Home Concepts Decison Making & Problem Solving A Crisis of Expertise II: Blind Spots and the Role of Coaching

A Crisis of Expertise II: Blind Spots and the Role of Coaching

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Dunning-Kruger Effect

This is described as the Dunning-Kruger effect where psychologist David Dunning (Dunning-Kruger Effect) notes “we are all stupid, it’s just that some of us are aware of how much we don’t know, and what makes us ignorant” and are therefore less likely to parade our ignorance”. So, there is a growing body of knowledge emerging from the field of psychology (Daniel Kahneman being one), that shows that most of us have little or no idea about why we behave the way we do – why we make decisions the way we do – and my earlier essay describes some of these findings.

This phenomenon may not be a problem at the lay-person level, but it can be much more severe at the leadership level, say in business. How do we help our coaching client when they exhibit these blind-spots and how do you coach them on recognizing their own blind spots so they can be better leaders? Attendant questions are:

  • In general, how common is leadership over-confidence in your experience?
  • Or, is it more common for leaders to believe that because they are experts in one field, to think they are experts in other fields as well?
  • Do you find that leaders that you work with are defensive when you identify blind spots they may have exhibited? How do you deal with that?
  • What are some of the techniques you use to help leaders overcome blind spots?

Blind Spots and the Practice of Coaching

It is clear that we humans are influenced by a range of factors beyond our awareness. Beginning to understand these factors and implement techniques to become more aware of our thinking and decision-making, makes us smarter and reduces over-confidence, ignorance and poor decision-making. Given the resistance to these tools, leadership coaches and consultants are in a position to nudge their clients to apply these tools for better understanding and decision-making.

These observations lead to an important question: in what ways are coaching practices concerned with the “blind spots” of clients (especially not knowing what they don’t know) and how does a coach address the unwillingness of some clients to acknowledge areas where they need but do not have adequate knowledge? In general, we must then ask: how common are these blind-spots in society or in business settings? In the earlier essay on hubris and blind-spots, we describe an experience one of us had with a senior leader who was an industry expert in one field and seemed to assume that they were therefore an expert in other fields as well – and they were not, with disastrous results. Is this experience commonly found among professional coaches? What about the strategies to be engaged by the coach? How does one go about identifying possible blind-spots in an individual and helping the individual see this for themselves? What are some of the techniques that can be used to help leaders?

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