Leadership Podcast Series Ep 3: Identifying and Overcoming Your Blind Spots
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Host: Chris Gaffney
Co-Hosts: Mike Ogle and Rodney Apple
In this Episode:
Hear about the top ways for leaders to identify their blind spots so they can make any necessary changes to the way they lead their teams and work with others. Quite often, people don’t like hearing feedback and others don’t like to give it for fear of how the target will react. This episode provides you with ways to open up the conversations up and down and across the hierarchy. Learn the best ways to solicit feedback and to work on improvements, plus some of the existing assessment tools that will help you understand yourself better and to understand others. Get ahead of any possible interventions and conflict to continue on your leadership career journey. Get on a stronger path of continuous career development by learning about your blind spots in this valuable episode.
What is the Supply Chain Careers Leadership Series?
The Supply Chain Careers Leadership series expands its previous content format into a more in-depth focus on leadership development. This program is a series of 10+ episodes that are hosted by our very own supply chain executive, Chris Gaffney. These episodes explore subject matter and topics that relate to excelling as a leader in the business world, much of which Chris has gleaned as VP of Supply Chain at Coca-Cola. Familiar faces and fellow supply chain leaders, Rodney Apple and Mike Ogle chime in with their experience and knowledge, all of which can be used by supply chain leaders to develop and advance their careers.
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Rodney Apple: [00:00:00] Welcome back to the Supply Chain Careers Leadership Series with Chris Gaffney. Chris, we’re very excited about episode number three, overcoming your Blind Spots. I think a lot of people don’t think about this because they’re a blind spot, just like when you’re driving down the highway, you don’t see that car sneaking up around you. You can get into a little bit of trouble. So, we’re excited to kick this off and with that, we’ll turn it over to Mike Ogle to get things started.
Mike Ogle: [00:00:35] All right. Well, thank you, Rodney. And good to be with you again, Chris. Can you frame what the concept is of the blind spot and why it is important for people that are becoming supply chain leaders or already supply chain leaders?
Chris Gaffney: [00:00:52] Super and Mike and Rodney, excited to talk about this one. The whole idea around blind spots is founded in a number of different things. Number one, most people don’t like to receive feedback about themselves and so the normal condition is you’re walking around and you might be doing things and people would say, I’m not sure this person is interested in hearing this feedback because it’s something that they have to change.
I think when it comes to blind spots, even if you’re open to feedback, you can’t deal with something that you can’t see. So inherently you need some help. I think it’s important for supply chain leaders, in many cases because you impact a lot of people as a peer or as a team leader. And one of the things that I’ve seen over my career personally, in working for other people is high performers as individual contributors, and many leaders are not immune to this. And in many cases may be more susceptible to others. And I think it matters because there are a lot of unintended consequences of how your blind spot impacts other people. And I would say myself and I’ve seen others. Well-intended folks can do a lot of damage without any awareness, that they’re impacting other people.
Rodney Apple: [00:02:21] Good stuff, Chris. So. I’m sure you’ve got plenty of personal stories where you may have dealt with this individually yourself throughout your career. I certainly have my share. I’m sure you’ve also have coached mentored or led employees as it relates to identifying and helping them overcome their blind spots. Do you have anything you could share with our audience?
Chris Gaffney: [00:02:45] Yeah, absolutely. And I gave the case of high performers and I would say early in my career, probably, I would say five or six years into my professional experience, I perceived myself as a very high performer coming to work, having a huge impact. And I actually had the opportunity to go through some structured training at the center for creative leadership. And in that training class, they put all of the participants, 15 or 20 people, in a large room with a general exercise, right at the beginning of the training class. And they didn’t let people know that it was being filmed. And after that you had a session with a psychologist and they basically showed you how you showed up in that setting. And I think for me, it was crushing to see how I interacted with a group of peers. It was not what I expected. It was not what I was intending, but it was on tape. And for me in particular, I was taking up way too much time in the air of the meeting. So, if there were 20 people in the room, I was not taking up one 20th at the time. I was taking a lot more than that, talking over people and not really being additive to the conversation. So that was a very humbling experience for me and kind of got me started on the fact that this blind spot existed for me.
