Click on the mini-image below to listen on the page. Or, tune in through your favorite podcast service available through the “Subscribe” button.
Many of you stepping into leadership roles are doing so from the perspective of performing the work at some point in your work life. So, you are learning to let go of building that capability in yourself and learning how to mentor your team into upleveling their skillsets and experience.
However, there are some leaders that are leading people through work that they have never performed themselves. I call this “the blind leading the sighted” because it presents different challenges for both the uninformed leader and those that follow these leaders.
Tune into this episode for a few tips for the leader with blindspots, as well as those that want to improve how they follow these leaders.
All episodes (and subscription services) available at https://pod.co/move-your-desk
Episode 80 Show Notes
Episode 80 Transcript
This is Rebecca Clark. Episode 80 Leading with blind spots. Yeah, this’ll podcast is for anyone that knows they haven’t yet found and offered up their best work but are compelled to seek it out and do it. Are you ready to move your desk? Hello, my podcasting. Friends, I hope you’re having a great week. I’ve enjoyed talking to a few of you recently as friends and in coaching situations, and I’m kind of disturbed at some of the trends that air coming up in your work. It’s not that these air new trends, but I guess I’m very aware of them at the moment because of a few conversations I’ve had and wanted to discuss this topic today about leading with blind spots. First, I wanted to share a story for my own work experience, and it was a few years ago, but I was in charge of a product line at work. I was a production manager for online training products, and as you go through the process of managing these types of efforts, you start to see gaps in the process, gaps and standards issues. As you troubleshoot. You start to recognize trends so easily that when you are in a kick off meeting for new project, you know, within a few minutes how the project’s gonna go just because of the way the subject matter. Experts act interactions between designers and programmers and the video people on the graphic People like just the whole dynamic. You could tell pretty quickly because you start toe, have this built up knowledge and experience related to the product line, you know, and what needs to be done. A lot of them, no pieces in part. But you’re sitting there watching it all, And so from these experiences you get 2030 40 projects going at once you start gathering some really great trends. And so what I did is I pulled people from contractors, government, different places. We get together, those of us who know how the process works and we improve the process, right. So every six months or every year, you’d gather and you would take lessons learned and you would improve that process. So we got it fairly streamlined. And then we realized that one of the gaps that still existed was that there would be situations where we would end up having multiple products and development that were kind of about the same topic. And informally we were addressing it. Or like, Hey, did you know there’s already this project going on over here? And maybe you could just add a little content to that versus us dropping 50 K or 100 k on a new product development effort. And you could do that informally for a long time. But then you get to a point where you’re like, Okay, we really need everyone to understand at an organizational or enterprise level that we’re just not just pushing back on them when they’re submitting an idea. We’re really telling people. Listen, we’ve got some overlap here. Let’s talk about this. So in an effort to help with that and streamline that part of the process, we created this upfront requirements gathering process, and I was able to do it for this product line and interacted with others and collaborated and created this little website. But it has some basic information, and then you were supposed to submit your request if you wanted to create a new product, and that would allow people within the organization and outside of the organization to put all their request in this one system through a simple form and simple guidelines. And it would populate a non line database for us. And we could look at the request and compare two products we already had. And we could compare to those in process and tell them Yes, no, Maybe so. Whatever. And if they gotta prove they could go forward and get funding and keep going, right, we made this a simplest possible. We tried to explain to people when they submitted their request, what was the difference between a new product request and a revision and those kinds of things? So there was a woman that became in charge of this process, and I sat with her in her office. I had meetings with her on the phone. I showed her how this was going to make her life easier because all she would have to do is look at this database. In fact, I think it even sent her a downloadable Excel file every few days, and it would send an automatic email and she would have all these requests to be able to coordinate with the right people to get things approved. Well, she didn’t understand it, and she didn’t want to understand it, which is the main point after we’d use the process for a while, she complained. No request for coming in and we’re like That’s not possible. There’s so many people that have said they submitted requests Well, it turns out she had for gotten how to access them through her special email box. She didn’t want to log in online, and as a result of this, instead of learning how to do it again, she reverted everything to a paper process to a word document that everyone had to fill out. They had to sign it, and then they had to fax it or walk it over tour. And very rarely would she accept it through email. Now, this person was not my boss, but it impacted my work. In fact, my work was degraded as a result of this leader not wanting to follow a streamlined, improved approach, and instead it kind of created a ruckus for quite a few people. It’s also tough, too, because you can enjoy talking to someone as a person but completely disrespect them as a leader on. I think that was the case here and to see how many extra hours of work were created as a result of this person’s inability to say, I don’t understand or I don’t want to understand. I’m unwilling to change and learn what’s required to lead and do my job and make something better for the organization. And so I’m going to revert to what I’m comfortable with, even if it makes lots of