By Laura Petrolino
Growing up, I was certain I would be a gold medal Olympian.
Much of my life revolved around my sports (ice skating and gymnastics), and I spent many, many long hours in a rink or a gym.
Eventually, as I progressed in both sports, I had to give up one to focus on the other. Ice skating stayed, and gymnastics was left behind.
I woke up at 3:45 a.m. every morning, went to the rink, and skated for several hours before school. I went back or participated in some sort of cross-training after classes let out for the day. A grueling schedule for sure, but I loved it, and was laser-focused on my goal of being in the Olympics.
Figure skating was the center point of my life. I created a world that revolved completely around it.
I wasn’t the most naturally gifted skater, but I was full of energy, had a stubborn sense of determination, a possibly…um, not sane…sort of drive, and a vision so crystal clear it easily brought all of that together.
I didn’t just think I was going to be an Olympian. In my mind, I WAS an Olympian. Every decision I made was based upon that belief.
So at this point, I could write a really inspirational post about the power of vision in igniting teams and reaching goals.
I could talk about how it is much easier for everyone in an organization to endure tough times and difficult decisions when united by a single vision. That’s clearly something I learned through my years as a skater, and is very much the case in the business world as well.
But instead, I want to discuss an often ignored part of having a clear vision — the blind spots.
Vision and the Blind Spots
Because I was so focused on being successful in skating, there were other things I ignored. The chronic bouts of bronchitis, pneumonia, and endless sinus infections from spending so much time in damp, moldy rinks. The endless injuries I just “skated through.” Even the fact I was constantly sleep deprived and developed horrible sleep habits, which as my team will easily tell you from my emails at 3 a.m., haunt me to this day. Editor’s Note: TRUE!
I don’t regret the time and energy spent dedicated to skating, but in retrospect, there are things I would have done differently had I taken a step back to see the whole picture.
I had self-imposed blind spots, and in the end, they are what caused me to end my skating career earlier than planned (and without my Olympic medal).
We all have blind spots. Both when it comes to individual leadership, and as part of an overall organizational vision. These are areas that are very easy to ignore when we are pushing towards a goal. We overlook them for a variety of reasons, but most often, we don’t want to be stopped (which ironically is why they often stop us).
How do we learn to “see” the blind spots in our personal and professional vision?
Self-Checking Your Blind Spots
These are the four check-ins I go through when wanting to monitor my ambitions against my reality.
All of these can be applied at an individual or organizational level.
Understand the downside of the organization’s strengths: This one is big for me, personally. In many cases, our best characteristics are often our worst. For example, I’m extremely extroverted. This makes me outgoing, social, and comfortable in almost all situations, but it also makes me highly affected by external circumstances, people, and environments.
Without a doubt, I often have “blind spots” that surround this external vulnerability.
Have a ‘no’ man: We all know about “yes” men, but do you have a “no” man? This is someone, or a group of people, you can trust to help you step out of your own head, and clearly examine the situation objectively.
These are people who will not only tell you where weak spots might be, but help you actively see them on your own by being able to clearly communicate in a way that resonates.
Study history: On both individual and organizational levels, we tend to repeat our mistakes. Take a step back, and look at the common missteps you or your business have taken in the past. Evaluate them in the context of your current situation.
Allow imperfection: Often the biggest cause for blind spots is our furious fear of admitting we are imperfect. By allowing yourself to accept your imperfections, you clear the way to also see where you might not be right on target.
Having vision is important for both personal and organizational growth, but equally important is the ability to step outside that vision.
How do you self-check?
What questions do you ask while pursing a goal to make sure you aren’t (sing it with me now) blinded by the light?