My twenty years as a military leader, experience leading legal teams, and years of developing other leaders to lean on, has taught me that success can mask your blind spots. You may be 'winning' -- getting the right clients, leading successful teams -- and still be leaving more wins on the table because you don't realize where you're weak. I mentioned before one of my biggest blind spots, and it's worth re-visiting.
What was it? I wasn't really *seeing* the women I was working with. I think I was treating them fairly, but I wasn't spending the time or giving the attention I should have to make sure they were growing. I was more than half-way through my military career when I finally started to see the light, and it wasn't for a lack of thought about leadership. The Army spends a lot of time and energy preparing its officers to take on progressively greater leadership roles and expects leaders to be actively engaged in preparing junior officers to lead. So, part of my blind spot was systemic and part of it was a personal failure to apply what I was learning (regardless of the systemic cues I was taking in). Ultimately, that study of leadership and the introspection that went with it gave me a chance to recognize that blind spot, but another one speaks to the value of listening to those around you.
Your team may not always be receiving the message you think you're sending. This recent post by Adam Grant reminded me of how this disconnect can play out in our communication.
To make sure your message and how it's received are aligning, 360 degree surveys -- where you actually ask your team to evaluate your performance -- can be a particularly valuable tool. This was one of the primary lessons I learned in my first 360 degree evaluation. I thought I shared the right information with the team at the right time, but I learned that I wasn't share enough information early enough. It's a common leadership blind spot and one that lawyers often suffer from because of our typical need to feel in control of information. What I thought was a strength turned out, at the time, to be a weakness, but becoming aware of it allowed me to grow and change the way I operate. Now, this is something I consciously focus on with my team, and even if I don't get it as right as everyone would like, I know that I'm delivering more, better, and earlier information that I would have in the past and I know that sharing it is something my team values about my leadership.
Do you know where your blind spots are? Have you spent time thinking about them or asked anyone to evaluate your leadership performance? Do your performance reviews (given or received) include commentary on more than just how well interrogatories are drafted and whether or not you're on pace to make your billables this year?
If you're seeing blind spots that might be holding you back, wondering where yours might be, or you know someone who wants to grow as a leader but isn't sure how to get started, do something about it! I can help you uncover your blind spots and help you make your successful practice even better.