other people uncomfortable. I understand this is a judgment, but in my mind this is completely unacceptable. Especially nowadays, I’ve heard quite a few other stories going on about leadership, and what’s interesting to me is there’s so many articles out there about leadership that talk about how when someone goes from being an individual contributor or a manager into a leadership role and how they have to go through this defining moment where they realize they’re no longer known for what they used to be good at their acting, in a different capacity, and in a capacity where they need to help those that report to them be very good at performing certain things versus being the person that performs a lot of that work themselves, and that could be a tough shift yet. There’s something that’s very valuable when someone has done a job before and then they’re the boss of those that do that job because at least they understand the work, right. So one person I was talking to recently coaching him said that he had two employees that were underperforming as sales people, and he had been a salesperson before, and he has recently moved into a leadership role. And so, in that kind of situation, those employees can decide, not toe like their new boss, and they can decide they want to move on or they don’t like the approaches using or whatever. But there’s one thing that is not negotiable. And that is the data that shows that he was a high performing sales guy before. So when he gives them prompts and guidelines on what works on being a successful sales person, they could at least agree that oh, the numbers show that he was successful before, so I might not like the fact that he was successful, but there’s proof and evidence that he can do this job that I am now doing, and maybe I could learn something if I could listen to him. But the stories I’m hearing right now or from people that don’t have that advantage the people that I’m talking to are reporting to leaders that have never done their job. And this happens in some of these organizations, like government or maybe higher education or organizations that value certain degrees and certain experiences more than they value the actual experience that’s required to do a job. So, for example, sometimes doctorate degrees and masters degrees are valued more than someone that has rolled up their sleeves and done certain work right, because an organization might value saying that they have degrees in certain things versus boots on the ground work. There’s also situations where they’ll value like a military experience or experience of of professor, even though the work may not include that is actual work. But because there’s a component of the work where someone might have to understand military or might have to understand higher ed that they want them on the job, not realizing the actual work has nothing to do with that. So we dealt with this also in government, right where there’s people going into leadership roles just because they were had a high level position in military, but it doesn’t mean they know anything about training right and everybody that has a training background with all the systems and tools and processes and standards associated with that. No, when someone doesn’t know that, right, if you know how to do something and someone comes along that’s supposed to do the same thing you’re doing, you figure out pretty quickly watching them or talking to them, whether or not they’ve had that experience before. And so you’re in these situations where you suddenly have people that have been put in higher positions that know nothing about your work. And it’s very disruptive and discouraging to those who know how to do the work that have worked very hard at it for a very long time and are suddenly now in a position of what I call the blind leading the cited If that makes any sense, So if you are blind or if you have any blind friends, you know that you have heightened senses, so you’re very aware of certain things, especially once you get into routine. But if you were going into a new situation, you’re in a disadvantage if you can’t see right, So you need sighted people leading you, and that makes sense if you’re an actual blind person. But if you are in a situation where you are asked to take charge of something that you know nothing about, you will need help from the cited to help lead you along. And the cited they’re gonna wonder why they’re being led by the blind leader versus someone who already understands some of the leadership. But they can’t control that sometimes, right? And so if leaders air in this situation, it can be a very frustrating time for the leader. But I can guarantee you it’s extremely frustrating for any employee or person that is following in this situation. So I want to provide some tips if you are one of these leaders coming in and you don’t understand the work, and you don’t understand the skill sets of the people that are on the team, as well as remind those reporting to this leader of their responsibilities and opportunities. So number one put your ego at the door. It is time to learn, my friend. You are going to be using time beyond your normal planned work to learn some things. No one cares what you know right now, right? Because they already know what you don’t know and they’re wondering why you are leading them. And so this is your time to fully engage with them. And you could only do that. If you are in a mode of accepting that you don’t know something your humble and you’re open toe learning number two desire to understand the work. Some of these organizations you can half understand the work and just ask for briefings. And then you kind of parent it thio at the other leaders. That kind of thing That doesn’t serve you, it doesn’t serve anyone else. And you will have so many people lose trust in you so fast. If you don’t really dig in and go, what is the actual work we dio? What are the decision making things I need to be aware of? What are the trade offs? What are the risks? What are the opportunities, all of these things and some of you listening? You’re like, you’ve got to be kidding me like any leader should be aware of this by the time they get into a job and some of you are saying, Oh, not so fast. Uh huh. This is so common that leaders don’t know this. They don’t know the business of their business. We ran into this a lot in a prior job. They’re so busy hiring people that had military and past experience with acquisition for the government that they didn’t realize that that was not the main thing for many of the positions. The main thing for many of the positions was to understand how to design and develop product