In my work as a psychologist with hundreds of organizations, I have found that almost all have at least one of the five blindspots which Rich Berens describes in his book, ”What Are Your Blindspots?”. The five blindspots are: purpose, story, engagement , trust, and truth.
Last week at Leaders Connect Detroit , Rich gave a powerful, interactive presentation on how to identify blind spots in your organization. I provide you a link to this excellent conversation and a detailed overview of the book. Click HERE for a link to the presentation.
As a suggestion, view this video with your employees as a powerful way to identify and discuss the blindspots that exist in your organization.
Thank you to Michael Cole of Bank of Ann Arbor and Michael Dergis of Sigrid Solutions for helping to organize and sponsor this event.
Conquering the 5 Misconceptions That Hold Leaders Back
Jim Haudan and Rich Berens
©2019 by Root Inc.
Adapted by permission of McGraw-Hill Education ISBN: 978-1-26012923-6
Estimated reading time of book: 3–4 hours
Many leaders are unaware of how their practices and subconscious beliefs negatively impact their employees. The five most common blind spots are:
- Purpose. Most leaders recognize that purpose matters in the workplace, but many don’t run their businesses in purpose-driven ways. Often, this is because they don’t believe that purpose is useful for helping them reach their targets.
- Story. Many leaders think that their organizational stories are compelling, but their employees disagree. The stories are often too generic or cumbersome to be inspiring tools in the workplace.
- Engagement. Some leaders use presentations, forums, and town hall meetings as tools for engaging their workforce, but many employees struggle to connect with this kind of content.
- Trust. Many leaders doubt their employees’ abilities and willingness to do the right things at the right times. The tight processes and routines that they create provide uniform outcomes, but they don’t empower peo- ple to deliver the kinds of experiences that will help them to lead the market.
- Truth. Leaders tend to think that their employees feel safe enough in the workplace to speak truthfully. They don’t show the kind of vulnerability and openness that employees need to feel a sense of trust, have confi- dence in their collaborations, or have a desire to take ownership of parts of their work.
In What Are Your Blind Spots?, Jim Haudan and Rich Berens tackle five common misconceptions that limit leaders’ success in engaging their teams. They help leaders examine their blind spots regarding purpose, story, engagement, trust, and truth and consider how their practices and beliefs may be perpetuating disengagement and indifference in the workplace. With case studies and insightful stories, the authors show leaders how to conquer their blind spots and foster the innovation, productivity, and motivation their teams need to succeed.
Leadership Blind Spot #1: Purpose
One of the most critical misconceptions that leaders have about engagement, contentedness, and connection in the workplace relates to purpose, or the understanding of why a business does what it does. Many leaders cite purpose as being important, but a significant percentage of them consider it to be a soft concept that has no direct connection to the performance of their businesses.
Making money is an important part of business success and sustainability, and many leaders focus all of their energy on that idea. However, they fail to recognize that profit-driven companies are often less profitable than their purpose-driven counterparts. In a study of businesses that operated between 1926 and 1990, researchers found that companies that were guided by a nonmonetary purpose were found to have returned six times more to shareholders than organizations that were driven by profits. In a related study, researchers found that purpose-driven firms outperformed the S&P over a 15-year period by a 10-to-1 ratio.
Purpose belongs at the center of your business not only because it can help you achieve exceptional financial results, but also because your employees and customers demand it. Strive to make your organization purpose driven by:
- Creating an organizational purpose statement that expresses your desire to make an impact on people or the world. Your purpose statement should be unique to your organization. It should speak to the head and the heart and provide strategic inspiration for every role in the organization.
- Testing your organizational purpose. Analyze your organizational purpose statement and reflect on how well it expresses your desired impact, provides guidance, connects with people’s minds and emotions, and sets your firm apart from others.
Purpose belongs at the center of your business not only because it can help you achieve exceptional financial results, but also because your employees and customers demand it.
- Conducting a gut check. Assess the impact your purpose statement will have on your stakeholders. It should resonate with your employees, customers, and other stakeholders and enable your day-to-day business functions.
- Linking personal purpose to your organization’s purpose. Define a personal purpose that can help you become the best version of yourself at work. Consider how you’ve been shaped by your personal and professional experiences, the unique skills and talents that you offer, and the legacy you hope to attain as you formulate your purpose.
Leadership Blind Spot #2: Story
Storytelling is an effective tool for motivating employees, creating a sense of connection among them, and help- ing them understand and find meaning in their organization’s strategies. Often, however, these stories fall short.
The benefits of an organization’s story can only be realized when the story reaches your employees’ hearts, provides them with a sense of adventure, gives them a sense of belonging, and helps them recognize how their contributions will make a meaningful difference to the outcome. Learn to tell your organization’s story in ways that your people will care about and connect with. You can achieve this in three ways:
- Develop a compelling, specific, and helpful vision statement that serves as your story’s headline, tells your people what winning looks like in your organization, and shows them what makes your organization unique.
- Tell your strategic story in a way that supports your vision and provides compelling imagery of the journey ahead. Your story should be succinct, and it should be something that you can tell with passion and convic- tion to inspire others
- Achieve shared meaning through the words that you use. It’s imperative that you build a common story or perspective that will help your employees connect with and believe in your ideas.
