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Overcoming blind spots, a key to mindful leadership

What are your blind spots?

It’s a difficult question to answer, because, of course, your blind spots are the inner barriers you don’t see. They’re the stories you tell yourself that hold you back: “My work isn’t valuable.” “Who am I to give this talk?” “I’ll never figure out how to solve this problem.” “I don’t have enough time.”

A mindful leader is someone who embodies leadership presence by cultivating focus, clarity, curiosity, and compassion in the service of others. Part of your role as a leader is to identify your blind spots, so you can change your story. When you define the story you want, you can create the future you want. And you can inspire others to become part of your vision.

Because you must be adaptive in order to compete.

You must be able to shift your mindset in order to innovate.

You must be able to change your perspective in order to lead others.

Where do your blind spots come from?

1. The lizard brain

As one of the oldest parts of the brain, the amygdala is where we process intense emotions like fear. It evolved to help us survive both physical and social / emotional threats by alerting us of danger and steering us away.

When a painful experience or thought triggers the amygdala, you may be overcome with difficult emotions. Your mental chatter becomes toxic. In short, you might travel down a mental path that makes you feel less than awesome about yourself. Dwelling here simply doesn’t serve you as a leader.

Getting off the negative path requires first identifying the real emotions and accepting where you are. Becoming mindful means becoming more fully and honestly aware of what you’re feeling. While it can be tempting to suppress or rationalize our feelings, avoiding emotional pain can become a blind spot that inhibits your growth as a leader.

It’s often extremely difficult to uncover hidden emotions, fears, and rationalizations by ourselves. Our brains are tricky! Working with a skilled coach is one of the most effective ways to explore these emotions and their impact on you.

Because when you’re not honest with yourself, you can’t change your perspective. You can’t cultivate the clarity and focus you need to lead.

2. Confirmation bias

Confirmation bias is a psychological phenomenon in which we tell ourselves stories, and then seek information to prove ourselves right.

If you’re a sports fan you’ve probably seen fans of different teams that watch the same play, the same official’s call, even the same slow-motion replay and see such different results.

Our senses don’t give us an objective, honest picture of the world in front of us. Instead, we observe ‘facts’ that support our preconceived notions about what the real world is.

If you have negative beliefs about yourself, you will seek information to confirm those beliefs. Say you’re afraid that someone on your team doesn’t like you. If that person disagrees with you on the direction a project should take, you’d attribute that to the “fact” that she doesn’t like you, instead of the idea that she simply has a different opinion.  

Luckily, you can also use confirmation bias in your favor. Intentionally activating positive stories will lead you to prove yourself right into the life you want—a key to overcoming inner obstacles.

Overcoming your blind spots to grow as a leader

In their book The Art of Possibility, Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander tell us that “everything is an invention.” No matter how objective we try to be, it is still through the structure of our brain that we perceive the world around us.

The authors offer a hypothesis that I love: “if it’s all invented anyway we might as well invent a story or framework of meaning that enhances our quality of life and the life of those around us.”

It’s simple. Tell a story that supports the future you want to create.

We’re in the business of storytelling at New Kind. We know that the narrative you tell internally—to yourself and throughout the organization—is just as important as the story you share with your customers, clients and outside audiences. And we, whether individual or organization, are all in charge of and accountable for the story we create.

Indeed, the Zanders tell us that the story we tell—not just some of it but all of it—is invented in our brain, and founded on a network of hidden assumptions. Once we become self aware enough to notice, identify and distinguish these stories, we’re better prepared to break through the barriers and create a new narrative that supports the future we envision for ourselves.

This, of course, doesn’t mean that you can just make up anything and have it magically appear. But you can shift your perspective—change your framework—to discover new and different assumptions that allow for the conditions you want. “All of us,” the Zanders note, “at the apex of desperation and rage need a new invention to see us through.”

In the face of difficulty, ask yourself this question:

What assumptions am I making,

that I’m not aware I’m making,

that give me what I see?


Followed by:

What might I now invent,

that I haven’t yet invented,

that would give me more choices?

I don’t know how this fits with where you are today, but I find it fascinating.

If you are invested in growing into the best version of yourself—in becoming part of a movement of mindful leaders—coaching is truly an incredible tool. Coaching sessions are a safe space to expose painful emotions, hidden assumptions, and current stories. And then to intentionally craft the stories you want to live.

Interested? Get in touch.

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