Thursday, May 7, 2015
I was traveling over spring break with my family by car. I was the driver. I try to be very careful on the road because I know it can be deadly out there. Consequently, I don't use my side mirrors much because I don't believe they give the full view of what's around me. I often physically turn my head and body before I switch lanes. This action is recommended by public safety officials because of the potential for vehicular accidents due to those pesky "blind spots". However, regardless of my efforts to be safe on this particular trip, I still managed to cut in front of another driver without seeing him. It was absolutely frightening after I realized he was back there. I saw him in my rear view mirror riding extremely close on my tail. I felt bad and told my husband I was sure the guy was mad at me.
My intention after that was to wait until he passed me and mouth an apology. But no sooner had I gotten back in the right lane than he whizzed by me so fast and cut so close to my front bumper that I was sure he would clip us and send us careening off into the trees. He wasn't just mad; he was furious! And dangerous. I get it that I made a serious mistake. But it was not intentional as was his road rage, and it was certainly not my desire to cause an accident. After all, I had my kids in the car.
As much as this sounds like a lesson on road rage, it isn't. It is, however, a message on blind spots. His and mine. Mine in this instance is literal. I was blind to the person who was very near me and out of my line of vision. Even after glancing over my shoulder, neither my eyes nor my mind registered his presence. It could have cost us lives. I thank God it did not. His blind spot, however, was his attitude towards me regarding my mistake. His first response was not to consider that the careless lady in front of him had made an unwittingly dumb move, but it was retaliation. He allowed his emotions to get ahead of reason, and he reacted out of spite--an equally careless and dangerous move.
Why is this considered a blind spot? Because blind spots don't allow us to see on a personal level how we relate in our day-to-day interactions with other people. We are "blind" to our attitudes, emotions, and overall behavior. In leadership, managers don't often consider how their tone and words impact the motivation of their teams. Co-workers don't realize how their lack of response to each others' requests slows down progress. Customers don't see how their unrealistic demands set their vendors up for hardship or failure. We are not self-aware enough to recognize our damaging behaviors and then to do something about them.
Everyone should take a self-assessment to determine how they are. We try to define who we are, but we don't often take care in recognizing that the "who" determines the "how". Find a behavioral assessment that will help you understand your style. Be open to what you hear--especially if it's from a 360-degree survey. Don't be defensive but consider the feedback fairly without trying to detract from its validity. The results are usually the consensus of a large number of people, and they can't all be wrong. Once you have this valuable input, then do something that will transform you and make you grow. Finally, "see" yourself, and eliminate the blind spots that keep you traveling in the wrong lane.