How to Address Career Blind Spots and Challenge Assumptions

We all have professional blind spots. Nevertheless, studies show that technology professionals often underestimate the harm that these weaknesses can cause your career, if not addressed. So what can be done?

by / November 9, 2019

My family has two cars. Our 2015 Dodge Durango is equipped with many high-tech features, including cameras that detect cars (and other objects) all around the vehicle. When changing lanes, if the turn signal is used, the Durango will beep to alert the driver when another car is present. 

Meanwhile, our 2014 Jeep Patriot has none of these high-tech features. The only ways to see if another car or truck is in a blind spot is to turn your head (the old-fashioned way) and look, or to ask for help from others in the car.  

One driving challenge I have is sometimes forgetting which car I am driving. I will turn my head and look over my right shoulder while driving the Durango. Other times, I will fail to "manually" look for other cars or trucks in my blind spot when driving my Jeep Patriot.

A similar dynamic can happen with our careers. We can forget about our blind spots, or believe that technology can just automatically solve these problems for us.

In 2018, Inc. magazine identified "7 Common Leadership Blind Spots," which are:

  1. Not addressing problem children
  2. Only hiring or supporting people just like you
  3. Over-investing in managing-up
  4. Holding information too close to the vest
  5. Frequently deciding not to decide
  6. Being out of touch
  7. Falling victim to performance expectation extremes.

Also, Fast Company describes other blind spots that can derail your career. “Five common areas for blind spots are detailed in Cast’s book, The Right—and Wrong—Stuff: How Brilliant Careers Are Made and Unmade:

  1. A me-first attitude that leads to poor listening skills
  2. Micromanaging others, hindering your ability to build and lead a team
  3. Being too comfortable with routines and resisting change
  4. Having narrow perspectives on business that undermine your ability to be strategic
  5. Not following through on promises due to poor organization or task management skills.”

There are plenty of other lists of potential blind spots. In fact, the number of potential blind spots is almost limitless.

Forbes Magazine offers this list, which highlights the weakness of believing that the rules don’t apply to you. (I brought up this blind spot a decade ago in my blog for cyber pros, “Are you an insider threat?”)

But taking a big step back ... we all know that successful solutions in the workplace require people, process and technology components. For technology professionals, there can be a tendency to rely too heavily on technical skills, certifications, or other credentials as well as trusting hardware, software and programs — all while ignoring people and process issues.

PwC describes blind spots as “your brain going into autopilot” and offers these videos to help overcome unconscious biases.

Overcoming Blind Spots: Solutions Please?

As the video describes, the first step for all of us is to realize that we have blind spots and need help in a variety of ways. Recognizing the problem is the first step to getting on the right path to eliminating blind spots.

But how can we find our most debilitating blind spots?

We can start with good questions. An Ivy Exec article describes helpful details on 5 ways to find your blind spots. The five mentioned are:

  1. Self-reflection
  2. Feedback
  3. Questionnaires
  4. Training
  5. And finding “the downsides of your strengths”

As I have mentioned before, I believe that finding a mentor and being a mentor is an excellent way to strengthen your career and eliminate blind spots. I wrote this blog to encourage security pros to find a mentor, and National Mentorship Month is coming up again in January.

As we approach the holidays, this is a good time to think back on the past year(s) and take steps for the 2020s to strengthen your career by overcoming blind spots that are limiting career effectiveness.

I really like the final point in the Ivy Exec article mentioned above. Each of us has weaknesses that we are (often painfully) aware of, but those are not our blind spots. What I fail to see (my blind spots) are oftentimes the downsides of my strengths.

“Here, it is about overusing our strengths. Indeed, when we use a strength, things will typically work out. Not only do we do well but it often feels easy because strengths are so natural. All good and well but the risk is to fall into the trap using a particular strength for all sorts of situations, including those for which it is irrelevant. There is also the risk that the behavior which uses the strength starts to feel clunky, less fluid: that usually manifest via an energy drain. Using a strength goes from energizing us to draining us. And that’s your clue: the change in energy flow. Notice that how you used to be, to feel is no longer working so well – there’s a glitch. If you let the process run, that strength will simply stop working altogether and you will have created another weakness. Pick up on the change in time and you will have shed light on a critical strength to preserve. How to restore a strength that’s in danger of over-use: dial it down. Moderate its use….”

Final Thought

My friends and colleagues know that I can become very energetic and passionate in certain situations and conversations, which is generally a strength. However, this trait can become a weakness if I become too loud and overbearing.

One solution that I use is to allow trusted friends and colleagues to let me know when I need to “dial it down.”   

How are you addressing your career blind spots?

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