October 8, 2020
By Joseph Folkman, Forbes
Most people who drive an automobile know that there are blind spots in which another car can be dangerously close but where you as the driver cannot see them. In the world of interpersonal relations, a blind spot describes a behavior or attitude you possess that other people clearly see in you but that you’re not aware of. I submit that people have a widespread blind spot regarding valuing diversity and practicing inclusiveness. That is not to say that everyone has this condition. But it appears that about half of us seriously underestimate or overestimate our behavior in this arena.
The vast majority of leaders believe that they do an excellent job in building a climate of trust and openness to the different thoughts, styles, and backgrounds of others. Zenger Folkman’s Diversity Assessment showed that people think they respect people regardless of their ethnicity, race, gender, age, cultural background, or sexual orientation. But often, others do not agree. To examine this difference in perception, we gathered 360-degree assessments from 1,825 senior leaders. Each leader was measured on the extent to which they valued diversity and inclusion. Leaders were evaluated on behaviors such as creating a climate of trust and openness with different people and actively soliciting alternative perspectives. Results from valuing diversity and inclusion were then broken into quartiles based on all respondents’ assessments, excluding the leader’s self-assessment. The graph below shows the results comparing self-assessment ratings to ratings by direct reports. Those leaders rated by others to be at the bottom quartile rated themselves at the 42nd percentile on average. In other words, they rated themselves slightly below average. Those rated by others in the top quartile ranked themselves slightly lower at the 57th percentile. Note that the Direct Report assessments followed the quartile ratings precisely.