Teaching Opinion

Find and Expose Your Blind Spot as a Leader

By Starr Sackstein — September 20, 2018 3 min read
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Comfortably, I’d call myself transparent. After years of therapy and working in education, I’ve learned that my authentic self is what makes me good at what I have done.

However, as a new leader, I have struggled in ways that I haven’t in a long time.

One of the practices that I enjoy in our school leadership community is that we read a book together and then try to grow from what we learn as go. This year’s first book is An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey. Honestly, this book had me from page one.

Aside from the fact that it is about challenging the status quo by openly sharing our challenges and developing a culture where constant feedback is the norm, the book has challenged me to really dig deeper into where my blind spots are and then consider how I can best get feedback to bring them into full sight.

One of the activities the book challenges the reader to do is in chapter 6 when we are asked to uncover our blind spots by filling out the “Immunity to change map”. (The picture at the top is mine as a work in progress).

Each box is meant to get us to consider our fears and challenges:

  1. Commitment (improvement goal) p.204 - Choose something you need to work on. Brainstorm a list and then review the list to choose the one that feels the most powerful and that will improve your work the most.
  2. Doing/Not Doing Instead p.208 - This one requires a really deep look. If you make a commitment to having difficult conversations where they are needed like I do because I often avoid having those conversations, what do you do instead that makes it more challenging to do the work at hand?
  3. Worry Box: Naming your fears and worries p.213 - To dig deeper we need to look at the fears that are keeping us from reaching our commitment. These things protect us in different ways and therefore don’t always feel bad at the time. These fears and anxieties promote behaviors that often work against what we are trying to accomplish, for example, I need to have better difficult conversations, but I worry that by doing so, I will look like less of an expert when I’m being challenged. Because I’m working hard to also stay ahead as an “expert” I’m working against, challenging folks who need to be pushed.
  4. Big Assumptions p.221- “These are core beliefs that hold your immune system in place. They are the root of your behaviors. Assumptions are beliefs - ideas that we have about ourselves and about the world.” For example, one of my assumptions is that I’m not going to be as good of a leader as I was a teacher.

By exploring each one of these areas and building a map to commit to something that needs to change and having the support of your community around you, we grow into the best version of ourselves and ultimately, that is what education is all about; not just for the students, but for the adults modeling the behaviors of growth all of the time.

Honestly, while I was reading and then subsequently doing the activity to figure out what I wanted to commit to, I struggle mightily with selecting one thing that I really wanted to work on. In many ways, my ego got in the way of my ability to really drill down, but as I started to think about what stung the most from last year’s experiences, it was my own inability to get past insecurities and trust myself the way that I do in the classroom. Ultimately, this lack of confidence made difficult conversations one of the weak points in my leadership arsenal and it is so important.

In my want to be a better leader and to build relationships so that I could have those conversations, switching over from congenial moments of praise to challenging conversations centered on the need for growth became harder and harder and I know in year two, if we are going to grow as a team, I need to work harder as saying what needs to be said without emotion. In doing so, I will make sure to focus on the work and help everyone be the better versions of themselves.

What is your blind spot and how will you commit to working on it? Please share

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.