Personal Leadership Trait of Self Awareness

- May 2020 -

Written By: Bill Pierce

One of the personal leadership traits we talked about last time was self awareness. Let’s explore this trait further to understand it better. We all have blind spots, many of which we are unaware of, and these can affect our attitudes, habits, comfort zones, decisions and behaviors.

We all make decisions and act not in accordance to the truth but the truth as we perceive it. We all have blind spots to protect us from stimulus overload so our brain screens out all but what is of value or a threat to us at that moment. Any of us who have had a Park radio and call number have experienced the blind spot of unconsciously screening out most radio traffic until we heard our call number. No added volume or urgency on the air, just our brain letting the numbers through because it was important (of value) to us at that time.

Another example is the professional quarterback who is about to throw a pass, he “sees” his receivers (value) and the defense trying to tackle him (threat) but nothing else (crowd, referees, sideline folks, etc.). His mind has built a blind spot to all that is not important to him at that moment (not just sight but sound and all of his senses). The better the quarterback the better and stronger the blind spots. Joe Montana was not the biggest, fastest or strongest quarterback but he was a master at focusing on all his receivers while avoiding sacks and he did it unconsciously thanks to learning what was important and what was not.

We can improve our behavior just like Joe Montana did by identifying our blind spots and learning how to improve on them through practicing perfection. This is where others can help us identify our blind spots and help us to focus on what is important to us and learn the best way to improve. Be careful though because you want to seek out people you can trust to help you learn the right way to focus on the right values and threats. Practice does not make perfect, only practice of perfection makes us better. In other words we must find the right “coaches” just like Montana did to learn the truth about the right way to focus.

The high performance person learns to screen out all the “static” and focus only on what is important to him or her to achieve their goals (think Olympians). This also applies to high performance teams but more about that later. We need to be aware that if we transfer our accountability for this to someone else we will shut down our awareness of our blind spots and become a “passenger” at the workplace or on life's journey. A good example of this is thinking of a time when you rode as a passenger to someplace you had not been too before. Think about what your reaction would have been if your friend had asked you to drive back after both of you had enjoyed your time at the destination. You probably would have reacted by saying “I don’t know how to get back”. We were a passenger on the drive to the event and were not paying attention to how we got there. We had transferred accountability to our friend and did not focus on how we got to our destination.

This can be very important for SAFETY at our worksites, if we let someone else be accountable for our safety we are not focusing on what is important to us at that moment (personal and team safety). Each of us must practice excellent risk management and help make the best decisions for the safety of ourselves and others at our worksite. By the way, the more diverse our work group is the better our risk assessment will be since we all the SEE the world differently and all have different blind spots!

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