Mind the Gap

If you’ve ever ridden the London Underground, you’ve heard this phrase over and over – mind the gap – which relates to the gap between the train doors and the station floor. The message is repeated over and over and over on the trains – right before every stop, at the stop and after every stop. This warning is about safety and communicates two messages – pay attention to the gaps, and make sure to allow for the gaps (which will vary at every stop). It took me a day and a half before this repeated message landed with me and I saw the ways it relates to a leadership topic that I often share – the importance of minding and allowing for our leadership gaps and blind spots.

Here’s a truth – none of us are as good as we think we are. No matter how honest and self-aware we are, it’s impossible to know all of our blind spots, so we tend to overestimate our leadership and impact. The same is true with your team and organization – no matter how well you think they’re working together and performing, it’s almost certain that you will overestimate their performance.

What then can you do to navigate this reality of our own self-perceptions and, often, self-deceptions? You follow the warnings from the London trains and you “mind the gap.” Not only do you mind the gaps, but you anticipate them and actually overestimate them. 

There are two reasons for overestimating your personal and organizational gaps. First, it helps you navigate the inevitable blind spots and overestimations of your leadership and performance. Second, overestimating gives you the best chance to fully address and solve whatever gaps you have.

Here’s the reality when it comes to gaps. If you think you have a ten percent (10%) gap on any issue or opportunity, and you develop a 10% solution to address this gap, you have a decent chance to succeed if it’s actually a 10% issue. However, this ignores the reality that we all have blind spots and that we typically underestimate our gaps. If the gap is actually 20%, your 10% solution will fail. In contrast, if you overestimate your gap and develop a 20% solution for a 10% gap, then your solution will work if the gap is actually 20% and will still solve the lesser issue if your assessment proves to be too high. In other words, there’s no downside to solving for the greater gap, since the more significant solution will solve a less significant issue.

If you want to grow your leadership, your team and your business, make planning for and overestimating your gaps and blind spots a part of your daily routine. When in doubt, remember the warnings on the London trains and “mind the gap.” 

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