Rodney Apple: [00:04:17] I think for me personally, you can look at these, I think as they can be a strength of yours and then sometimes it can get in the way as well, right. I’m maybe anal retentive, or attention to detail. It’s a blessing and a curse. I Spot Ts that aren’t crossed and Is that aren’t dotted. And that perfectionist though, sometimes, you know you, you need to just get it to a place where it’s good enough for what you’re trying to achieve. And sometimes for me I focus on it needs to be better, it needs to be better. And then sometimes that slows things down and you don’t get the result accomplished. So that’s a strength of mine, blessing and also a curse. And I think for me, I’ve learned the hard way over the years is sometimes good enough is all you need, so that’s kind of my story.
And then I think on the coaching side certainly have you led a lot of people across my career and even here at on the SCM Talent side of business, the recruiting side, and had an individual that just Improvements were needed around communication, especially client communications, especially higher up the ladder executives presence, and you know, he just, wasn’t receptive to feedback and you’d give it to him. And a lot of the stuff on the communication side, I can tell you what you need to do and give you some, some tips and tactics for overcoming your communication. But at the end of the day, the individual is responsible for making corrections.
I’ve had a couple employees where I’ve had to address this. One took it very seriously. He would get out in front of himself, say, you know, many, many times, and he focused on it and he made enormous improvement, enormous improvement. The other gentleman never took it seriously and it just became detrimental and it led to issues and things didn’t work out. So those are a couple stories from, from my end on blind spots and also feedback. Giving feedback and where one person took it. The other didn’t. One went on to become successful. He’s still here and the other did not. So, Mike, do you have anything on your end?
Mike Ogle: [00:06:46] I’d say from my viewpoint, it’s kind of two things as well. And for me it was two different environments that I’ve worked in. One of those being in the academic side, and if I was filmed or had a class that I had been teaching, it was one of these that was recorded. And you could kind of see the way that you ended up interacting with the students and the kinds of things that you’d go, oh, I need to fix that. If you were self aware. We really didn’t have good coaching, I would say in being able to do that well, because it it’s an assumption that once you graduate with a PhD, that somehow you’re going to be magical in the classroom and without fail. But nobody’s ever really taught how to really command a classroom or to get the best out of their students. So, I think you just kinda learn it along the way. You take the best that you can get out of what you’ve seen from other people that have taught you and you’ve interacted with and said, God help me if I end up behaving like that when I’m in the classroom or you have a, an exceptional model that you can pay attention to. And you say that’s exactly something that I want to copy and be able to duplicate in a classroom. And not just in the classroom, the way that research has done a variety of things that happen on the academic side.
But when you step out of the academic side and I spent about 17 years with a couple of trade associations, working with a tremendous number of different groups that I’ve helped lead and facilitate and interact with leaders. There’s nothing like having a room full of type A people who are all the ones who were the leaders showing up for a meeting and trying to do whatever they can to try to make their business be positioned as best they can within an industry, but also try to help an industry as a whole move forward. Kind of the rising tide raises all boats type of story. But as you see the styles that many of them ended up having in the way that they would try to take over a room or go on and on, or the preening kind of talk a little too long, the way that they would talk with other people, but some were excellent facilitators and trying to get the real story or the real problem dealt with as opposed to somebody’s individual problem. I would constantly end up making notes on the side of the agenda where I would end up noticing things that people had done because part of my job was to try to facilitate going forward. And I had to notice these things, but it took me several years to go through the process until I realized that I wasn’t facilitating in the way that I needed to. I was just trying to survive the meetings initially. So there were very clearly a lot of blind spots and we had a little bit of coaching that we ended up going through as far as what we did. But again, it was somewhat of an assumption that you know how to make these meetings work. But I think there’s plenty of people that don’t and recognizing that is the first step to moving forward.
Chris Gaffney: [00:10:05] Yeah. I think a number of the things that we have said, I think resonate in a couple of ways. And I think one of the reasons we want to do sessions like this is to have people get the message sooner rather than later, because as you said, Rodney, it’s a rare person who grows up and is self aware by nature.
