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If you’re not working in earshot from others, try out this tongue twister – it’s a formidable intro to acquiring a crucial leadership skill:
I slit a sheet, a sheet, I slit.
Upon a slitted sheet, I sit.
This article is indeed about leadership and not about perfect pronunciation. Let me explain. A while ago, I noticed that people around me started to develop a serious lisp. It started with family members and spread to clients and colleagues, and I almost wondered if there was something like a speech bug going around that was contagious.
I kept those puzzling observations to myself but when my husband muddled his “s”s during a dinner conversation, I couldn’t contain myself and blurted: “What is going on with everyone around me starting to lisp all of a sudden?” I earned surprised looks. “What are you talking about?” “Why is everyone slurring their s’s?” More befuddled looks around the dinner table. And denial! I asked the family to say one of my favorite tongue twisters and there! There it wath! Like thomething from a thlapthtick movie!
After much discussion, research, and a trip to a specialist, the diagnosis was confirmed: People around me did not suddenly develop speech impediments. It was me! I had lost 50% of my mid- to high-range frequency hearing in one ear, and I could no longer easily distinguish between “s” and “f” sounds.
The coach in me said “duh!!”
How unlikely was it that the rest of the world was “all wrong” and I was perfect? Why didn’t I check in with myself to see whether the issue was maybe ME? My ENT specialist explained that hearing loss usually happens gradually, and the brain does an excellent job compensating until a certain threshold is crossed and the hearing gap can no longer be closed. The hearing becomes muddled and strained. Meanwhile, the listener is trying to make sense of this new sensation, often looking for external explanations, unable and perhaps unwilling to figure out what is really going on. A perfect example of a true blind spot.
Blind spots: Do you have them or do they have you?
Blind spots in a car hide a part of the driver’s field of vision. Since any objects inside those blind spots are not visible, a driver may act as if they are not there at all, such as pulling in front of a car that was traveling in the rear blind spot. When we talk about psychological blind spots, we refer to the inability to see perspectives other than those directly apparent to us.
Princeton University psychologist Emily Pronin created the term bias blind spot. It refers to our inability to realize our own cognitive biases and it represents our tendency to think that we are less biased than others. We think we see things in an objective and rational way, while others have a biased judgment. Our ability to recognize and adapt our way of thinking and acting is thereby limited. We typically do not have problems recognizing blindspots in others, which indicates that it is not a matter of ignorance but rather of a motivated ignorance. We choose – more or less consciously – not to know more, not to deepen, not to understand, and to protect the image that we have formed of ourselves.
A blind spot may prevent us from assessing facts appropriately, which can lead to making ill-informed decisions or taking action that clashes with what others deem to be appropriate from their perspective.
If you find yourself having similar challenges with a range of different people, it may indicate a pattern that is worth your special attention. If the frequency of those incidents increases, or if a pattern extends to a growing number of people, consider that you may be experiencing a response loop of a blind spot behavior – yours!
What can you do when you suspect a blind spot in your life?
Become a diver!
- Describe: What do I see in an objective, factual way?
- Interpret: What do I think about what I have described?
- Verify: What do others think? Is my interpretation accurate?
- Evaluate: How do I assess what I think and others think?
- Resolve: Explore your options and take control over your action.
How self-aware are YOU? How often do you pause and re-assess whether it is them or you? Who would be a valuable person to have on your blind spot detection team?
Increase your self-awareness and your ability to reveal blind spots!
- Pause and see if you can think of challenges or surprising encounters that you are experiencing on a recurring basis.
- What is happening in those situations? What is your initial interpretation?
- What role do you usually play in those situations and how might you be contributing to an outcome that may not be ideal?
- Who can give you an objective perspective on the situation?
Go DIVE more often!
Happy ending to one of my blind spots: I am the proud wearer of a super cool hearing aid with magic powers, and I can now hear the world crystal clear!
A client shared a great article about the importance of organizational culture awareness for job seekers as well as organizations wanting to attract top talent. Rather than asking hiring companies about the uniqueness of their organizations, the author Adam Grant suggests asking and listening for stories will reveal the organizational culture and the hidden shared beliefs that drive behaviors at a work place.
Recently, I have been playing with 5 of Gerd Hofstede’s 6 cultural dimension indicators to see whether they may be useful to assess and compare organizational culture.
- Low or High Power Distance
How accessible are the leaders in the organization and how do they relate to the frontline staff? How complex is the organizational structure? How short or long are reporting and project approval paths?
- Individualism vs. Collectivism
How does your organization celebrate success, for the individual, the team and the organization? Are employees essentially competing against each other or is team effort valued over lone wolf mentalities?
- Uncertainty Avoidance
How quickly are decisions made? How much information is required and how complex is the approval process for new initiatives? How risk averse is the organization?
- Masculinity vs. Femininity
In a cultural context, Hofstede defines masculinity as “a preference in society for achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material rewards for success.” Femininity is defined as “a preference for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life.” (Weak in this context may mean a less experienced team member or a person requiring or simply benefiting from special accommodations.) While the labels may sound dated and may have to be modified to reflect the current climate for work place discourses, the concept of conquering versus integration is nevertheless an important marker for corporate culture and behavior.
- Long-term vs. Short-term Orientation
Are traditions valued and implemented in long-range plans? Are quarterly results the main decision drivers? Is institutional knowledge valued or does the organization put innovation front and center?
Additional dimensions came to mind when inquiring about an organization’s culture that are not captured by Hofstede’s traditional culture model, which was original developed for national cultural assessments:
What does the on-boarding process look like? What does the organization do to encourage continuous learning at the organizational level as well as at the individual level? How are mistakes handled?
Generative vs. Critical Feedback
How do employees know that they are successful? How is feedback given and received in the organization? Is up-chain feedback encouraged? Is feedback used as a constructive personnel development tool or is it usually used to reprimand staff? An easy gauge is to ask whether employees are usually looking forward to receiving feedback and performance evaluations or if they dread it.
Level of Internal Cohesiveness
How would the front line staff answer these questions? The manager? The leader of the organization? Vastly differing responses indicate internal disconnects.
Why are these important considerations for job seekers? While salary and benefits are important to meet your needs for your life outside of your workplace, the company culture will be the driving factor for long-term job satisfaction and professional growth and most importantly, “culture eats strategy for breakfast” (Peter Drucker) – every day and all the time.