Leadership Blind Spot #3: Engagement
Leaders often believe they can use presentations, road shows, or town hall meetings to connect with the hearts and minds of their people. But when it comes to engaging people mentally and emotionally, most presentations fall short. They tend to promote logical, rational ideas instead of tapping into the emotion that drives people to connect with new concepts and inspire hope.
A better approach is to have authentic conversations that encourage people to consider new ideas, challenge old ways of thinking, and draw new conclu- sions about their businesses. People are often invigorated by opportunities to engage in discussions about the threats and opportunities that their organizations face. They want to play a role in the success of their teams and organizations by contributing ideas and co-thinking about actions that can propel them forward.
You can start having authentic, dialogue-rich conversations with your people by creating an environment where employees feel empowered to discuss and examine their assumptions, beliefs, opinions, and conclu- sions. Use the following elements of the authors’ Model for Dialogue to tap into the collective intelligence and critical thoughts of the people around you:
- Context. Discuss big-picture ideas that help your people connect the dots and begin associating ideas. Context discussions are useful tools in helping teams to frame why things happen or don’t happen in your organization.
- Content. Talk about changes that you’d like to make. Lead the discussion by revealing the content of your new strategy, idea, or process and how it can help to address big-picture challenges in the organization.
- Application. Tap into the experiences, knowledge, and abilities of your people to solve the problems that your organization faces. Ask questions that can help you explore and collaborate on ideas for innovation and change.
Leadership Blind Spot #4: Trust
Many leaders don’t trust their people. They believe that their employees won’t do the right thing unless they’re told specifically what to do and how to do it. Because of this, they create tight scripts and processes to create uniform standards and outcomes. This approach can help to produce consistency, but it won’t help employees to engage and produce the unique, differentiated, and personalized experiences that their customers crave.
The best way to start building trust among your employees is to foster a values-based culture. Establish a common set of values that will guide your employees’ behaviors and provide the context for their thoughts and actions. Through this approach, you can emphasize business imperatives like teamwork, the provision of exceptional customer experiences, and continuous improvement while encouraging your people to use their judgment and discretion in how they work toward your goals.
Your organization’s culture should emphasize both framework and freedom so that the nonnegotiables are clear and the opportunities for freedom and choice are well-defined and understood. Set nonnegotiables around your purpose, organizational values, rules, and policies, and invite individual freedom and flexibility in their means of response. You can build trust in and among your people as you clarify the context of their roles and allow them to demonstrate their capacity for care, compassion, and creativity in their work.
LeadershIp Blind spot #5: truth
Often, leaders believe that their people feel safe in sharing their true thoughts and feelings, but this isn’t always the case. Many employees don’t feel comfortable about speaking up, or they don’t think it’s in their best interests to do so.
Several common fears can get in the way of people’s willingness to share their truths:
- A fear of indictment for actions or decisions that they’ve made.
- A fear of being branded or punished for having a dissenting opinion.
- A fear of offending a teammate or colleague by sharing a different opinion.
- A fear of losing status or a sense of importance/influence in their groups.
- A fear that their truths will reveal unsolvable problems.
- A fear that their ideas aren’t good enough or won’t be valued by others.
- A fear that the person in charge doesn’t want to hear bad news.
- A fear of letting on to others that they don’t have all the answers.
As a leader, you need to create an environment where people feel comfortable sharing their truths. Acknowledge their fears, help people to own up to them, and show them that you understand what it’s like to be in their shoes. When you start talking about fears, you can create a space where people feel safe and secure enough to speak up and share their true thoughts and ideas.
Assessing your Leadership Blind Spots and Lessons Learned
Blind spots can plague any organization. Your role is to be objective and assess whether these blind spots are present in your business. Use the following lessons to examine your beliefs and behaviors as you tackle the areas that hold you back:
- Live the purpose of your organization to inspire belief, meaning, and action among your people.
- Be passionate about your purpose and less driven by your numbers.
- Work to close the gap between what you say and what you mean by promoting shared meaning.
- Devise compelling, inspirational stories that support your strategy.
- Engage people by showing them opportunities for challenge, adventure, and belonging, as well as what’s in it for them.
Ask your people to share their opinions and insights on how you can work together to solve your organization’s most pressing problems.
- Make emotional connections with your people and get a sense of what they think and feel before trying to drive challenge through rational appeals.
- Engage in authentic dialogue to connect with your people’s hearts and minds.
- Ask your people to share their opinions and insights on how you can work together to solve your organization’s most pressing problems.
- Encourage your people to use their judgment to optimize the outcomes and experiences that they provide.
- Give your people clear lines of performance where variability can be detrimental, provide guidelines when boundaries are important, and offer no lines when your people can be free to use their talents in the ways that they see fit.
- Use humor to disarm, reduce hostilities, share truths, and empower people to say what they think and feel.
- Shift from a culture that suffers from a victim mentality to one that embraces co-accountability.
- Be true to yourself and inspire others to follow.
About the Authors
Jim Haudan is cofounder and chairman of Root Inc. and a sought-after business presenter who has spoken at TEDx BGSU, Tampa TEDx, and conference board events. He regularly contributes to business publications, including Inc. and Switch & Shift, where he was on the Top 75 List of Human Business Champions.
Rich Berens is CEO and chief client fanatic of Root Inc. and a noted speaker on the issues of strategy and change. He has authored articles for numerous publications and blogs.
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