Insights From Our Editors

How to Identify & Address Your Leadership Blind Spots

By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD,
and Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD

Oct. 20, 2021

You may be falling short as practice leader in ways you never considered. Christine Macdonald, director of HR and management training company The Hub Events, recently shared her thoughts on identifying and fixing leadership blind spots.

Here are common leadership blind spots identified by Macdonald:

1) Over-estimating your own ability
2) Clinging to the status quo
3) Avoiding the tough conversations
4) Believing the rules don’t apply to you
5) Failure to focus on the important few

No one is perfect. Over our years as practice management consultants, we’ve seen surprising examples of leaders behaving in ways that failed to address critical issues. Why does this happen? We think one of the reasons is because of blind spots. Here are the most common ones we see.

Over-Estimating Your Own Ability
Most people in leadership positions think they are more strategic than they really are. There is a major shift between thinking about operational challenges and thinking about strategic challenges. Most practice owners are functioning at the level of chief operational officer and not as chief executive officer. Most of these people are lost in the weeds of operational problem solving without providing the strategic leadership necessary to drive the company forward.

The old adage that you don’t know what you don’t know is definitely true. It’s hard to do strategic thinking if you haven’t been trained how to think strategically.

Here’s how to tell if this is your blind spot: Do you have a written five-year, three-year and one-year strategic plan for your practice (or your area of the practice that you’re in charge of)?

Clinging to the Status Quo
Here’s how to tell if this is your blind spot. If you graduated more than five years ago, how different is your patient examination than what you learned while getting your optometry degree? At the lowest level, it is exactly the same using exactly the same equipment. A small step above that, but still significantly below where it should be, is that your current patient examination is exactly the same as you learned in your optometry program, but with newer equipment.

Avoiding the Tough Conversations
According to Gallup, 30 percent of the U.S. workforce is engaged (strongly contributing), 67 percent are unengaged (barely contributing), and 3 percent are disengaged (actively sabotaging). With this information, as you think about your own workforce, at least one of your team members came to your mind. You know your practice would be better without them, but you’ve been avoiding having the tough conversation. You rationalize and justify not addressing the problem head on, and yet the problem still exists.

Here’s the thought we want you to consider. When you avoid having the tough conversations, you are the one holding the practice back. You are the one responsible for negatively impacting patient care.

To borrow a phrase from Nike: Just do it.

Believing the Rules Don’t Apply to You
Almost nothing is more frustrating to your team than when the leaders believe the rules do not apply to them. Here are a couple of examples. Staff must be on time to work, but the doctor is frequently 15 minutes late. The team is not allowed to take personal calls while on the clock, yet the practice manager does it all the time. And the list goes on.

Effective leaders lead by example. An interesting observation we’ve made over the years is that people who lead by example are the most effective at removing negativity from their lives. They are always making the world around them better by showing people how to live and work. Isn’t that something we all should strive for?

Failure to Focus on the Important Few
There is a simple rule in psychology that almost everyone knows and few follow. The rule is: reward positive behavior to get more of the behavior you want.

Consider a few examples to see if this is one of your blind spots. Who gets rewarded with attention in your practice?

• The person who is on time to work every day or the person who is consistently 5-10 minutes late?
• Going back to Gallup’s data, when was the last time you rewarded the 30 percent of your workforce who are engaged?
• Do you reward the new patient who comes to your office, but not the loyal established patient?

Action Plan
To gain insight into where your blind spots are, look back at where you are experiencing recurring issues in the practice. Surround yourself with people who can help you better manage your blind spots. Avoid getting defensive when your viewpoint is challenged and, at least twice a year, have a meeting with your leadership team focused on identifying and fixing your blind spots.

Keep in mind that awareness does not always equal elimination, so make sure you are taking action to eliminate and fix your blind spots.

*Photo credit, top of page: Getty Images.

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