A man sits behind the wheel of his Chevrolet and cruises along an interstate at 65 miles per hour. He decides to change lanes and pass the slow-moving dump truck that is chugging along in front of him. He takes a quick look in his mirror, flicks on his signal and starts to merge only to hear the bleating of a horn behind him. What the man failed to notice was the driver in the Ford to his left that sat comfortably in the pocket of the Chevy’s blind spot. It’s a simple, common occurrence, but one that could have drastic consequences. According to author Claudia M. Shelton, there are behaviors in one’s life that are tucked into everyone’s blind spots. The problem is that without proper training, we may never see them, and there’s no horn to alert us until it’s too late.
Shelton’s book Blind Spots: Achieve Success by Seeing What You Can’t See, helps readers strap on a set of performance-enhancing side-mirrors worthy of an oversized 18-wheeler. In an engaging and worthwhile read, the author helps executives expand their field of vision and bring to light the invisible gremlins that can occasionally sabotage an otherwise stellar career. Changing behavior patterns is not an easy subject to approach, particularly when it comes to individuals that many would label successful. One might ask, “If my methods have gotten me this far, they can’t be that bad, right?” Wrong. In some cases, blind-spot behaviors can create a ceiling through which an executive will never be able to burst. For others, their blind-spot tendencies may have gotten them a great title and salary, but done little to inspire trust or motivation among their employees and peers. Sometimes, as Shelton points out, there means cannot be justified, no matter how shiny the end result.
Not all of the news is bad for readers of Blind Spots. Just because one has some negative qualities doesn’t mean that he or she lacks great characteristics. Shelton teaches readers to gauge whether or not their strengths have become crutches that limit their performance in other ways. She is a firm believer in a process she calls “Clear Sight.” This is the process of learning to differentiate the benefits and drawbacks of one’s strengths and turning the damaging behaviors into positive character traits. Where Shelton differs from other authors is that she provides the reader with more than one path to reach his or her destination. Too many writers make the assumption that theirs is the only road paved in gold. Whether an executive prefers to work in groups or interact with others one-on-one, Blind Spots gives readers a choice for executing what Shelton terms a “Clear Sight Plan.”
Shelton is well-read, and she is not shy about demonstrating the knowledge she’s culled from some of today’s most influential business books. Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton’s Now, Discover Your Strengths, among others, are referenced. This should help readers connect with Shelton’s concepts through a familiar conduit. The author also introduces several “characters” from her work as an executive coach. The stories she relays about each of these professionals and their respective blind spots do not have the bland, eye-roll inducing feel of examples provided by many of Shelton’s contemporaries. The people she describes suffer from blind spots that may be plaguing someone reading this review right now.
An important note to anyone considering reading Blind Spots is the author’s emphasis on continuity – in other words, this is not a good book to ‘skip around’. This is not a good idea with Blind Spots. For example, readers will get lost when Shelton references Emma, a vice president of marketing introduced in an early chapter, later in the book. Although it might disappoint many of today’s ala carte leaders, Blind Spots is a book that needs to be handled the old fashioned way: from cover to cover. The upside is that Shelton does not waste a paragraph, much less a chapter. Her writing consistently pushes the reader to follow her examples but she also provides reinforcement of her ideas to keep them fresh in the reader’s mind. By book’s end an executive who reads Blind Spots will be on the road to a better career, all while consistently checking those oversize mirrors.