (I’m not referring to the lucky minority with 20/20 eyesight.)
Much of my business comes from people who understand their limits and who value feedback. They realize there are things they don’t know and can’t see. These include habitual (and possibly harmful) behaviors, ineffective communication, or unique blind spots.
My clients are motivated to improve their focus and insight. I admire their courage, not because I use frightening methods, but because becoming your “best self” is a challenging, lifelong path. Many share this wish: “If only the boss/board chair/CEO/member of Congress… would listen/care/be open to change, etc.!” I commiserate and encourage them to be positive role models, no matter what the boss is doing.
I’ve noticed how leaders who manage eye problems (with glasses, contact lenses, or laser surgery) may be less willing to address how they’re viewed by others. I’ve heard this story for years: our leader doesn’t know or care what’s happening! She chooses not to see important developments. He prefers not to look beyond assumptions, beliefs or his ego (others have referred to this as the “CEO disease”). Changes are coming, communication is collapsing, customers are cursing, colleagues are complaining… and the chief is oblivious.
Ignorance is bliss. Why mess with success? This attitude may work for awhile, but it’s damaging in the long run. Human beings easily overlook “little things” they can’t see, until they realize they’re missing something very important. Then they care, big time, but it may be too late.
Even the most stubborn people take action if worsening eyesight gets in the way of reading, getting around safely in a car, or enjoying life. Grudgingly, perhaps, we acknowledge what we can’t see. We fail a driving test or get tired of squinting at the TV. We do something about it. In my case, I adjusted from my first pair of glasses at age nine to contact lenses and the current middle-aged reading glasses. Trifocals or “transition lenses” are next. I’m clear about the inevitability of changing eyesight.
Eyesight is one thing, insight another. Some people claim they understand others perfectly well, but aren’t interested in self-reflection or introspection: It’s dismissed as self-indulgent navel gazing. I’m sure one can spend too much time looking within. I’m equally sure many leaders spend too little time (or no time at all) focusing on what they’re missing and mismanaging.
Every moment I invest in the pursuit of insight pays dividends. Mindful exploration of my blind spots is uncomfortable. It’s also rewarding. Self-reflection develops qualities that matter to me: emotional intelligence, empathy, and greater sensitivity to others. When the fog clears I’m more likely to notice the “obvious” thing I may have overlooked, including an azalea bush in full, glorious bloom in my front yard.