BIZ COLUMN:  THE  BLIND  SPOT

MANILA, JUNE 28, 2008
(STAR) BUSINESS MATTERS (Beyond the bottom line) By Francis J. Kong - When Graham Lawton, a Canadian executive representing our principal for our Mad Science franchise came and visited the country for the first time, I personally went to the airport and fetched him. I was half-smiling as I saw how nervous he was watching the way our motorists drive.

I looked at him and asked, “Did you notice the way we drive here in our country?”

He looked back at me and said, “I am so amazed how good Filipino motorists are. They can weave in and out of traffic, change lanes anytime without bumping or crashing another car.” Now that is his polite way of saying we drive without any respect for the law. I could see how white his knuckles were and then I said, “Graham, relax. Filipino motorists are very skillful and many of us do not drive according to laws but according to instinct!” And he laughed so hard.

Rampant changing lanes is dangerous. And most accidents happen when the motorists are not diligent in checking their blind spot when shifting lanes. And then mercifully there is the angry honking of a car or worst, the ugly sound of crunching metal.

But do you know that leaders have blind spots too? In fact the higher you are in your organization structure the more difficult it is to get right down to the truth of crucial issues. Leadership guru Dr. John Maxwell has a lot to say about a blind spot. Maxwell says a blind spot is an area in the lives of people in which they continually do not see themselves or their situation realistically. This unawareness often causes great damage to the people and those around them.

As leaders you and I are trapped in our own perspectives, unable to see the world completely from another person’s point of view. We are absorbed in our world, caught in our present circumstances, consumed by selfish thoughts, and confined by our narrow experiences. Take for example King George III of England’s journal entry on July 4, 1776: “Nothing happened today.” Of course, unbeknownst to King George, the American Declaration of Independence had been issued that day, and it would change the course of history.

Maxwell says: “One reason for our singular perspective can be attributed to our self-perception, or attitude toward self.” Who we are determines how we see others. A naïve optimist may be blind to the less-than-ideal intentions of those around them. Oppositely, an eternal pessimist may be blind to the kindness of a co-worker, instead suspecting ulterior motives.

A second cause of singular perspective comes from our tendency to judge ourselves based on intentions, while judging others by their actions. Such a bias allows us to cut ourselves slack and to justify our actions, because, after all, we meant well. However, since we aren’t able to see the motives of others, we evaluate them solely by their actions. We attribute shortcomings in their behavior to shortfalls in character without regard for their present circumstances, mood, or emotional frame of mind. We are fully aware of our history, but ignorant of the background of others.

For this reason, context is the third and final cause of a blinding singular perspective. Decisions we take make perfect sense to us given our beliefs and experiences, but they may surprise others who are not as familiar with us. On the other hand, since we don’t know the particulars of another person’s childhood, past relationships, or prior involvements, we often have trouble conceiving why the person acts the way he or she does. _As trite as it may sound, putting yourself in another person’s shoes does open you to their perspective. To broaden your limited perspective, try to envision their opinions and feelings. Attempt to be aware of their motives and the values they hold dear. _Leaders avoid the blind spot of singular perspective when they seek to understand before seeking to be understood. Followers are focused inwardly, and they wonder, “How will this affect me?” Conversely, leaders are focused outwardly, and they ask, “How will this affect others?”

Finally, leaders may avoid the blind spot of singular perspective by examining themselves before casting blame on others. As Jesus of Nazareth taught, “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, or criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own,” (Matthew 7:1-3, The Message). And Maxwell is right. Here is the key. Be humble. Be responsible and always remember that the universe does not revolve around you.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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