Friday, August 21, 2015

Blind Spots -- We all Got them

I had the opportunity today to talk to a manager about blind spots in one of his direct reports. What is a blind spot? A blind spot is an employee who you think is great, but the rest of the organization is trying to warn you that they are a force for evil not good. A person with a blind spot will go to the point of career suicide to defend a person's outrageous/ineffective/incompetent behavior often in front of caring coworkers who have given up trying to convince them.

It is ugly to watch. Makes everyone REAL uncomfortable.

A person with a blind spot is not a bad employee, often they seem perfectly normal and even show outstanding type performance in other avenues of their professional life.

Some people have a lot of blindspots and those people tend to flame out pretty quick in management positions. They are locked in a perpetual denial about the true performance of the people around them. Often they are only successful through massive amounts of individual effort. They tend to look tired and blame that on the company not their team.

More insidious is the Senior Level Manager with only one blindspot. In all other avenues of life they seem perfectly sane and reasonable, but, once you get them on the subject of, let's say, Bob, you hear anything from raging at the machine to outright whining. Common statements/questions are:

"I don't understand why everyone else doesn't appreciate Bob, he is better than [Insert insanely ridiculous comparison with no grounding in reality]."
"You just don't see all the things Bob does, this operation couldn't function without him"

Worse, sometimes people get so baffled by their blind spot they start believing in some sort of institutional discrimination that they would not otherwise buy into.

In the end, blind spots are a failure of your performance management system. The manager who has the blindspot is not using facts to determine how they assess people. Or maybe just using the wrong facts. Coaching people through a blind spot can often be a frustrating exercise, but forcing the manager to walk through performance expectations and show how that relates to the employee at hand can really help to shed light on reality.