1. What is a blind spot and why is it relevant to your career?
You may think you know it all. You’ve done well in school and gotten your dream job, and now you’re on the glide path up the corporate ladder. You’re probably patting yourself on the back thinking how easy it will be for you to conquer the corporate game.
Not so fast.
Chances are, you haven’t discovered your Achilles’ heel, your Kryptonite…your own blind spots.
Just like crashing into another car because you didn’t check your blind spot, your career is no different when you swerve into the oncoming traffic of a big meeting that you aren’t prepared for, or when you think you’re in the fast lane to promotion only to learn you were really on the offramp.
Sometimes the blind spot is so powerful that it sabotages your entire career. Usually they’re difficult to locate; otherwise, they’d be called obvious spots.
So make sure you figure out your own – fast. Otherwise one day you’ll come away from that meeting with your boss where you expected to get promoted only to have received your walking papers.
2. How does one discover their own blind spots?
Now that I’ve said blind spots can be fatal, how does one go about finding them? It can’t be that easy, right? Right! It takes diligence and open-mindedness to unearth that buried treasure. You need to want to find them and, even then, they will change and differ over time. Accept that to ace your career and your life, you’ll need to play Whack-a-Mole with your blind spots forever.
There are no simple ways to find them but here are a few that have worked for me:
- Ask Friends. Start by asking your closest friends to tell you your faults.
- Ask Enemies. Do some sleuthing and figure out why your enemies hate you.
- Ask for Feedback. In the workplace, obtain 360-degree feedback to know your real faults.
- Check the Score. Use systems and software (e.g., Customer Relationship Management software) to determine if the results you are producing are happening for the right reasons.
- Take the Test. Business school and early career years are full of psychological tests. You do enough of these tests, and patterns form. Use them to find the zip code of your faults.
- Conduct a Post-Mortem. After every project take stock of how you did and ask yourself what you did right. What did you do wrong? Did the project succeed in spite of you?
- Hire a Coach. If you’re really in a rut, pay someone to find your weaknesses. Just like white hat software engineers who get paid to hack a company, hire a career coach to hack you and find your weaknesses.
- Read My Book. If you haven’t already had a chance, read my book The Way of the Wall Street Warrior. Use it to open your mind. I’m not a psychologist, but I am a businessman. It is a way for you to recognize that the world around us isn’t always what it appears to be. And it’s not just because people think and do stupid things; it’s because we’re also stupid.
3. What are signs of overconfidence and how is this related to my blind spots?
Related to blind spots is the problem of overconfidence, which leads you to take greater risks than you should. You might have a brilliant product idea but your team might lack the ability to execute it. You run out of time on a project because you thought you could do two day’s worth of work in one.
I would always underpromise and overdeliver by using the tried-and-true method of sandbagging. I’d also do a pre-mortem to make sure I wasn’t sculpting a statue I couldn’t finish (although, if you create the Venus de Milo, that ain’t so bad).
Overconfidence can really hurt you early in your career because you overestimate your own intuitive prowess. Your inexperience in this realm could lead you directly into your blind spots, especially if you’re new at it.
People often see what they want to see, which is a blind spot in itself and which gets in the way of evaluating something intuitively. This is particularly true when you find yourself in a tough situation, so if you’re feeling stressed, don’t make rash decisions. Take a chill pill, regroup, and stick to the plan.
About the Author
Dave is a seasoned executive and entrepreneur who founded several companies in entertainment, investments, and technology, and worked on Wall Street for almost 25 years.
He started his career by joining a fledgling investment bank, Jefferies, when it had less than 200 employees. Today, Jefferies is a multi-billion dollar diversified public company (NYSE:JEF). He rose from the entry level position of Analyst to Group Head of Internet and Digital Media and was one of the youngest Managing Directors in firm history. As one of the only managing directors of color in the firm, he successfully broke through the Bamboo Ceiling. He not only worked hard but also played the corporate game.
Hundreds of bankers have worked for Dave during his career. He has mentored many of them who have gone on to some of the best business schools and companies in America. He is eager to share his knowledge with Asian Americans and other disadvantaged groups seeking to maximize their potential and achieve their career goals.