You (According to Them)

Uncovering blind spots that impact your reputation and your career

Shifting Your Route on the Road to Success

Learn to adjust your natural approach to managing, leading and interacting.

Unexpected detours are inevitable in the business world: new management, new initiatives, and new competition. So how do you handle the frequent direction changes of the workplace? I’m not talking about your ability to update goals and strategies. Think beyond that. How do you adjust your natural approach to managing, leading and interacting with your co-workers to maximize success in a new environment?

The people who recognize the importance of change on this level have careers that race ahead. Those who don’t recognize it can get stuck behind a hidden roadblock that unknowingly sabotages their careers. They struggle to understand what is holding them back because they simply don’t see the problem.

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After coaching many clients who have this “professional blind spot”—what I call Frozen Compass syndrome—I’ve learned that it often impacts people who have been relatively successful using their innate styles of communicating and collaborating with others. Whether they are direct and straightforward or laid-back and low-key, they have always leveraged their own natural tendencies to get positive results.

Then the old formula suddenly stops working. New challenges call for a different approach, but they just can’t seem to step out of their behavioral comfort zones. On the “directness meter,” highly assertive people might need to dial it back while the more soft-spoken ones could benefit from cranking it up a notch. Without making some adjustments, these people will be perceived as less effective. And that will make them less successful.

If you (or a co-worker) might suffer from this blind spot, how can you start to make a positive shift in your interactive style? Begin by determining if you could increase your success by using an approach that is more or less direct. Are you stuck in a rut that might be limiting your potential? Stop before you react to a situation. Consider the impact of your natural response, and consciously shift your message to produce the results you want. Anticipate situations that may arise in the day ahead, and think about options for communicating in a more productive way. As you shift your interactions with others, monitor the responses so you can proactively clarify any possible misunderstandings. Finally, consider enlisting the support of a trusted colleague to give you more specific feedback as you work to change your behavior and communication patterns.

Even minor adjustments can make a huge difference when trying to overcome Frozen Compass syndrome. Once you learn to identify the problem and shift your interactive behavior in a subtle yet powerful way, you’ll be better prepared to keep your career on track while navigating the twists and turns of perpetual corporate change.

I’d love to know what you think.

Sara Canaday is a leadership expert, career strategist and the author of a new book, You -- According to Them: Uncovering the Blind Spots that Impact Your Reputation and Your Career.

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