A lot of people get this through an intervention, whether it’s from a well-meaning boss or, or a frankly, a boss who cares and holds them accountable. It may be some other intervention like I mentioned, or it may never happen, but everyone has this reality. If you can get to a place where you can come to grips with that sooner, rather than later, it’ll let you be in a place where you can regulate, because I think that’s the other thing, Rodney, many of the things that lead to blind spots are things that well managed, but poorly managed can become a detriment. And so I think it’s how do you get that calibration? And I think the reality is it’s gotta come from others, but that whole concept of feedback is a gift, but it really hurts to receive it, and a lot of the people around you are really scared to give it to you. So I think it really comes down to as an individual, what do you do when you become aware and open to your blind spot, and if you’re dealing with others, whether they be a peer or a boss, is how do you get them to a place where they are aware and open.
Mike Ogle: [00:11:44] So once those blind spots are somehow clearly identified, then how do you get to work, to get started on addressing them?
Chris Gaffney: [00:11:55] Yep. So I think let’s start with you as an individual, right. If you’ve had this revelation, come to you somehow. Yeah. I think the first thing for me and I’ve never forgotten that camera that was on me in that room. And once I got to that place, I said, I will always turn the camera on myself in a room, particularly. So we’re talking about group interactions and through the course of a meeting, I will actually kind of stop and step back and say, if I was in the corner of this room, looking at myself, what would I see and do I like what I see. And I mentioned in my situation, I was taking up too much of the air time. And for many years after that, I would say if there are 10 people in the room, I can only talk every 10th time. And if I have something that I believe is really important, I’m gonna write it down. And when 10 times comes around, if it hasn’t come up, I’ll bring it up. If it has, I’ll scratch it off and, and move on. So I think that was one thing.
But the other thing that I thought was important, gets into accountability, and so when I started thinking about it in the context, I’m gonna work on speaking more my fair share and doing a better job listening. I looked to someone else in that room, a peer, a friend, and I said, I’m working on this. Will you watch me? And if you see me doing this, I want to talk about it afterwards. And then even bigger than that, I would tell my team once I got to be a team leader to say, I’m working on this and I am open and I will give you a safe environment if you come back and tell me, you said you’re working on it, but it’s not happening.
So that concept of upward feedback from those around you, I think is important, and I think in general you want to have multiple avenues, where that feedback is coming to you and it’s consistent over time because you may solve one problem and there may be another on the list or you may solve it and it may drift. So I think the overall idea of an accountability play is important because you will know, I’ve told people I’m working on this. I’ve typically found that that that really works well when you’re dealing with something that is essentially a professional development in improvement. And I think from a motivation standpoint, what I realized over time and something else beyond accountability when you’re trying in a supply chain role over time, you’re typically having an impact on larger numbers of people. And I think when you can start to see how you land on others and how your impact on other people is either positive for them or negative, I think it becomes a bigger motivator. When you realized you’ve hurt somebody and you didn’t intend to do so, I think that’s a huge motivator to saying I’ve gotta really be good about this.
So, my advice to others is this is how you use your network, right? You’ve always got a network around you who interacts with you, who is in your corner, and they can be a great resource to keep you aware and honest about your blind spots. And I think this ultimately evolves into two things and, and number one, it’s how do you lead with humility? Right? It’s one thing to be confident in your capabilities, but that balance of how do you humbly lead and understand that you’ve always got something that you can improve on. And I think the real higher order capability is how can you be self-aware in the moment and in an interaction, if the way you’re working with other people is not having the desired effect that you can see it and adjust it on the fly. And I think that’s what we aspire to.
Rodney Apple: [00:16:07] Excellent. Chris that’s great advice. I was just thinking what about a team environment where you’re working with peers? Is there anything that may differ as it relates to identifying overcoming blind spots with equal peers on the team versus the employer or boss, employee relationship.
