Your Own Personal Bubble

bubble manYou live much of your life in your own personal bubble. So do I. So does everyone.

The personal bubble I’m talking about is the bubble of our own thoughts, perceptions, behaviors, and emotions. It doesn’t matter how smart, insightful, or “on top of it” we think we are, we all have blind spots, especially when it comes to ourselves. These blind spots frequently cause us to create unwanted patterns in business and life where we get in our own way.

Do you ever feel like you’re living in the Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day—the same unwanted things seem to keep happening over and over? That’s your personal bubble in action.

Over the past 14 years of coaching people, I’ve seen the “bubble effect” hundreds of times.

  • A brilliant software engineer found himself constantly stuck in “hack” jobs that didn’t allow him to exercise his creativity, because deep down he didn’t believe he was good enough.
  • The head of a professional services firm kept losing good employees because of his impatience and brash communication style.
  • A salesperson couldn’t seem to close sales. She was afraid to ask for the order, because if she asked and didn’t get it she felt rejected.
  • A retailer drove customers away because he talked too way much and dissed his competitors.

Every one of these people saw their own thoughts and behaviors as somehow right and justified. So do the rest of us.

We could all use someone to prick our bubble—to help us see what we can’t see and break our own unwanted patterns. That’s a big part of what I do as a coach. It’s also why I have my own coach.

One of my clients, a real estate agent, once invited me to accompany him on a listing appointment. I sat in the room as he spoke to the homeowners about representing them in the sale of their house. He gave a confident and well-prepared presentation. He spoke about his experience, the current market, and why he was their best choice to represent them. He obviously knew his stuff.

After the presentation, he asked me how he did. I told him he was very convincing, but he didn’t give the owners much chance to talk or ask questions. He seemed more interested in selling himself than listening.

Guess what? He lost out to a newbie agent with a fraction of his experience, track record, and know-how. I had him go back to the sellers to find out why he lost. They told him, “We just felt more comfortable and related better to the other realtor.”

This experience became the basis of our next round of coaching. I helped him see how he was coming across to other people—too pushy, too slick, too self-absorbed. He couldn’t see it on his own. He thought he was communicating powerfully. “Powerful communication” wasn’t what was needed. His personal bubble kept him from seeing himself and the situation clearly.

I worked with him to shift his focus from himself to his prospects. I coached him on how to listen better. He took the feedback  to heart. He worked hard to change his selling and communication style. Now he’s one of the top performing agents in the country.

One reason that we get locked into our personal bubble is that others won’t tell us the truth. A prospective client or customer won’t tell you what you did to turn them off. And if you’re the boss or an executive, your employees won’t risk telling you something you might not want to hear.

The point of all this is that our awareness is limited from inside the bubble. If you’re committed to growing your business and being your very best, you can benefit from honest feedback, outside perspectives, and coaching—whether they’re from a manager, a board of advisors, or a coach.