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Does your leadership style suffer from a BLIND spot? Part 3

June 22, 2023

“…most bosses are not mentally ill, but a surprising number of senior executives do have a personality disorder of some kind.” De Vries (2014:102).

Let’s discover how one’s HBDI thinking style can identify a blind spot.

Case study 1:

Subject 1: “I could not understand why I forgot things when I needed to perform under pressure.” At the tender age of 6, I was chosen as a member of our school choir. On a fateful Monday morning during Assembly the headmaster had a brain waive and decided to ask all the junior members of the choir to give a solo rendition of one of the numbers that were part of the choir’s repertoire. There were three of us. Without thinking I raised my hand and offered to go first. I did not realize my mistake until I faced an ocean of expecting faces which was followed by silence and abated breath for the piano to play the intro…my kneecaps performed a “sowing machine” ritual.

My stress levels peaked when I realized I started the song with the second verse…I stopped singing…They laughed…I ran off the stage crying…the Headmaster caught me by the arm and ordered me to try again…I tried again but mixed the words so badly; stopped and ran for the door backstage…They caught up with me and ordered me to try again…the whole assembly felt so sorry for me, they sang the song with me. Finally, I completed both versus. Since that day I became aware that I cannot remember detail under pressure…could this have been the trigger of a belief that I was not clever or good enough… a belief that would haunt me for the rest of my life. I would study very hard for a test, but when confronted with the exam room stressors, I could not remember the answers. When I was introduced to my HBDI thinking style and I realized how stress affects my relaxed state of thinking, it all made sense.”

When one becomes aware of how your thinking affects your behaviour it is referred to as Meta Cognition.

Figure 2: Whole Brain Communication

Table 1: Stress-related shifts in thinking style

When under pressure my thinking preferences change, I am less aware of logical thinking (Blue: -4), significantly less procedural (slower to execute) (Green: -12), significantly more emotional (Red: +21) and less creative (Yellow: -9).

When I saw this, everything started making sense. Now I understand why I forget “things” when stressed and how emotions shift into to my foreground.

You may ask, “Is this good or is this bad?”, the short answer is: neither. What makes this insight so life-changing is that my self-understanding improved significantly and my increased self-awareness improved my meta-cognition which makes me more aware and able to match my thinking to situational requirements.

If only I understood how to engage my Green quadrant to remember the words of the song and not allow the Red quadrant-related emotions to disrupt me, that fateful morning could have been a moment of growth in self-confidence so badly needed at such a tender age.

I embraced my thinking style by actively engaging my Red quadrant when coaching and mentoring business executives virtually, and in person…my Blind Spot became my Sweet Spot.”

Case study 2:

Subject 2:

 “I am a successful businessman and an entrepreneur at heart. I identified a niche market for investment portfolio management about 20 years ago. My personnel compliment has grown from 5 to 80 in two decades with a steady well sustained client base. However, my success is tainted by a high attrition rate of key personnel. Exit interviews feedback points to my inability to create an emotionally safe environment.
Here are some of the verbatim comments of former colleagues:

Respondent 1: “I never know where I stand with him… today he will arrive at the office calm and collected, set up a meeting and inform me about certain policies and procedures he wants me to implement. Tomorrow, he arrives at the office, clearly in a bad mood and when I give him some feedback on my progress with the procedures and policies project, he tells me it’s not required anymore, and I must refrain from dumping too much detailed documents on his desk.”

• Respondent 2: “He interferes in my work, tells me what and how to do it.”

Respondent 3: “I do not know where I stand with him. He arrived at work calm and collected. After the Board meeting, he stormed into my office and started questioning decisions and subsequent actions. It’s difficult to operate in this unstable environment. He shows no empathy, he is happy when he is in a good place. I doubt he knows, or cares, about my recent divorce…”

Figure 3: Subject 2: HBDI Thinking Style

Subject 2:

“First impression of the graph indicates a shift from relaxed thinking to a slightly different graph under pressure.

When under stress my Blue quadrant (fact based and analytical thinking) looses 6 points, which suggests that changes are not significant, with 11 points added to Red quadrant that suggests that I will appear to be more emotional and concerned about feelings and relationships under pressure.
The significant changes in my Green and Yellow quadrant preferences goes a long way to explain the “unintended” impact my stress-related thinking has on my colleagues.

My Green quadrant loses 28 points! When I am relaxed and at the office I am very aware of the progress of all the projects and I do realise now that I micromanage my Project Leaders. When stress gets hold of me I loose focus on processes and structure. The energy shifts from Green to Yellow. My Yellow quadrant gains 21 points! Stress increases my urge to innovate, be creative and find new solutions. This creates confusion and uncertainty when I suggest changes today, versus ways of work I suggested the previous day.

I am now much more mindful of this blind spot. I have discussed my thinking style with my directs reports and I feel much more connected and understood.

We can learn to escape the grip of habit and become more cognitively aware of our internal world. This demands intentional modification to cultivate a new presence that facilitates meaningful and enduring relationships.

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