Chris Gaffney: [00:16:31] Yep. I mean, the reality is in those peer settings, you’ll have different dynamics with some of those peers, right? So if you’ve got somebody who you have a very strong rapport. You have that rare opportunity where you can say, Hey, I need to tell you something because I know you and, I know you’ll want to know this because I know who you are. Right. That’s the easy one. And maybe generously, that’s a third of the people you deal with. You’re also gonna have a group of people who maybe are kind of in that middle, like you’ve got a balance relationship them, but it’s an arm length relationship. I think for them, what I would say in, in a nice way is, are you open to some feedback? And at that point, somebody could say no. And you may have another group of people who you don’t have a very good relationship with and, and may have a history of conflict or whatever. And, and I actually heard in a training class, they said, here’s one way to do that. And you can actually say to them, How do you like to receive feedback? And in all those cases, it, it may take more than one shot, but I think with peers, those are some tactics that I’ve found that that frankly have been reasonably effective. I think it evolves a bit more when you deal with people on your own team because there you’re in a performance and development context with them. Some of the same questions or the ways I talked about broaching it can work with people who work for you. With them, I think it gets back to what you said earlier. People ultimately need to own this. Okay. They can hear it from whatever source they may not like it, but many of them won’t believe it and say, I don’t buy that. That’s not who I am. So for a lot of folks, it’s ultimately getting to the point where, how can they own it? And when it’s in a performance and development feedback boss to employee, it can be threatening to somebody cuz they, they will say, well, this my job or my raise is impacted by this point of view that that has been brought to me. And there might be a naturally defensive kind of mode to it, so I think as a leader, you want to make it clear that, Hey, I’m, bringing this to you as a growth and development opportunity. It’s not a performance issue at this point in time, it will be a performance issue if it doesn’t get addressed over time, which is where you wanna get to.
But I clearly know with some employees who were entrenched on this, that you had to take other steps and you either had to find if those people had a coach who were a mentor, who they perceived would give them an independent view. If you could say take this to your coaches and mentors and ask them if they’ve seen that to try to get some corroboration. And in some cases you had to be more structured with it. And there are some good assessments out there. And I think one that stands out among that is historically what’s been called the Hogan Derailers.
Mike Ogle: [00:19:56] Well, Chris, I think there’s probably a lot of people in the audience who are not familiar with the Hogan and what it can tell somebody. Can you give us a little bit of background about what it’s truly measuring?
Chris Gaffney: [00:20:09] Yep. And, and I think the first thing about Hogan and there, and there are others, but this one I think, has been out there for many years and is still very relevant today. It’s a self assessment. It’s a questionnaire that you take. I have taken it a couple of times, I think it’s very short. I don’t know if it’s maybe 30 max 50 questions and you score yourself based on a number of dimensions and, and they’ve even evolved the title of it. They used to call it derailers. I think they call it the dark side now the Hogan dark side. But it has dimensions that include things like being excitable, being cautious, being reserved, being bold, being imaginative, being diligent, and to Rodney’s point the there’s a spectrum on every one of those dimensions. And on the one end, there can be something that can be really positive, right. You know, a skeptical person can be perceptive, intrude and asked really good, important questions on the appropriate use of that dimension. But the overuse of that dimension can create a view in those around you, of you being cynical and mistrustful. And so the whole point of the Hogan is to give you feedback on where you may be at risk of overusing one or more of these dimensions. And the reality of all of these is the consequence of this lands on those around you. So the most important thing about Hogan or any of these other assessments is they start you down the path of being self-aware.
Rodney Apple: [00:22:04] So, Chris we talked about my personal example two different employees, one asking and pleading for feedback and critique. The other, it became necessary and it didn’t go anywhere as many ways and times that we tried to get him to become self-aware and then to make some progress and hear some tips and tactics for overcoming your blind spot. What are some things you might recommend, whether a peer or, or someone you’re trying to coach on this, they just, they’re not hearing it. They don’t want to have anything to do with it. What do you advise?
Chris Gaffney: [00:22:50] Yeah. I think it’s a super important question because I said before that the average person doesn’t like to hear something about themselves that’s negative, right? Yeah. Doesn’t matter if it’s completely factual. So, in any dimension of a relationship is to try to speak to someone’s self-interest. In a work setting particularly supply chain setting. We always talk about the whats and the how and the whats are your technical abilities to be a great demand planner or transportation director or procurement VP. In many cases, people have risen through their career based on their technical abilities, but what ultimately limits their trajectory is how they interact with others and how they do the work that they do.
