Blind Spots: What Managers and Leaders Have in Common with Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift

By Susan Hitchcock

As unlikely as you may think, today’s managers and leaders of all ages can learn from the two of the most famous singing sensations on the planet.  The lesson: everyone has blind spots in how they see themselves, both their behavior and their personality. In order to be a better “you” (i.e., celebrity, leader, manager, etc.), you need objective feedback and the maturity to digest it and to decide what to do with it.

If you’ve seen or heard much in the media about Bieber or Swift, it’s pretty clear that neither of them has arrived at a comfortable level of maturity.  For example, critics say Bieber is super defensive and often erratic, and Swift, well she’s confused about relationships.  But, because they’re only 19 and 23 respectively, you could say that they shouldn’t be expected to act mature. Nonetheless, if you followed their constant tweets (and while I don’t but a lot of people do!), you’d probably agree that they don’t deal very well with negative or “constructive” feedback from fans and non-fans.

Admittedly that type of feedback (and social media in general) can be very direct, invasive and judgmental.  However, it does provide these two high profile individuals with a different perspective on their behavior and how others perceive them. In their situations, Bieber and Swift need to listen to good publicists and PR people and let them provide guidance in terms of their actions and reactions.  One day, hopefully, they’ll be mature enough to reflect on their own behavior and the feedback they receive and decide what changes – if any – need to be made.

Just like Bieber and Taylor, managers and leaders in the workplace have trouble with blind spots and – believe it or not – with maturity.  This is true regardless of the age or the generation of the individual.  There are many managers and leaders who have a lot of work experience and who are “mature” in terms of chronological age, but who still don’t get it.  They don’t understand how their behavior and their personality characteristics impact the people with whom they work.

In this situation, blind spots create a real problem for the organization when the person’s behavior is inhibiting performance and teamwork, is demoralizing, and is possibly causing good people to leave the company.  To deal with blind spots, managers and leaders need honest, confidential feedback along with help to digest it and decide what to do about it in a mature manner.

One tool for this purpose used by many companies is a 360 assessment.  A 360 assessment includes input / feedback from bosses, peers, and direct reports to another person – often about their leadership effectiveness.  The best way to use this tool is with a good coach who can help the person getting the feedback understand it, own it, and design an action plan to improve his/her overall effectiveness.

If I could, I’d order up a 360 assessment and a coach for Bieber and Taylor, and quite frankly, many of their celebrity cohorts.   I wouldn’t wait for maturity to kick in, because you just can’t tell when/if that will come. But I do think they could learn something about themselves that would be helpful – just like managers and leaders at all levels and ages need to learn about their blind spots and see themselves more realistically.

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