Working with others often has a way of revealing our blind spots.
As a leader, it can be terrifying to think that people on my team might recognize characteristics or response tendencies I don’t even see in myself.
I was once working on a project and was becoming increasingly frustrated my co-worker kept pushing me to talk about certain difficulties we were having, beyond what felt reasonable to me. Every time I would attempt to move on and tackle the next task, she would pull me back and practically force (at least that’s what it felt like to me) my thoughts and feelings out of me. I eventually asked why she kept wanting to talk about these things, and she looked me in the eye and calmly said, “I’m making you talk through these challenges because when you’re angry you shut down and avoid the situation all together. That’s not helpful. I need you to engage with me.”
You see, the thing about blind spots is they’re often only blind to us.
I knew I tended to retreat in anger rather than blow up, but I had no idea I was doing it at work. And especially that I was doing it often enough for other people to notice. When my colleague made that comment I became defensive, then quickly embarrassed. Ultimately, I was grateful that she cared enough about me to make sure that those blind spots weren’t quite as hidden. The lesson I learned that day wasn’t just a lesson in recognizing my blind spots…it was a lesson in self-awareness and strong emotional intelligence. Retreating in anger is just as destructive as blowing up. It causes me to disengage and allow my personal feelings to take priority over the success of the group or project. I want to be a leader who recognizes my emotions as they’re happening, and manages them to a successful outcome.
I could have easily been defensive and justified my actions that day when my co-worker “called me out.” It was my immediate reaction, after all. However, I decided to get curious. Was my response to anger really that pervasive? Did other people on my team know this about me? How harmful was it truly? We can’t become an emotionally intelligent leader, recognizing our own blind spots, without intentional curiosity.
Here are a few tips I’ve learned about increasing emotional intelligence, or EQ, since this experience.
- Get curious. Pay attention to what’s happening physically when you feel significant emotion.
- Write it down. If you find that you’re experiencing a certain emotion fairly regularly, journal about it and notice the consistencies.
- Ask. The people around us often know what our blind spots are. They also know what our typical emotional reactions are when faced with challenges or significant moments. Give those people permission and freedom to share with you honestly. This information will only help you become a better leader.
How’s your own emotional intelligence? Do you know where you stand, or is this a blind spot for you?
The good news is, blind spots don’t stay hidden if we’re intentional about uncovering them. We can always develop our ability to be an emotionally intelligent leader – a leader worth following.
Written by: Stephanie Brown, Operations Manager – Milestone Leadership
Milestone Leadership can help you, your peers or team members take off blindfolds and banish blind spots that are holding back progress.
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