right, not purchase it designed and developed. So there was constant training needed because most of the job was something different than what was being sought for from leadership. Number three become informed about the skills and attributes required to do the work right, so that ties in with that first one. If you understand the business of your business, it’s time to understand how you get that business of the business done. What are the unique skill sets required? What does unique combinations of skill sets required? I’ve said on many hiring panels where different leaders would be on the panels and they’d say, Oh, this looks like a perfect resume for your work and the rest of us would look at each other and look at them go. What are you talking about? You saw a couple of buzzwords, but those buzzwords don’t combine in a way that actually works for how we do work. It’s very clear they were over here on a different kind of work, kind of related to it. But not this kind of work. And to see the nuances of what kind of experiences and skills were needed was very interesting. And that goes back to the point I made about if you know how to do the work. You know when someone in the room doesn’t know how to do it, because they’re just not thinking about some things in the same ways, and not to say they don’t want people to think differently. But there’s some amateur ways of thinking that are very clear to people that have more expertise in that particular area. When you take this down another layer, you know, once you understand what kind of work needs to be done, what kind of skills and experience is it required to do that work? Then it would be good Number four to discover who currently has those skills and experience who does not. Where can they be mentored? Where is it? Just a weakness and then going even into another layer where you realize, Oh, this person knows nothing about this. But based upon how they’ve performed and what they say and do in these other situations, they would be a great person to kind of branch out into this other area to learn this other skill that we need. They’re perfectly positioned toe learn that, and they’re motivated and willing to learn and that kind of thing. This is something that is not very apparent to a leader that’s just showing up to do their day job or they just got the position because they wanted a salary increase right? They’re not thinking this deep, which isn’t that deep. But uh huh apparently is not common, right? So, for example, there was a woman that is beyond mid career recently that applied for a certain certification program that she was very interested in being in, and she has experiences in many different areas of education, like in the public schools and special needs. And she’s been an adult learning for a while she’s experienced technology and professional development for staff of the organization she works for, and so she’s had a wide variety of experiences that positioned her perfectly to go into this certification program. Now she can sign up for this program on her own, but the organization was offering a chance to pay for it for some of the employees. So she applied. And she lost out to someone with less experience, less strategic involvement in the organization and to someone who had actually reused some of her ideas. And the leadership explained to her that she did not get accepted into it because she was not involved in a many strategic initiatives. Didn’t have a strategic idea. Is this other person offered and had less experience on? I thought, What a shame, Right? And I realized these air all my judgments, but it was shameful to me because I understand the background of this person, and I understand the background of the leaders that were involved in making the decision and oh, by the way, I have the certification she’s seeking, and I know that she has what it takes to do that and could offer value to the organization. But the leaders reviewing the information don’t know what they’re reading. They don’t understand when they see something strategic in this particular area of business, right? They might have been in something else, but in their particular role, they don’t know when they’re seeing a good thing. They don’t know when they’re seeing a bad thing. They don’t know if they’re seeing strategic or tactical. But the hard part is they think they dio, and that’s very difficult to watch from the outside where you could talk to people in Everybody that knows would agree. Yes, this person is the right person to put forward, and this person needs a few more years or whatever. And the leader decides something else now. You could push back and say, Rebecca, maybe they’re way more insightful or innovative than you and I would push back and go, No, not in these cases there is a certain rogue nous that is attached to innovative leaders. They’re willing to take chances, they’re willing to experiment, and some of those rogue, innovative leaders are the ones that I’ve seen are most likely to allow more of a variety of people into these other opportunities these leaders air, not those leaders right there, very calculated. They’re often protecting their back, or they’re protecting themselves in a way because they don’t understand. And so they latch onto what kind of sounds familiar. Or they can kind of understand versus taking that extra time to learn the business of the business. Learn what kind of skills and experiences are needed to get the work done and learn how specific people can help them or not in those areas. And so there there is a difference. Number five, engage, engage, engage, have conversations. Search the Internet and please learn technology. Sorry, it’s 2020. There’s no excuse anymore. And thank goodness that cove it has been helping this one along. There is no excuse now to be a leader that doesn’t know how to use their email or their calendars and scheduling and being able to understand some basics about websites and email automation, and how feedback comes back from help desks or whatever. There’s no excuse anymore. It’s so interesting to me that I would be in some situations at work over the years where people would say, Oh, well, if you’re so busy like, why don’t we have so and so help you part of the time manage your calendar and all the meetings and everything. Like what? Like it would take me way longer in our work environment to have someone help me schedule those right. I got my own free conference call number and I’m setting up meetings every day. And then you’re like switching meetings around and coordinating. And what I could do in five minutes, it would take someone else 20 minutes to over an hour to