Leadership: Preventing Opportunity Blindness

May 9, 2016

"This is due. That is soon to be late. There is too much work and not enough resources," a manager listens to her employee declare. The scene is clear as day and is a frequent occurrence in our workplaces. Time compresses, commitments pile up and performance expectations are at their highest levels. We all are extremely busy.

The manager responds, "I know but at the end of the day, I need you to figure it out. You may need to invest more sweat equity into your projects to shorten the schedule and keep costs down. Stop by my office later so we can discuss."

The employee's thoughts are now on overdrive as he contemplates a response that does not leave him without a job. "Okay," replies James.

All the while, a team member eavesdrops and immediately sympathizes with her co-worker. Thoughts run through her head: "I am flat-lined as well. I need to make a quick exit before I am assigned some of his work simply through the proximity principle." There she goes, knocking over every obstacle out of the way to evade what she perceives as a moment of impact, a potential work reallocation event.

She catches up with two other team members and decides to report the news flash. "Hey guys, I just overheard James complain to Susan about how much work he has and how he cannot get it all done. That is not the worst of it. Susan told him that she expected him to get it done and to put in extra unpaid hours to keep the project costs down. Can you believe that?"

"Look, we are all busy," replies Jaime. "I know I am too busy as well with a slew of project deadlines coming up."

"I know what you mean, Jaime. We are all in the same boat. Perhaps we can find a way for us to meet as a team, put our collective intellectual resources together and come up with a strategy to overcome these challenges," Roberto noted.

"I hear you, but I am not listening," Jamie snaps at Roberto. "You know how it is around here; the person that comes up with the bright ideas winds up writing whitepapers and with more work. Who needs that?"

"I guess you are right. It seems as though that is always the case," Roberto concurred.

Preventing Opportunity Blindness

Frequently, we allow our work environment, commitments and other people to control our thoughts. Thoughts drive behavior and they infuse us with either vision or blindness. We place ourselves at a place where the walls we voluntarily build keep us from seeing the real opportunities that are there for the making or for the taking. Often, our well-constructed walls limit professional growth and advancement within the organization. These walls also harm your business as innovation and work process efficiency takes a back seat to organizational distractions, stress and mission failure points.

In the case of Susan, she and her team are so blinded by a “this is mine and that is theirs” culture, work overload and perceptions that their situation is on a fast train towards a predictable and unfortunate destination: opportunity blindness.

Everyone on Susan's team, including Susan, has the ability and capability to step up and be a leader. Opportunities are there; all they have to do is tear down those virtual walls to see and take advantage of them.

In this scenario, Roberto is on the right track before he allowed himself to be derailed by Jaime. In the face of perceived impossibilities, only the team that unites in a common conversation has a chance at visualizing opportunities.

Most people notice flat lines when presented with flat lines. Innovative and productive people view things differently when presented with these flat lines. They see mountains and canyons all representing opportunities for growth and prosperity for themselves and their organization.

Preventing opportunity blindness is the purposeful act of facilitating vision through the process of thinking differently. It is about creating and building opportunities when most people are simply too blind see them.

When you sense your team is scattering at the thought of helping each other, make a choice to make a difference. This is an opportunity. Make it a conversation about leadership and take the other train towards the gift of vision.

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