Hello Leader,

Unlike with conspiracy theories that you can do nothing about, this KEY exposes a dangerous blind spot in the White House and how it derailed a presidency. You will also discover how it relates to you and what you can do about it. But first: Have you discovered your data processing preferences? Seven out of ten managers cannot answer this question positively. Brains are wired differently. Each of your team members and each of the people in your life are wired differently. This KEY will help you focus on the decisive impact of understanding your processing preferences. As you gain this critical awareness, you will be able to optimize your communication.

As always, we'll be glad to hear from you with your comments, strategy and organizational transformation needs.

Listen to an extended "Blind Spot in The White House" podcast here.


Aviv Shahar

Blind Spot in The White House

Seven out of ten managers fail to achieve the highest possible level of success because of this blind spot. Are you one of the seven? Not understanding his learning inclination was one of the main factors that contributed to the troubles of Lyndon Johnson even before Vietnam became an intractable disaster.

The JFK Story
Here is what happened: JFK was a "reader." Part of his success came from understanding that he preferred to process information by reading. He surrounded himself with bright people who produced position papers on three sides of every issue. Written expert opinions helped Kennedy process issues, focus on the essentials and form his mind and positions. His staff presented material to him in the best possible way - the way he was "wired." This knowledge enabled JFK to work from inside his comfort zone, because reading was his learning inclination.

After Kennedy's assassination, LBJ moved into the oval office and felt morally obligated to keep Kennedy's team together. They in turn went on doing what they had done so well in the past, which was to produce position papers. The problem was LBJ was not a "reader." He was extremely bright and experienced but his wiring - the way he processed information - was different. Johnson spent his entire career in the senate, negotiating on both sides of the aisle. He was a "conversationalist." Rather than connecting the dots and finding clarity through reading, he processed and perceived issues through dialogue. LBJ's effectiveness came from his ability to negotiate and understand issues through listening to other people and then hearing himself frame a position. This becomes evidently clear when listening to LBJ's taped conversations.

The Blind Spot
The blind spot in the LBJ administration was that the new guy had a different "information processing preference," a different "learning inclination" - he was "wired" differently. The White House became dysfunctional in part because nobody stopped and said: "Wait, this is a new guy. We need a new game. His experience and record of success point to a different learning inclination. His processing preferences are different." Instead, the White House staff continued to produce position papers which LBJ couldn't process and did not read. They then viewed him with disdain as not intellectual enough to grasp what had been critically important for JFK.

At the same time LBJ was forced to seek out his old friends in the Senate and elsewhere who understood his preference to talk through the issues. Because of his different inclination, LBJ was dismissed as not being smart. A group of sophisticated experts were all blind to the fact that LBJ was a gifted man and was indeed not short on smartness at all. His smart was different. He processed information differently and applied a different set of intelligences from those applied by JFK. LBJ was not a "reader-thinker." He was an "intuitive-conversationalist."

Many accounts highlight other reasons for tension and distrust in the LBJ administration. We propose in this insight that the learning inclination factor was a huge blind spot and is a debilitating blind spot for many leaders and executives.

What About You
Do you know the nature of your "smart"? Have you discovered how you learn best? Are you able to organize the information you need to fit your process preferences?

Bright managers, promising careers and high potential teams get derailed by this blind spot because they lack awareness and understanding of their unique learning inclinations. To be effective with your team, you need to:

  1. Tell them how you prefer to learn and coach them in how you process information best, which will help them be more effective in working with you.
  2. Identify the preferred learning style of each of the people who work with you, so you can be more effective with them.

Understanding learning inclinations includes more than discovering whether you are a reader or a listener. The range and nuances of learning inclinations are subtle. Until you realize the people around you are each wired differently, it's very likely you are compromising your and their ability to succeed.

Now, if you are a "listener," then go ahead and download the audio message and hear it, because your brain likes to process information this way. If you are a reader, keep this copy or print it out to refer to it again later.

Although numerous studies of the five senses and learning styles have shown how different people sometimes benefit from using more than one sense to absorb new material, there continues to be a lack of application of these valuable insights into the art of business leadership and communication skills. Here is a series of questions to help you discover your own preferences and inclinations. A more complete discovery of your 5-color process inclination and the 20-intelligences profile and learning inclinations is included in our Executive Coaching work and Leadership workshops.

Discover Your Learning Inclination
Take a moment to reflect on your own experience. These questions will clue you into your learning inclinations.

  1. In what situations do you feel most engaged when learning and assimilating new information?
  2. Do you like reading books? Are you able to recall right now three specific insights you distilled from reading books in the last two months?
  3. Do you learn best by watching and observing someone else? Can you recall the last two times you learned something by observation?
  4. Do you like listening to books on tapes? What is the last audio book that influenced your thinking?
  5. Do you enjoy picking up new information from watching documentaries and movies? What are the last two movies you saw that impressed you with new thoughts or ideas?
  6. Reflect on your past experience:
  7. Have you recently or in the past enjoyed walking and talking at the same time? Do you have a walk-and-talk buddy?
  8. Do you work things out in a conversational way? Do you have a phone-buddy you use as a sounding board?
  9. Are you inclined to solo learning or to collaborative learning?
  10. Do you have a mastermind team to explore options and scenarios?
  11. Are you a visual person? Do you process data best with tables, flow charts and mind maps?
  12. Do you enjoy teaching because you learn more by explaining to others?
  13. Do you get the most out of an interactive coaching session?
  14. Do you keep a journal and clarify your thoughts through your own writing? Do you get your best ideas when you write, when you are on your own?
  15. Do you enjoy thinking during physical exertion? Do you find that being kinetic or pacing around helps you articulate thoughts?

It's important not to assign a moral judgment as to which of these approaches is better or more important. The question is simply: How is your brain wired? How does your brain prefer to process information? What is the best way for you to learn? It's not good or bad; just how it works best for your brain.

True, if you are the Chief Financial Officer, you better love learning and working with numbers. In other words, it's easier being the CFO if you easily process long financial statements. Perhaps only 25 percent of people follow their learning inclinations (consciously or not.) They then excel in certain tasks and jobs, which leads to careers wherein they use more of their learning preferences.

Now it's your turn. Turn the Key. Avoid the LBJ blind spot. Discover your learning inclinations. Help your team members discover their data processing and learning preferences. Encourage a deliberate conversation about this KEY to accelerate development and liberate your collaborative potential.

© Aviv Shahar