Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Change Blindness

I recently tuned in to a discussion among coaches of assessment results for a client whose profile indicated he knew he was charming and likeable, but lacked depth of detail and follow-through. In spite of his self-awareness, I was concerned about his future in that company. His low ratings among peers and senior management suggested he's seen as  a "lightweight," a perception that can be very difficult to change, no matter how effective the coaching or how committed he is to balancing his influence style. I've seen change blindness on more than one occasion:
How many times have you made what felt like significant changes and no one noticed? How often, when working with clients, have co-workers or friends and family failed to observe, appreciate, and reinforce changes? This blindness occurs because others' ability to perceive something new is hampered by what they think they already know. This is often such an unconscious process they might not acknowledge their own change blindness (yep, denial of change blindness is called "change blindness blindness"). 

In a follow-up data-gathering session for a client who'd made significant changes in the previous six months, he and I pondered the fact that others I interviewed were highly focused on some problems from months earlier, even though I specifically asked them how this person is different in the present. 

A way around this phenomenon is to set clients up for success by coaching them to engage others in the process:  
“These are three specific behaviors you'll see that are different for me, and please, when you see me behaving in these new ways, tell me so I'll know I’m on the right track.” 

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