When we look at depictions of C-level executives in the media, we generally see one caricature that dominates the space: the alpha male boss, with a "take no prisoners" attitude, throwing directives at fearful employees under the penalty of losing their jobs.
This is what pop culture tells us that it takes to be successful and, as we all know, there's no room for emotions when it comes to the highest level of business, right? Wrong!
As researchers are finding out, research and reality suggest that the opposite is true. Executives with fewer blind spots and higher self-awareness have been found to show a correlation with better performance resulting in a higher rate of return (ROR).
Blind spots are the gaps between reality and our interpretation of reality that impact the quality of our decisions and behaviors. Generally, the more self-aware we are, the less blind spots we have. According to organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich, “95% of people think they’re self-aware, but only 10-15% actually are.” To understand blind spots, we first have to understand why it's important to be more fully self-aware.
Self-awareness belongs to a larger grouping of traits called Emotional Intelligence (EI). According to Daniel Goleman, a social scientist whose research detailed the tenets of EI, "In leadership positions, 85% of the competencies for success lie in the EI domain, rather than in technical or intellectual abilities."
These competencies are communicated via a concept called an emotional quotient (EQ), which is a practical measurement of a person's level of emotional intelligence.
So what is it that suggests that the more self-aware tend to be high performing leaders and are better equipped to develop other high performing leaders and teams?
The Korn Ferry Institute reviewed self-assessments from nearly 7,000 professionals at 486 publicly-traded companies and discovered that “poor-performing companies’ employees were 79 percent more likely to have low overall self-awareness than those at firms with robust ROR."
Empirical data can also be used to support the value of a higher EQ in business: the IHHP points at cases in which leaders at manufacturing plants received training to boost their emotional intelligence, after which the plants' productivity increased and saw a decrease in workplace accidents. This suggests that when leaders are more self-aware, they can address their blind spots and be better equipped to manage their human capital effectively.
So what's the right mix of soft skills — i.e., communications, conflict management, self-awareness, and leadership — and hard skills like accounting, auditing, and data management?
You'll notice a trend in the distinction between hard and soft skills. While hard skills are needed to perform a specific job, soft skills are needed to be successful in business, no matter the role. For example, if you're a programmer, you need to be a master of coding, a hard skill. Leading a team of programmers, however, demands soft skills like communication and conflict management.
Research conducted by Harvard University, Stanford University, and the Carnegie Foundation has concluded, like Goleman, that 85 percent of job success comes from having well-developed soft and people skills, and only 15% of job success comes from technical skills and knowledge (hard skills).
It's clear at this point that self-awareness and reducing blind spots is key to running a high performing organization. So why, then, do C-level executives tend to be less self-aware than their lower-level colleagues?
Researchers from Inc. looked at the EQ assessments of workers at every level and found that from the frontlines to middle management, EQ scores increased, which is what you'd expect to see given what the above research shows. The disconnect, however, occurs from the middle management up to the C-level, where EQ scores started to decrease rapidly. The results showed that CEOs had the lowest EQ scores in the company, on average.
Given what we know about the correlation between blind spots and performance, this seems like an opportunity for organizations to commit time and resources toward providing leadership with the opportunity to receive self-awareness training.
You might be reading this and asking yourself, do I have blind spots that may be limiting my ability to perform at the highest levels? Or, that are hindering my leaders from performing at their highest levels? The answer is statistically, yes.
So where do you go from here? How do you address blind spots that you're not able to perceive with the knowledge that they are limiting your ability to lead successfully?
Do you recognize and resonate with any of these telltale signs of an underperforming organization? If you do, you would benefit from investing in raising the self-awareness of your leadership team.
What are your leadership blind spots? Free assessment reveals all. Find out at www.BlindSpots.com.
Kevin McCarthy, author of the bestselling book: BlindSpots – Why Good People Make Bad Choices, and holds the highest certification recognized globally by the speaking industry, the Certified Speaking Professional. Kevin and his team expose the invisible barriers that impact culture, operations, training, service and leadership.
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