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Blind Spots

You could tell Oliver was disturbed by what he had discovered about himself, but he courageously shared it with the group anyway. We were conducting a coaching exercise known as, “Immunity to Change” (or ITC)1 designed to shed light on a grinding area of underperformance for an otherwise fantastic team – we were consistently failing to meet project deadlines. Each team member had to identify a personal improvement goal that would help us overcome this collective weakness.

In Oliver’s case, he wanted to provide better managerial support for his direct reports but often found himself pulled in other directions by fellow managers and those further up the organization’s chain of command. “If only they would leave me alone to do my work,” he often thought. But even when they did leave him alone, he still wasn’t a very attentive manager. Something else was blocking him from his goal, but what? Through the exercise, Oliver thought he’d found the answer, and he didn’t like it at all. He had discovered a rather ugly blind spot in his thinking – he was an unwitting participant in class discrimination.


It was an understandable oversight. Oliver came from a culture highly stratified by wealth with very little social mobility between classes. He was from a lower-class background and even though he’d worked his way to a management position, he still saw himself through a cultural lens of subservience to those from a higher socioeconomic stratum, which included all of his peers and those in organizational leadership. He was simply more attentive to their needs than to those of his staff (also from the lower class) because that was how the culture had taught him to think and behave. He was not even aware of the dissonance this created with his own deeply-held religious beliefs until now, and that’s what disturbed him most. How could he be giving preferential treatment to “the rich” when Jesus so often preached against this, and when it was exactly the opposite of what our team needed? How could he have not been aware of this until now? Oliver realized that to develop professionally, he would also need to grow spiritually and become a more integrated, self-examined person.  


And he was not alone. We all were noticing darkened areas of our thinking that needed a fresh look and perhaps even a divine touch. Operating assumptions that were never questioned were now being exposed to daylight, and many of them seemed incomplete, half-cocked, and downright dubious. Collectively, we saw that our organizational culture was light on accountability because of perceived threats to things we valued, like our relationships and staff morale. Yet several team members pointed out that healthy relationships and mutual accountability are not enemies, but rather friends, and that by treating each other with “kid gloves,” we had set the bar too low. This spurred conversations we’d never had before and opened the door to real progress. We agreed to implement a follow-up plan over several months to capitalize on these insights and explore new ways of being with each other that would help make everyone better, and also help us begin meeting some deadlines.


How aware are you of your blind spots? Does your team or organization have areas of underperformance that might be linked with deeply engrained attitudes and mindsets or perceived threats of change? Curious about what ITC could do to help boost your effectiveness? Consider reaching out to us at the Center for Leading in Community. We are a center of excellence for this model and many other powerful tools to help you get to where you’re going.

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