The 5 Communication Blind Spots Leaders Need to Avoid
Building self-awareness is essential for developing your communication skills. You must become more aware of your own habits and tendencies for you to change them. And you should also become more aware of the positive aspects of your communication style so you can capitalize on your more effective communication gifts. Self-awareness is vitally important to your ability to listen, and when you can become present with the person who is speaking to you, conversations become richer and far more productive.
The challenge with developing your self-awareness is understanding that you probably have blind spots that will be very difficult to uncover, no matter how much effort you put into your desire to be more aware. Communication blind spots are easy to spot in others but are sometimes next to impossible to notice in oneself.
Think about it: you probably notice a colleague’s tendency to interrupt or the habit of one of your team members to be impatient in conversation. As an observer of others, spotting these communication deficiencies is relatively easy. But when it comes to your own self-awareness, you are probably blind to at least a few habitual communication blunders.
Further complicating matters is the fact that leaders like you tend to see things on the big-picture level. Taking the so-called 30,000-foot view of your organization and its fortunes is the perfect perspective for leaders most of the time. But it distances them from critical day-to-day aspects of organizational health. Your employees are closer to the ground, so to speak, and have a much different perspective. A lot can get lost in translation because of this difference in perspective, making it crucial for leaders to develop methods of becoming self-aware of their communication blind spots.
So, how do you become more self-aware of these blind spots in order to keep them in check? It may not be easy, but it is possible. The first step is to simply acknowledge that you probably do have some blind spots. You may not recognize them right away, but if you open yourself up to the possibility of doing things differently your mind will be better able to notice opportunities as they happen, allowing you to make the necessary corrections.
To help you expand your self-awareness of potential communication blind spots, I’ve compiled a list of common areas where leaders often go wrong in the way in which they are communicating.
#1 – Going Solo
Leaders like to have the first and last word on any given topic. They can also be reluctant to seek input from others. Additionally, they sometimes tend to be a little afraid to ask for help.
Pay attention to how you interact with others. Are you dominating conversations and always angling for the last word? Are you making decisions without the benefit of input from others? Or are you acting unilaterally, failing to consider the expertise and wisdom of others? Yes, the buck stops with you because you are a leader, but that doesn’t mean you should be the only voice in the conversation.
#2 – Shifting Standards
Leaders who constantly shift targets or move goalposts tend to have disengaged employees, and most of those leaders fail to realize what they’re doing wrong.
Pay attention to how you communicate praise and offer criticism. Are you consistent? Are you playing favorites? Are you tolerating work that is merely “good enough” from some while demanding nothing short of perfection from others?
The way you communicate your expectations needs to be addressed. Some leaders, sadly, don’t even know what success looks like, which causes them to shift their standards constantly, alienating and disengaging their team members. Grounded, self-aware leaders, however, understand what excellence means, and so do their employees. There are no guessing games; everyone knows what needs to be done and how it should be accomplished because leaders communicate expectations clearly and consistently.
#3 – Playing the Blame Game
This is a very common blind spot for leaders. They deflect and defer responsibility, always looking to deflect the blame on others. These leaders act out of fear and a severe lack of confidence. They want to preserve themselves and their titles, so they fail to hold themselves accountable.
This becomes a blind spot quite easily because leaders learn to blame others as a defense mechanism. Over time, it becomes second nature. So much so that leaders don’t even realize that their primary instinct is to place the blame on others when something goes wrong or a mistake is made.
If you fear you’ve lost awareness of your own responsibility as a leader, it’s time to reconnect!
#4 – Having to Always Be Right
For the members of a team, there is nothing more exhausting than a leader who insists on always being right or always having the answers. Often, the leader is projecting false confidence rather than true wisdom or righteousness.
When was the last time you said, “I don’t know”? When was the last time you allowed yourself to be vulnerable and openly share that you are uncertain about something?
When you fail to be human and vulnerable, you may be perceived as inauthentic, and your people will no longer be able to connect with you. Trust will also erode. Stop trying to be right all the time, and instead be present with your people in conversation. If you don’t know the answer, say so. If someone shares insights or a perspective that you aren’t aware of, it’s not an attack on your ego. You don’t have to know it all to be a great leader. Rather, you should embrace the fact that there’s so much you do not know and use it as an opportunity to build your people up, not break them down.
Show your people that you, like them, are always learning and always striving to do better. Learn to admit when you are wrong or that you don’t have the answer. Effective leaders are not afraid to show this type of vulnerability; they use moments like this to learn and improve their overall leadership abilities.
Think about it this way: Do you want your employees to come across as know-it-alls, or do you want them to be curious and interested in continuous improvement? You are their model, so make sure you act accordingly.
#5 – Putting the Personal Above the Professional
It’s heartbreaking to see, but also very common: Leaders become entrenched in their roles so deeply that their personal preferences and perspectives begin to cloud their ability to act professionally. They begin to operate not in the best interest of their respective organizations, but in complete self-interest. Every conversation becomes an ego-based game where the leader is trying to gain an edge. Meanwhile, employees just want their leaders to be “real” with them and support them in a meaningful and inspiring way.
As a leader, you do hold a position of authority, and you should not abuse the position of influence with your own personal preferences ahead of the needs of your organization. Ask yourself whether you are engaging with your employees as a means of furthering your own agenda, or if you are doing so out of a commitment to everyone’s success. What you notice may alarm you, but it will allow you to reprioritize your leadership activity so you can serve and lead your people more effectively.
A Cure for Communication Blindness
These leadership communication blind spots are incredibly common and can be notoriously difficult to tackle. With that being said, I know leaders can change through the development of self-awareness and vulnerability. You may not be able to see your own blind spots. Accepting this fact may be difficult, but it gets you one step closer to becoming the grounded leader you know you can be.
Any questions on these or other communication blind spots for leaders? I would love to hear from you! Please leave send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.