So my success and what I found was ethically the best thing in the relationships was really appeal to someone’s self-interest in terms of trying to get them to that ownership, to say, I really want you to understand that this is impacting how you are viewed in your role, it’s impacting your effectiveness. And as we’ve talked about what you aspire in your career. Back to the derailers, this will be what limits you in your ability to achieve your career aspirations, much less so your technical ability and to continue to kind of push to say, how do we get you to hear this from multiple voices so you don’t just think it’s me having an issue with you personally, because if you see it, you’re confident that it’s impacting multiple people. So I think that at its higher order is what I’ve seen to be the most successful way to get at this.
Rodney Apple: [00:24:58] What would you say are tactics typically you should avoid you don’t want to go down this path that might lead to that defensiveness or kind of angry response cuz people do sometimes blow a gasket when you come at, then they think they’re doing something right. I’ve certainly had that happen before, but what do you recommend employers or leaders or even peers avoid when it comes to having these discussions around blind spots, gaps, et cetera.
Chris Gaffney: [00:25:33] Yep. I think, number one is you can’t connect it to performance the first time they hear about it, right? Because you’ll immediately put them on the back foot and into the corner and that evokes that kind of fight or flight risk and people definitely will shut down in that respect. I think you also have to give people some time with this one is Say, put it out there and say, we’re gonna talk about this over time. And so I wanna make you aware of this, and I want you to have some time to process it and digest it, and then I want to sit down and talk more about it and, and how we how we get moving on it and, and getting moving is even say first things first is I want to get to a place where you you’ve honestly say, I now understand this is real, so we can get to doing something about it.
So I think a lot of that is avoiding that whole defensive mindset. So I think you providing the feedback have to be careful if you get a negative response or a defensive response that you just don’t come right back and escalate that, and my last point is advice from my daughter who is a kindergarten teacher. And she said in, in providing feedback to parents, you gotta do it like an Oreo. You gotta give them the good stuff on either side of the area of improvement. So it’s balance, right. We’re not all negative here. So I think that’s my thought around kind of the dos and the don’ts if you will.
Rodney Apple: [00:27:18] I guess one thing we haven’t really talked about, Chris is we know these assessments that we refer to the Hogan Derailer is oftentimes used on the front end, as in your hiring process, it can be added. We’ve certainly seen that with executive roles that we work on here at SCM Talent Group any advice there for employers that may be new to this. You don’t think about your blind spots as we’ve discussed. Do you recommend that they have a process baked into their assessments and vetting and interviewing for candidates?
Chris Gaffney: [00:27:57] Yeah, I think the first thing is as an employer, okay, or a team leader in a large organization, the first thing is your belief, does this matter, right? Because the overall space around providing feedback, having a learning organization, creating the landscape where people can feel comfortable providing feedback, and have an expectation that they will receive feedback it’s cultural, right? This is a function of what are accepted actions and behaviors. Anybody who listens to this can remember an environment where they will say this person or this place is not about feedback because this person has been allowed to act this way for a long time. So why would I stick my neck out and try to address this issue?
So I think the first things first is that at the hiring manager or the employer saying this is important to us, so we need to start to establish the culture that says we’re gonna be about feedback. And what I’ve seen in that case is things like employee feedback surveys, where the primary effort is upward, where the manager is receiving the feedback as versus historically managers are giving employees feedback. I think that sets the tone. I think leaders role modeling this the classic thing I talked about is people who are susceptible this in many cases are successful leaders who say, I’ve risen to the top. I don’t need any feedback. It’s not going to be about me, but if you could flip the switch around that, and it’s the leader with humility, talking about what they’re working on, you can set that tone to where employees understand this is a place where I will receive feedback, but I can safely provide constructive feedback to others, including my manager. You and I have been part of organizations that actually had structured training on coaching and feedback for both managers and employees. So that was a very intentional and overt thing to do. And you could do that in a big company, but there’s also ways to do that in a small company. And I think the same thing goes to assessments. There are many, very, I would say either free or not too expensive assessments out there if it’s important, but I think the most important thing is both for an individual and an employer organization is to stay the course, is to say, this is something that’s going to be a journey for us, and it’s something that we believe will ultimately benefit our employees and our business. Think about all of our businesses, customer service feedback is not much different than everything we’ve talked about today. People, it’s painful to hear that your experience with a customer didn’t go the way you wanted. And then there are clearly some companies who’ve established the culture that says, we want this and we’ll make it right. And there are just as many who don’t want to hear your feedback, and that impacts you as a consumer doing business with them. So I think those are some thoughts I would have.
