Navigating the Whitewater: Identifying the Blind Spots for Optimized Growth

Posted on April 16th, 2024

Rapid change is the new normal for organizations. Like navigating whitewater rapids, it requires skilled leadership, and a clear awareness of potential dangers hidden beneath the surface- your organizational, and leadership blind spots. This is the reality of many organizations today, caught in the current of rapid change. Leadership Blind spots these are areas where leaders lack awareness, lingering their ability to make sound decisions and hindering organizational growth.

A 2020 McKinsey & Company report, found that 70% of transformation efforts fail: This high failure rate suggests a lack of proper leadership and blind spots in planning.

Prosci's Change Management Benchmarking Report (2023) indicates a correlation between effective change management practices and improved project success rates This reinforces the notion that addressing blind spots through strong leadership communication is critical.

Lets take a look at the last 2 years of companies that have struggled due to leadership blind spots:

Peloton (2020-2022) : Over confidence of this at-home fitness dominance during pandemic. It failed to anticipate that post-pandemic people will return to gyms, and as a result witnessed a slow-down. They also faced public relation issues around product safety recalls. The company's stock price plummeted significantly.

JCPenney (2019-2020): Aggressively discounting merchandise in an attempt to compete with fast-fashion retailers. This strategy eroded JCPenney's brand image, and alienated their core customer base. Eventually the company filed for bankruptcy in 2020.

In the past Blockbuster underestimated the appeal of convenient, at-home streaming's offered by competitors like Netflix. Their model of physical rentals became obsolete, leading to their eventual demise.

I believe that organizations can achieve more by implementing strategies that optimizes growth and navigates the white waters to calmer waters.

How can we achieve that?

By "Illuminating the Blind spots"

By Embracing Feedback like 360 degree feedback cultivates a culture of open communication and gains a well rounded perspective of providing honest feedback.

As leaders its common to experience blind spots or the gap between the right intentions and actions that sometimes has limited visibility. People respond better to actions rather than intentions. That gap (blind spot) between intentions and actions can confuse teams, and in some cases, damage the relationships and leadership effectiveness. As leaders some common identifiable blind spots are :

  • Control: Most leaders do not want to be micromanagers, but sometimes that happens with obsessively controlling people and the outcomes. In order for people to grow, and learn one needs to fail and make mistakes, and that comes from experience, which comes being in the game for a while. So a good leadership requires both ingredients: skill and wisdom. One has to be cautious and understand that the more control we exercise, the less our team/ people/ employees grow. As a leader its our responsibility to guide/empower and invest in coaching them to grow.
  • Temperament: To be an effective leader, the temperament and the approach to the team is significant. During those challenging times, it's important how a leader show's up. The attitude: motivated, problem solver, neutral, demoralizing, uplifting, positive? By remembering to model the right kind of behavior for your team/ organization provides a clear path of the vision that gears for an organizational growth and success.
  • Influence: Team members/ employees look at the leaders as the authority for the power they yield. The influence of words, actions, cannot be underestimated. Verbal non verbal cues a flippant comment, or a pat on the back can completely change the message that a leader wishes to send. Sometimes that could backfire and wreck the confidence and motivation of of a team member. On the other end a casual smile, handshake/compliment could change the course. With this position of power, one cannot ignore to be cautious and thoughtful with words and actions around teams. Those words should signal being transparent, honest, humble and reiterate the company's cultural values.

As a leader one can gets help to identify and minimize blind spots by being: self- aware, identify triggers, and hire a coach.

For optimized growth, leaders and companies can begin investing in agility, where we can foster a culture of adaptability. This encourages experimentation, and embraces calculated risks, while empowering teams to make decisions quickly, and iterate based on feedback. To identify skills of your workforce, upskilling, reskilling and investing in training programs should be a high priority to thrive in the ever evolving landscape. Promoting accountability and championing transparency by establishing mechanisms to ensure that leaders and teams follow through on action plans, by communicating openly, and honestly during period of challenge, change and opportunities. By implementing these practices, organizations can address blind spots and encourage growth.

By proactively identifying, understanding and addressing blind spots, leaders can navigate the whitewater of rapid change with confidence. Remember, growth often lies beyond the edge of your comfort zone. So, grab your paddle and embrace the journey!!

"At best people are open to scrutinizing themselves and considering their blind spots, at worst they become defensive and angry."- Sheryl Sandberg

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