coordinate because they weren’t in the work. Right? So a lot of us in leadership roles, you started to take on part secretary to get done what you needed to dio. Now, as you went through doing that, you started to learn some things like Okay, there is this repetitive task that we could give over to someone who can sit in a corner with their headphones on and do it. That’s fine, but there’s day to day work now for leaders that require you to be on top of your own calendar that require you to be in power point, modifying something one hour before an even higher level comes in and there’s no time for the leader to be then turning to someone else to get something done in time for them to show this to someone else, all right, because the people they wanna hand it off to already have stuff to do most the time. Now, this could be different in certain organizations that aren’t being pulled by a lot of very urgent external factors, Right? And of course, you’ve got entrepreneurs that are building their businesses that realize, Oh, I’m done being a jack of all trades. I’m glad I understand how to do the work. But now I’ve gotta give off some of these tasks. Other people. What I’m saying is to lead anything. Nowadays, you’ve got toe learn technology. You don’t have to become a programmer that learn how things work. And a lot of your decision making will be involved in making decisions around technology, like it or not. And so you need to know when the wolves being pulled over your eyes by someone saying it will claim to take this many dollars or this much time when relates a simple thing and you have to be willing to understand what you’re signing up for in the way of maintenance costs and time when dealing with technology. But either way, bother toe. Learn the technology required to do the work in your organization or in your business. It matters. You will not be as lucrative if you don’t know how to use it. And in the worst case scenarios, you’ll have a situation that I shared upfront in this podcast, where the woman actually took us back a few years by going back to a process that was archaic. Your credibility as a leader depends upon you learning and being willing to find out the business of your business. What does it do, what, what’s all involved and who are the kind of people that have the kind of experience and skill sets to get you through it. You need to be able to learn enough to know when someone’s just marketing to you something, and when they actually know how to do it or have actually had success doing it before. Because if you are one of these kinds of leaders that is leading something that you know nothing about and you’ve never done before, I will tell you you are the most susceptible to people that talk really smooth and are great at marketing because some of these people can phrase things in ways that you understand that the people doing the work aren’t really great at because they’re too much of an expert in it. Which leads me to my final points. If you are an employee of one of thes leaders that has a lot of blind spots, this is your chance to manage upward. You’re going to have to set some expectations. You’re gonna have to tell them. Hey, I want to show you something that will help you learn how to work with me, but also help you as you interact with other leaders and other teams and other organizations. And that kind of ties into a podcast episode I did about naked emperors, right? Where have the people around Thean poorer. Didn’t tell him he didn’t have clothes on. Have to be willing to be that person that tells this blind spot leader or this naked emperor. Hey, I want to give you the benefit of the doubt and teach you something about what we dio and that might feel like a marketing effort for some of you whether you’re an employee or whether you’re making something for someone’s business that after a while it is on you to help them understand what you offer up, what your experience does to help the work, what your skills do to help the work, where you have gaps, where the team has gaps. This is managing upwards. This is leading upwards and doing it in a way that’s respectful to the leader, regardless of whether that leader is respectful or not, to help them have a chance to learn the business, and they may or may not accept that help, they may or not be open to it. They may feel like it’s condescending, but it is on you to take those steps to do that, and then you can decide whether you want to put up with this kind of leadership or if you want to move on on. I think that’s the thing that is really interesting. To look at in all of these situations is that these were all talented people that I talked Thio and some of them were in leadership roles and they’re doing a great job even if they were new leaders and there’s others that were enrolls, reporting toe leaders that don’t know what the job is and are making decisions that they don’t agree with, but to see how their self esteem, their motivation and everything is just kind of quashed under this kind of leadership. And what I’ve seen time and time again is some of these leaders command compliant followers, but they don’t end up with inspired and influenced followers. So you have some that are working hard to be compliant. But they’re angry, and they’re not putting forth their best work. They don’t enjoy the work in the same way that they want to and desire to. And so in the end you get leaders people don’t want to follow and employees that air disgruntled and sending out their resume, hoping that they can find someone that appreciates the work that they offer up. So if you are one of these kind of leaders, I hope that you are willing to learn and let go of some of your ego and offer up your best work through some of these practices and then if you are one of the followers of one of these leaders, is just trying to hang on to your job and do the work each day. Even though you have certain feelings about the leader and about yourself, they step up and manage upwards. While you also seek to offer up your best work in whatever environment that ends up being and the wisdom to know which environment that is, right. So have a great day and keep pressing forward and be the person that creates the environment for others to be able to bring their best work to the table and get rid of those blind spots. You’ll be a more holistic thinker, more holistic leader and have broadened horizons in any work that you dio talk to you soon. Thanks for listening to the show today. If you enjoyed it, I’d love if you’d write a review and share the show with your friends, sign up for a weekly nudge at Move your best dot com. See you next Monday