There is a growing number of managers in North America who have ambition and are hitting a brick wall. I’m here to tell you it is not the manager’s fault. To blame is the evasive and mysterious blind spot that has crippled the management ranks into a festering pool of frustration.
Blind spots are created when there are aspects of our behaviour or personality we are not consciously aware of.
Some of you have heard of the Johari Window. Your blind spot is the area of your personality that others may or may not know about you, but that you certainly don’t know about yourself.
In my experience with managers, there are two behavioural blind spots that most inhibit their advancement into executive ranks:
- The manager is dictatorial in nature, has strong opinions, gets frustrated waiting for others to catch up, is liked by those who are equally as impatient, and typically comes across as not very compassionate with counterparts and employees. These are the very characteristics that got this individual promoted in the first place, and yet for some reason they are not serving to get him to the next level.
- The manager is overly sympathetic, is liked by many, seeks harmony and consensus, and can seem indecisive at times. These, too, are the characteristics that got this person promoted, and do not seem to be moving him any further in his career.
Many sense this is the problem. Few know how to overcome it.
Jungian personality theory tells us that the first manager does indeed have at least one compassionate bone in his or her body, and the sympathetic manager has probably been known on occasion to become quite feisty and decisive, perhaps with family or friends.
In all likelihood, each manager is perfectly capable of expressing the opposite side of their personality, but it is just a bit unnatural for them. It is the side less practiced, because for whatever reason while they were growing up they found more usefulness in their life for the behaviours they are expressing today. That “other side” of their personality buried itself away in their blind spot.
The good news is that the blind spot can be found with a good dose of feedback and observation, as long as the manager is willing to receive it. Here is the thing about blind spots - we never become aware of them unless someone tells us they are there. Mentors and coaches are particularly useful in this regard. Their number 1 job is to tell the manager how they are NOT behaving, and to encourage and support them through the challenge of developing the aspect of their personality that has been inhibited for so many years.
A manager who is willing to receive this feedback will be nothing more than he is today unless he is willing to act on the feedback. He must challenge himself to practice, practice, practice! Think of it as a muscle - if not used for a long period of time, it weakens and becomes useless. The only way to bring it back to a place of strength is to challenge it with heavy weights and exercise, most of which feels painful.
Mastering all aspects of your personality is part of your adult development as a human being. I encourage you to reach outside of your comfort zone and try some behavioural styles that are outside the norm for you.
If you are a big talker in meetings, sit and listen for a while. If you are someone who likes to hear many perspectives before making a decision, try making the decision first then hearing perspectives after.
You will stumble, you may fall down a few times, but eventually it will become easier and more natural. Your ability to swing back and forth between these two styles in a way that produces the right results in each situation is what will move you further up the ladder of career advancement.