What They Are Really Saying Behind Your Back: Author of 'You According to Them'

GUEST AUTHOR BLOG: Why blind spots may be your biggest hurdle to success by Sara Canaday author of "You -- According to Them: Uncovering the blind spots that impact your reputation and your career."

You According To Them
Source: Amazon.com
You According To Them

Even in the best of times, CEOs need all of their people doing their best work.

But the current economic fits and starts make consistently high performance even more critical.

To succeed as an organization, top executives must be able to quickly identify their leadership thoroughbreds – those who show real promise for becoming top performers – and invest the resources to ensure that the organization can harness their maximum value.

Those tasks are vitally important: if the high potentials succeed, the organization succeeds.

So what happens if leaders do everything they can to support and empower these rising stars, but the high potentials seem to be stuck?

Based on my 20 years of executive coaching, I’ve found that the culprit is often what I call professional “blind spots” – subtle nuances in our behaviors that can unintentionally damage our reputations and our ability to succeed despite stellar job skills. The message we intend to project doesn’t always match the way we’re perceived by our colleagues, co-workers, managers and clients. We may not be able to see our own blind spots, but we all have them. The most successful leaders just know how to identify and correct them or, better yet, avoid them altogether.

After extensive work in this area, I’ve identified a number of common blind spots that consistently block professionals from reaching their full potential. Here’s just one example that demonstrates how these subtle “perception disconnects” can be responsible for derailing what should be a thriving career:

Think about the professionals who are often quite sharp and industrious, but habitually resist what they perceive to be the cruel constraints of authority – unnecessary rules that limit their individuality, their creativity and, most of all, their freedom. Because of their ability to perform at superior levels, they believe the rules don’t apply to them. Consequently, they are often categorized as rebellious or uncooperative, difficult and even defiant, despite their extraordinary achievements.

For those who struggle with this professional blind spot, they can begin to change those negative perceptions by thinking about the structure and norms of business in a new way. Just because they adhere to the corporate guidelines or protocol doesn’t mean they are being smothered by authority or shamelessly catering to office politics. Business is a game, and following the basic rules is a prerequisite for participation. Playing the game is a smart, savvy way to get ahead…not a humiliating, white-flag-waving surrender. A slight shift in thinking can make a big difference in their actions, the perceptions that follow, and the reputations they are hoping to improve.

Other common blind spots include people who feel they are:

  • Intelligent and highly qualified but are perceived as condescending and elitist
  • Decisive and candid but are perceived as abrupt and insensitive
  • Supportive and personable but are perceived as soft and lenient
  • Extremely energetic and driven but are perceived as relentless and unrealistic
  • Composed and steady but are perceived as robotic and indifferent
  • Methodical and compliant but are perceived as inflexible and overly cautious
  • Humble and understated but are perceived as bland and forgettable
  • Assertive and enthusiastic but are perceived as self-serving and inappropriate
  • Spirited and passionate but are perceived as intense and overzealous
  • High performing and reliable but are perceived as one-dimensional and over-functioning

These are just a few of the classic blind spots that seem to be most common in derailing careers and preventing even the most brilliant people from reaching their full potential. Thankfully, there are ways to fix our blind spots so that we are not paralyzed or stalled in our careers. The solutions involve gathering candid feedback from our colleagues, increasing our self-awareness, and applying what we uncover in that process to adjust our behaviors. When our intended messages and our perceived messages match, we can achieve much more and generate even greater results.

This is great news for the senior executives who hope to increase the ROI from their high potentials – the valuable human assets that represent the future of their organizations. By helping these up-and-coming leaders to understand that perceptions impact their success (and the company’s success) just as much as reaching their production quotas or sales goals, the current leaders can give these high potentials the tools they need to recapture their career momentum. Best of all, accelerating that personal momentum translates into measurable benefits for corporate productivity, teamwork and performance.

Sara Canaday (www.SaraCanaday.com) is a leadership expert, career strategist, corporate speaker, and the author of a new book, "You -- According to Them: Uncovering the blind spots that impact your reputation and your career."

Email me at bullishonbooks@cnbc.comAnd follow me on Twitter @BullishonBooks