Imagine visiting your childhood home and finding an old photo album from a Disney vacation. You flip through it with your parents, looking at photo after photo of your beaming faces. Your mother comments what a fun trip it was and you agree, remembering the rides, the energy at the park, the Florida sun. But what you, and your parents, might have forgotten is this: by the end of that week in Orlando, they were ready to kill you! Between the mosquitoes, the sunburn and your rotten, recalcitrant behavior, your poor parents were on the brink of a nervous breakdown by the time you piled into the station wagon for the long drive home. You just discovered a blind spot.
When recalling the past, it’s human nature to highlight the good and gloss over the bad. Letting go of bad memories and holding onto the ones that make us smile feels good for our mental health. As accounting professionals, though, the ability to see the past objectively, rather than through rose-colored glasses, can help us chart a successful course for our future, and can keep us from repeating our mistakes.
In particular, we need to watch out for the 20/20 Hindsight Blind Spot. This is where we focus on the positive, make the negative appear better than it was and push out thoughts that might trigger the need for self-reflection.
So, how can we evaluate our past decisions objectively, using our analysis to reinforce our successes and learn from our failures? Try asking yourself the following questions:
What were my most significant victories this quarter/year/in my career?
While you don’t want to focus solely on the positive, sometimes it’s easier to begin the self-reflection process when you start with your successes. And concentrating on things you’ve done right isn’t all bad, as it helps you identify positive habits and personal strengths, reinforcing the need to keep them sharp.
What is holding me back from reaching my full potential?
When answering this question, don’t settle for broad generalizations: “I need to be more organized,” “I should work on punctuality,” and so forth. Try to identify specific mistakes that have had a lasting negative impact on your career. Maybe you held onto a problem client too long at the detriment to your relationships with other customers. Perhaps you focused your marketing on too narrow a niche, potentially missing out on valuable client acquisitions.
Zero in on as many of these blind spots as you can. Then choose one you can change and start working on it, devising an action plan to make the correction and using the experience to make better future decisions.
Like the epic temper tantrums on the Disney vacation, career mistakes are easily obscured in the rear-view mirror. Only when we bring them into view can we learn from them, using those lessons to move forward successfully.
What are your leadership blind spots? Free assessment reveals all. Find out at www.KevinMcCarthy.com.