Leaders often seek greater clarity of insight to support being more strategic and effective. I recently read authors Jim Haudan’s and Rich Berens’ book, What Are Your Blind Spots? Conquering the 5 Misconceptions that Hold Leaders Back, to be released October 5th this year. My review covers a “galley” copy of this book, prior to publication. What this means is that further edits may be made before final release.
BLUF summary: The “meat and potatoes” portion of What Are Your Blind Spots(content AFTER the intro) will prompt leaders through five key considerations supporting organizational success: purpose, story, engagement, trust, and truth. Authors focus primarily on leaders (C-suite, senior management) as organizational actors who enable conditions for the organization to succeed. While individuals contribute to the blind spots described, these are treated as more collective and organizational, as opposed to individual. Authors illustrate concepts clearly, provide anecdotal examples from their body of work, and offer exercises for organizational leadership teams to assess and improve each of the five conditions.
What Are Your Blind Spotsis worth slogging through (or largely skipping) the book’s introduction. Here’s the intro cliff notes: the authors provide multiple examples of how prior assumptions of “truth” can be shaken and abandoned when newer information comes to light. The new truth is much clearer in hindsight, and prior belief created blind spots to learning what now seems obvious. Readers might scan one example for context and jump to section of the intro titled “Why These Blind Spots Matter” to read the call to action and view an overview of the main content.
The authors handle each of the five potential blind spots—purpose, story, engagement, trust, and truth—in a manner that will prompt leaders to think about how they currently operate and explore improvement options. The text offers a practical beginning for a journey, not rocket science and not deep dives, but a thoroughly valuable exercise.
For each of the five leadership blind spot chapters, the authors follow a format of describing a common misconception, introduce the concept basics, and provide the question(s) to be answered. They then offer examples from their consulting body of work to show how the concept plays out in organizations that do or do not experience the blind spot. These stories describe how insight surfaced through the consulting engagements, and provide encouraging examples of how leaders of an organization with similar issues might evaluate its current state and opportunities for change. The authors include steps for readers to engage in similar explorations within their own organizations.
In addition to the earlier critique of the introduction, three minor points would have improved the book.
First, I think the characterization of current manager mindset is overly simplified. Often, entrenched technology and processes of a business contribute to difficulties of implementing more enlightened thinking. Leaders may recognize and employ a mental shift prioritizing user experience, employee engagement, community and other stakeholder concerns; however, an organization’s systems of accounting, supply chain, manufacturing, and human resources often rely on compliance assuring reporting models. In publically traded companies, required reporting approaches assure investor confidence in “like comparison.” We need to acknowledge this challenge as leaders work towards more conscious capitalism.
Second, there could, technically, have been six areas of consideration. The chapter on engagement begins more with the concept of connecting the dots on strategy, which leads to engagement as an outcome. As described, these feel separate. The authors do shift towards engagement generating as the chapter progresses.
Finally, one thing I hope gets done before publication is creating more consistency across the figures illustrating concepts. A few images didn’t scale on a digital device, so trying to expand sections to see the detail just created blurred pixels. Additionally, some colors might not work if recreated in grayscale, making these less accessible to readers with different levels of vision or colorblindness.
Despite these small issues, I feel the book will support an organizational journey and offer a valuable tool for leadership teams. It’s important to note that while individuals can and should examine personal blind spots to improve their leadership effectiveness and impact, the blind spots in this text must be addressed collectively to encourage systemic change. Disclaimer: I was given the galley copy of this book pre-publication for the purpose of review. As both an academic and practitioner, I only provide positive reviews when I fully believe readers will benefit from investing time and money in the product and the author’s recommendations.
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