If you ride a motorcycle, you are keenly aware of the danger of rolling along in the blind spot of the car or truck in front of you. To a lesser degree, drivers of cars (or cages, as we like to call them) pay attention to blind spots as well.
Last week, on my early morning ride to work, I was reminded again of the importance of managing for other people’s blind spots. As I approached in the left lane a red, late model, sedan trolling in the right lane, the driver wandered slightly over the line at exactly the moment I entered her blind spot. I saw her drifting my way and was able to maneuver smoothly and avoid the hazard. Then, as she became aware of my rumbling, Harley Davidson presence, she looked up from her phone, twitched her shoulders, and jerked the steering wheel to the right, overcorrecting her mistake before gesturing apologetically as I passed. Her expression suggested that her adrenal glands were working well. I was, once again, keenly aware that I am responsible for managing other people’s blind spots.
As I continued the ride, I pondered my responsibility to do that in other situations. Blind spots, by definition, cannot be recognized easily. Sometimes they are structural: she could not see through the metal side posts of her car. Perhaps you work across the building, or country, from your team mate. Sometimes they are mental: she wasn’t expecting a motorcycle. Perhaps your expectations actually create blindness for you. And, sometimes, blind spots are there because of habits: she didn’t habitually look in her mirror, turn her head, signal, and only then begin to change lanes. Maybe your habits cause you to overlook early indications of opportunity or challenge. Regardless of the source of the blind spots, the results are always the same. “I didn’t even see that coming!” All of us have had this experience many times.
When riding in a group, especially one comprised of experienced riders who know one another well, shared responsibility for managing blind spots all but eliminates them. We watch each other, comment on riding ability, warn and signal when hazards approach, collectively sharpen our skills, and therefore our enjoyment, each time we ride.
My work teams are just like that. We get to know the structural, mental, and habitual blind spots of our teammates and take personal responsibility for managing their blind spots. In every high performance team I have had the joy of experiencing, this practice has made us stronger and more effective. And, it glues us together. Each time we point out and adjust for blind spots, our team grows. Incrementally, our willingness to receive candid feedback, even criticism, grows and so does our trust. We get better at our work. We win more often, and winning makes us want more of what it takes to win.
So, rather than trying to overcome my blind spots alone, I’ve learned to be a little more open to help from others on my team when they point them out to me. I’m learning to rely more on them to help manage the deficits as well. I know I have them and can change my habits and restructure my life a little to help, but I also know that some of my blind spots will continue to exist. So, I need my team to help me manage them. And, I do the same for them.
Thankfully, Drifting Donna in her red sedan didn’t get angry and aggressive when she finally saw me. She didn’t lash out, embarrassed by yet another example of something large, shiny, loud, and well-lit unexpectedly entering her world. She corrected, apologized, and moved on. I want to have the same grace with my team when they honk at me about my blind spots. It’s a lesson I continually learn.
And, Drifting Donna’s left side door was dented. Leaving me wondering if she, like me, learns slowly.