Finding your blindspots and helping others do too.
(3 Min Read) Using self-evaluation and peer-feedback to uncover your own blindspots (As an IC)
We all have blind spots. Things that we should be doing but arent or vice-versa. Mainly because we are not aware of them. Someone has to bring these things to light for us so we can become aware that they exist.
The problem with the above approach is that we have to rely on ‘someone’ to
Be really invested in our growth to give us honest feedback,
Identify whats in our blindspot,
And, be confident enough to share it with us
In most cases, this ‘someone’ is the reporting manager. It’s part of the manager’s job responsibility to look out for your growth, identify areas of improvement, and share them with you.
But as you suspect, this doesn’t work effectively in the real world. Mostly because managers are not closely working during project execution. Projects are being executed by you and your colleagues. All manager has is a view formed based on your self-evaluation and your peer’s-feedback. The best a manager can do is to identify themes across the feedback and bring them to light. It works but that’s a big feedback loop. Ideally, we want that feedback loop to be tight and small. And even better if can do it by ourselves.
How can we identify our own blind spots?
I actively look out for my blind spots when writing self-evaluation and peer-feedback. There are two tricks that I deploy:
When writing self-evaluation, I try to be as honest as possible. I accept that I don’t know everything and there is always something I can improve on. The best analogy I use is that I am trying to get from point A to point B. The path from point A to B is a long and winding road with a lot of intersections. But unless I know where I am on that road, I can’t take the right path to reach the destination. I can lie to myself that I am closer to point B than I actually am. But that likely will result in me taking a wrong turn on the road. And taking longer to reach the destination. If I am honest, I can get help from others, put a plan together, and starting marching to the destination without getting lost. This way the destination is guaranteed. Thus an honest self-evaluation becomes critical in acknowledging that there are blind spots I need to look out for.
Pay close attention to the honest peer-feedback that I write. Especially to the question around the lines “What is you peer good at and should continue to do so?”. Once I write the answer to this question, I reflect. “Do I share the same good qualities that my peer demonstrated?”. If the answer is no, then I have possibly identified a blindspot. For example, if in peer-feedback, I write that my colleague is detailed oriented, great at documentation, and brings inclusive culture to the team meetings, then I have 3 things to check for myself. So I reflect if I was “As detailed oriented as I should be?”, “As thorough with the documentation and other tasks?”, and “Makes everyone feel inclusive in team meetings and otherwise?”. This helps with identifying the blindspots.
By combing the above two, I become hyper-vigilant about uncovering and identifying my own blindspots. Even before they are shared by my manager or colleagues. If and when they are shared, I use them to either verify or dismiss the observations I made for myself.
Also not to mention that an honest peer-feedback is going to uncover blindspots for your peers. All of us can use someone looking out for us.