What You Don’t See at Work


“It’s what we learn after we know it all that really counts.” This is one of my favorite quotes — one of many by the great John Wooden. Ask anyone I know or work with, and they will tell you I mention this one often.

I believe we should always be open to learning. 

Are you? If you are, continue reading, and allow me to take you to a place you’ve possibly never been: your blind spot.

It is defined physically as “the small area — insensitive to light — in the retina of the eye where the optic nerve enters.” It is an area where vision is hindered or obscured.

Metaphorically, a blind spot also describes a prejudice or an area of ignorance that you’re often unaware you have.

In the coaching business, we talk about vision frequently. It is usually centered on the direction of the organization — where it is now and where we envision it to be in the future. This is what leaders see.

But what about the things in organizations that leaders don’t see?

These are the issues people talk about but never bring to the attention of the leader.

We all have them. They are called blind spots.

I dig up blind spots by using 360-degree surveys with leaders that I coach. It helps them know and grow as a leader. Essentially, it is the mirror that shows them their blind spots. And if you’ve ever caught a glimpse of a vehicle in your blind spot just in time, you know the importance of seeing it.

Here are what I consider the top 10 leadership blind spots.

1. Going it alone. This is a leader who tends to limit delegation. He or she may not be seen as a team player, and has an attitude of: “If I want it done right, I’ll do it myself.”

2. Having a know-it-all attitude. This speaks to my favorite quote. When we have this attitude, all we are telling others is that we are not willing to listen and learn. Who follows a leader like this? I have personally been on a learning mission the past few years around a very specific area, and I can tell you I have learned a ton and now get to share it with my clients. I call it leading and learning.

But here’s the key: You can’t lead if you don’t first learn.

3. Blaming others or circumstances. This is a major growth gap for many in leadership positions. As my friend John Maxwell says, “Sometimes we win. Sometimes we learn.”

Leaders should evaluate what doesn’t go as planned, without looking for someone or something to blame. Rather, they should be focused on what they can learn from the experience. Maxwell calls it “evaluated experience.” Its value is priceless.

4. Withholding emotional commitment. How much can you really accomplish when your heart is not into what you are doing? How can we expect those we lead to accomplish great things if we ourselves are not emotionally connected to the results we desire?

5. Conspiring against others. When this is present in leadership positions, it can and will destroy the culture of an organization. It shows up when climbing the corporate ladder is someone’s only goal. It is one of the reasons I created my “Leaders Ladder” program.

Don’t compete. Complete!

6. Being insensitive to your impact on others. This often shows itself when people say their leader doesn’t have time for them. People want to learn from you. They need your help, and they want you to participate in their professional development.

They can’t get any of this if your door is always closed, and you always seem too busy for them. Check your schedule. Other than meetings, when and how are you spending time with your team? 

7. Avoiding difficult conversations. No one enjoys having difficult conversations, I get it. The best leaders I have worked with accept and understand there must be difficult conversations in order for people and organizations to grow. Show me an organization that doesn’t have difficult conversations, and I’ll show you a company that has limited growth.

8. Not taking a stand. Does your team know more of what you stand against than what you stand for?  Making decisions and standing by them is key to getting people to follow you. If they see you as inconsistent and unable to make tough decisions, they may follow from afar. There will be a trust disconnect and, given that trust is bedrock to any strong relationship, this is an indicator of a serious issue.

9. Treating commitment casually. A casual commitment is the lack of a clear “no” response, a clear “yes” response, or the lack of a specific timeframe or deadline.

If you use hedging words such as “maybe,” “perhaps,” “sometime,” or “soon,” you may be a master at making empty promises. We can’t hold others accountable if we ourselves are unaccountable.

10. Tolerating “good enough.” Do you accept behaviors or results that are below your expectations? If so, be careful, because this can reflect your leadership style. When you as the leader set high standards and hold your team accountable to them, everyone grows — you, your team, and your organization.

The truth is, we always have much more to learn; and a lot of what we think we know is actually wrong or incomplete. I have found that the 360-degree process, combined with coaching, not only keeps us aware, but also growing.

As Bob Marley so eloquently stated, “Some of us feel the rain, while others just get wet.”

Eliminating these blind spots allows you to experience leadership at its fullest. From a legacy standpoint, there is nothing better than having experienced life and career to their fullest extent.

Feel the rain.

davefergusonDave Ferguson is an internationally recognized executive coach, speaker, teacher and author. Connect with him at 704-907-0171 or at dave@askcoachdave.com. Ferguson lives on Hilton Head Island.  


boDave Ferguson will present “The Leader’s Ladder: How Your Climb Defines Your Success” on Sept. 27 at Frey Media’s Business Owner Summit 2018, to be held at Venue 1223 in Bluffton. For details and tickets, go to businessownerevents.com.