Rodney Apple: [00:31:24] And then, for employees. And I think this especially applies to those that are up and coming, junior in their career, maybe even coming out of college too. You’re not thinking about these things. At least I wasn’t back in school. Any advice for maybe like how to get started, how to start thinking about these things and then applying some of these disciplines proactively versus having to wait until it’s reactive and then course correct on the back end?
Chris Gaffney: [00:31:51] I mean, my experience is, if you’ve been in any work environment for a period of time, you’ve got a work buddy. Or frankly, many of these things that show up at work show up in social settings or whatever. But if you have a very close friend, I guarantee you, I wouldn’t do this with a family member first, but a very close friend, and you listen to this podcast and you say, I wanna try this out. You would go to somebody who cares about you and say, is there one thing that you would love to tell me, but because we’re friends you you’ve held back on, that would make a difference to me in terms of how I interact with you or others. And I suspect in most cases, there’s one thing. There’s a lot of these that are common talking over others, not letting people finish a point and over modulating in a conversation taking too much of the air time.
So I think that’s the way to start in a safe environment. And then you could always shock your boss and say as part of my development and feedback, I actually would like to overtly know one thing that I could do differently in how I interact. And I think you would probably surprise most managers if you were proactive in doing that.
Rodney Apple: [00:??:??] Yeah. Hear that audience. That’s a great way to score some points and identify those blind spots proactively. And it can go a long way for you know, rising up the ranks you can solve these gaps and overcome them. So this has been wonderful, Chris, is there any last minute words or advice you’d like to share with the audience on overcoming blind spots?
Yeah, I think this is one of those things that you can be early or late in your career and working on it, but if you choose to get on this train and use your adult learning skills earlier in your career, instead of being a derailer, your self-awareness can ultimately be a huge accelerator for your career.
Rodney Apple: [00:33:59] Great, Mike what are your thoughts on maybe how students could apply this, so they’re setting themselves up for success earlier, sooner than later?
Mike Ogle: [00:34:09] I think what I’ve seen is students are still in the process of developing. And a lot of times the kinds of behaviors that they’ll have while they’re in school don’t necessarily translate directly into when they get on the job. Bbut they don’t know what they don’t know. And I think it’s really helpful to be able to start with that mindset at the very beginning and try to get started on something like that before they get into their interviews. They should seek out this kind of feedback at their internship, for instance. So it’s not just about the performance on the hard skills, for instance being able to get some really good feedback on some of the soft skills and asking for these kinds of things, I think could be tremendously important to them getting started on the right foot in their career and going from individual performer to a leader.
Rodney Apple: [00:35:07] Yeah. And I think for our audience members, if you’re hearing this it’s resonating and you’re the kind that gets upset and defensive, I’m gonna quote my four year old daughter who is a big fan of frozen and Elsa. Let it go. Let it go and just seek out the help and create that atmosphere where you can take that feedback and, and use it to your advantage to close the gaps, overcome the blind spots and propel your career forward.
Mike Ogle: [00:35:39] Hey, Chris, where are we headed next in the leadership series?
Chris Gaffney: [00:35:43] Yep. I think we’re gonna go into the space of personal productivity and we’re gonna talk about getting things done. I think we’ve got four dimensions we’ve talked about in this work, but how you physically make an impact through your efforts in a job. This is fundamental to supply chains. We’re behind the scenes. It’s not creating software, it’s moving things, making things happen. And so the skill and discipline around getting things done, I think will be a great topic for us to cover next time.
Rodney Apple: [00:36:19] Excellent. Well, thank you, Chris, for sharing your wisdom around leadership. This has been fantastic and we’re looking forward to the next episode if you’re listening and did not catch the first episodes with the leadership podcast series here at supply chain careers, just go to Supply Chain Careers.com/podcast, and you can find it there. Thanks for listening.
Who is Chris Gaffney?
- Principal at ECG providing Supply Chain Services to the CPG Industry
- 25 Years w/ Coca-Cola holding Supply Chain leadership roles:
- VP of Global Strategic Supply Chain
- President of Global Supply
- SVP of Product Supply Systems
- VP of Logistics for North America