As aspiring leaders we must become aware of our internal strengths but also recognize our blind spots. Blind spots are hidden in people’s lives, we are completely unaware of this behaviour and its damaging effects on both ourselves and more importantly, to our coworkers and colleagues who are prudently aware of those things we can’t see ourselves. Dr. Loretta Milandro, author of Fearless Leadership, brilliantly describes ten blind spots within us all and provides insight into first recognizing this behaviour and then challenging ourselves to allow others to coach our behaviour around these blind spots.
Leaders become engrossed in navigating the success of their business and neglect and the most important aspects of running a successful business: its culture of communication and people. Blind spots are not flaws and are not deliberate, they are what Malandro refers to as “automatic behaviours”. Examples of these automatic behaviours are “the need to be right” and “have all the answers”, while concurrently ignoring the need to be more aligned to business success. Others develop a victim mentality while acquiring co-conspirators to encourage and enhance this limiting belief.
A fearless leader must be able to surround themselves with “Coaches” who will address their behaviour; they must not be offended but instead take the coaching on board and correct the behaviour. A fearless leader must also recognize blind spots, ask for completely honest feedback, accept responsibility for their actions and stop justifying their behaviour by defending their positive intentions. When challenged on weakness, a fearless leader must stop the behaviour, make corrections and acknowledge the behaviour.
"In the model of 100%-zero accountability, it does not matter what others choose. Accountability is viewed as owning the problem or situation. It's irrelevant who is to blame or what caused the problem."
In the model of 100%-zero accountability there is no blame or guilt attached to any alleged issue or problem within a business. You are fully responsible for your actions and are not judgemental towards others’ behaviour nor expecting them to take accountability for their behaviour. The zero means there is no waiting for others to act.
The central element in this approach is to have an entire organisation of committed partners wherein trust is granted early, is a requisite and remains transparent. You must be willing to accept responsibility where you have conspired against or not supported others and correct this behaviour, most importantly in yourself, but also stopping this behaviour in others.
100%-zero accountability means listening for positive intention; they eliminate ambiguity by being absolutely honest and clear about your behaviour and immediate reactions.
Achieving this is definitely not an easy task and requires considerable willpower. Several steps discussed below are worth considering:
- Keeping an optimistic attitude and remaining positive despite fighting against your core values and belief systems, i.e. “it’s not my fault” versus taking responsibility.
- Avoiding victim mentality. Move away from the 50-50 mentality of “I will do this if you do that” towards taking full responsibility, irrespective of other people.
- Take a bold stance of achievement and reduce half-hearted commitments.
- Allow yourself to speak up constructively, versus remaining silent. This will allow others to see you walking the walk. Also, openly discuss your blind spots and allow others to coach you.
- Listen for positive intention instead of tuning out and making assumptions.
- Set the organisation goals as a priority. Don’t wander off into your own silos, but achieve alignment of team members with committed partnerships.
"Automatic listening is the process of unconsciously filtering and distorting information to support your views and beliefs."
To maintain 100%-zero accountability and avoid the behaviour of a need to be right we must check our assumptions when listening for information and remain open to new ideas and points of interest. Listen to others without defending, explaining or justifying. Automatic listening is a closed loop. Something happens and…
- you have a reaction
- you form a judgement
- you make up a story
- you search for evidence
- you predict the future
It is based on beliefs rather than intention. It is a very dangerous automatic behaviour and can have devastating results.
When you are aware of this automatic rigid behaviour and how this affects others negatively you have the ability to make a breakthrough in leadership.
It all begins with self-awareness. 100%-zero accountability means that you can bring understanding and compassion when others are stuck in your automatic thinking. Fearless leadership means letting go of the need to be right, expand your thinking and take decisive action to correct your behaviours and achieve better outcomes.
Consider how you make judgements on people or groups. Ask yourself: “What evidence have I collected?” and “What stories have I told?” Check your ego and examine how your behaviour is counterproductive.
The Five Levels of Alignment
"The informal question ‘Do we all agree?’ is often used in meetings. Having no other option than to agree or disagree, many people nod and comply. The tragedy is that complying is often mistaken as alignment, until a breakdown occurs"
Malandro has developed a unique template to provide clarity around accountability for agreements.
The template is referred to as The Five Levels of Alignment. Where are you?
Level 1: Resigned; being actively disengaged and expecting nothing to change.
Level 2: Concerned; not aligned and concerned about some aspects such as a third party.
Level 3: Complying; a form of resignation but letting the group take accountability rather than taking responsibility for you own concerns.
Level 4: Intellectually Committed; supporting the decision but lacking full commitment for execution throughout initiation to full implementation and completion.
Level 5: Emotionally and Intellectually Committed; Alignment is both intellectual and emotional and both aspects must be addressed.
To achieve alignment in an organisation, ask you group where they stand on the alignment scale and if they are feeling understood and listened to. Ask for communication around issues if they are not aligned, address behavioural blind spots such as the need to be right or remaining silent, check for automatic listening, and ask for support when they may not completely support the decision initially.
By keeping conversations open and direct until all issues have been exposed, all parties will be heard and alignment will be easier. Practice this behaviour consistently and results will be achievable.
Malandro’s Fearless Leadership is a genuine leadership Bible. Her recommendations are difficult to implement and control because our default or automatic behaviours are natural stumbling blocks to fearless leadership, but the book provides many exercises to begin and I suggest all leaders should.