Whatever you have been doing to achieve your current level in your career may be the exact same thing that is keeping you from moving to the next level. It’s not something that is often discussed but it’s true. Throughout our careers and lives, we develop a variety of skills and habits that serve us well and lead us toward our goals. Until they don’t.
At a time when I felt like I was stalling in my work trajectory, I had the opportunity to sit down with executive coach and author of, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith to discuss my career path. In our conversation, he reiterated that personal or executive evolution doesn’t always mean adding new skills. It often means letting go of skills that once felt like invaluable tools. It can be difficult to accept and often hard to do. So hard, in fact, that many fail in the attempt. I remember him saying,
To be clear, some of your previously acquired “skills” or tactics that have been instrumental for you to achieve your current level may now be the same “skills” that are keeping you from moving forward. These “skills” have now become “bad” habits that you need to break within the new context.
Unfortunately, the things that need to change or stop are often hiding in a place called your blind spot. And the things that are hiding there have stifled untold careers. And yes, the stuff hiding in your blind spot can include skills, tactics, actions, or beliefs that need to be changed or discontinued for you to evolve or grow. We all have them. If you think you don’t, that’s probably something in your blind spot. They are there, just like that car traveling behind you in your passing lane that you can’t see in your mirrors.
Identifying what is in your personal blind spot, however, is harder than taking a quick peek over your shoulder on the interstate—especially if that skill, tactic, action, or belief that you need to change, or stop, has been critical to your success thus far.
Because of this difficult dichotomy, you aren’t likely to find these issues without a lot of introspection. But if you have been bouncing off guardrails or having fender benders in your career, this process could help unlock the reasons why. With that, the following provides some recommendations for identifying what could be lurking in your blind spot:
- Take a look at your personal yearly reviews or corporate assessments from the past. Are there some things that keep showing up in the “opportunities” section that you are ignoring, are convinced are untrue, or have decided are irrelevant? Is there anything that you instinctually answer with a “Yeah, but …”? These are clues to something that is hiding in your blind spot.
- Schedule informal chats with your boss, direct reports, and peers. Ask them what you could do to improve and how you can help them. Tell them you want honest feedback because you want to evolve as a leader, a manager, and/or a teammate. When they respond with a potentially uncomfortable truth, just say thank you and get to work on it. If all they have to say is how “awesome” you are, guess what? You could have something in your blind spot, and it may have something to do with not creating an environment of honest feedback.
- If you have an opportunity to participate in a professional 360-degree review, do so. A 360-degree review is when people who work under, over, and beside you (thus the name) give you structured but anonymous feedback. It can be tremendously informative, but only if you keep an open mind. You will hear about your strengths and weaknesses. The key is to use it as a learning experience. If you feel the need to challenge or defend certain results, that’s a hint about what’s in your blind spot.
Take the time to leverage the worksheet provided on my site that speaks to the Top Ten Blind Spots according to a newsletter published by Harvard Business School. Allow yourself to honestly reflect and assess your well-known personal challenges to propel you to the next level of your career.