Blind spots can be found in every element of business. A quote by Peter Thiel, cofounder and former CEO of PayPal expresses it best: “As CEO, you’re somehow both the total insider and the total outsider at the same time. In some ways you’re at the center of the organization. In other contexts, you’re like the last person to know anything.” Unfortunately, a CEO can create his/her own blind spots through their own behaviors and actions or non-action. Here are some examples and how to overcome creating blind spots.
The Disconnect: CEOs and teams have a disconnect on the team’s priorities. The CEO thinks that everyone on his team is on the same page, unfortunately that is not always the case. This was proven on a project for one of my clients. The Executive Team agreed to grow the organization. However, it came to light that including the Executive Team and going two tiers down, opinions on the growth of the organization ranged from at least one individual who had no idea that the decision was definite all the way to going global and everything in between to accomplish this growth. There were many pages of opinions and no one was on the same page. Clearly the CEO had not communicated his vision clearly enough to his own team or kept in touch with them on thiers. It is almost impossible to overcommunicate when change is on the agenda.
Communication: You may tell your team that you maintain an open-door policy and that you are easy to communicate with on any topic. However, if you become angry and pound your fist on the table during executive meetings, you create fear and the lines of communication will go dead. Keep an open mind and maintain decorum.
Changing Visions: You may be a visionary. However, if visions change weekly, this only leads to confusion, distrust, and chaos. Ensure that you seek input on ideas, be objective, and when the vision for your organization is selected, it can be tweaked down the line, but changing visions like some people change socks only leads to the “flavor of the month” syndrome.
Being Right: Always being right does not equate to profitability. Creating a blind spot by having your head somewhere it shouldn’t will only leave you in the dark.
Ignoring: Trying to stay above the fray or burying your head in the sand can only lead to problems. Ignoring toxic employees will lead to negativity spreading throughout your organization like wild fire. Negativity spreads quicker than anything positive. Toxic employees must be addressed immediately. Toxic employees engage in behaviors such as negative gossip, undermining the CEO’s vision, pushing back on projects. For example, some people consistently respond to projects with comments such as, “That can’t be done.” “I don’t know when we’ll find the time to do this.” “This will take forever.” When these types of comments are made in meetings, it derides everyone’s motivation. These employees need to be dealt with quickly. Establishing a Performance Improvement Plan is essential. Ignoring such issues does not make them go away nor will the individual leave the organization of their own free will.
Another example of how ignoring a situation can back fire is the Wells Fargo incident. Despite frequent warnings of phony accounts being opened, executives buried their heads and even when responding, did so slowly. At a $110 Million penalty, to say this was an expensive blind spot is an understatement.
CEOs do no one a favor by creating or ignoring blind spots. Such blind spots are unfair to employees, customers, the Board, and other stakeholders. Further, you have your own reputation on the line.
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