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Getting to the Truth of the Matter – Perception is Reality

Jul 10, 2014 Technology & Innovation

Change, high growth, market shifts. These are just a few of the things that can create disruption and chaos in an organization. As leaders, it's our job to bring, and maintain stability within the company no matter what the business environment throws at us. So when a problem arises, that means being able to objectively listen to solve problems, with objectivity being the key. In my last blog, I discussed the importance of clear and concise communication in the workplace. But it's important to recognize that perception plays a role in communication.

For example, a couple goes to what's billed as a romantic movie. They both see the same film, but while one loves it, the other thinks it was terrible. Why? The wife says that the female lead was weak and emotional, and didn't like the way the male character manipulated her into running away to get married. The husband tells the wife she's crazy, that the central theme of the movie was love at first sight, and he thought it was a great lesson about giving in and letting the heart rule over the head. Ultimately, they wind up arguing and trying to convince one another of who is right.

The Power of Perception

How could both people see the same movie yet view it so differently? That's the power of perception. Everyone views the world through individual filters that are created by experiences, emotion, expectations, and even moral positions. These filters influence the interpretation of events. Just like in the earlier example of the couple and the movie.

As leaders, we have to be able to take a step back and not necessarily view things through our own perceptions. Your employees', even your customers' views of events and situations are based off of perception. Great leaders who bring vision, thought and unity to organizations are able to take a step back and relate to others through their experiences, and then build bridges, motivate and inspire folks. Leaders need to be able to remove their own filters, step away from their own experiences, understand other's viewpoints and then help the involved parties to relate through the facts of the situation to find the resolution.

Bringing Objectivity into Perception

  1. Listen Carefully- Your experiences as a leader aren't always reality, and you aren't always 100% right. It's absolutely imperative to listen. Effective leaders listen and take the time to understand the way people perceive a situation. This creates a learning opportunity as well as the opportunity to recognize the contribution. When people feel they are being heard, you earn respect.
  2. Build Bridges- After listening, if you find you are dealing with a perception issue, force the disagreeing parties to deal only with the facts. It's important to take the emotion out, and get down to solving the real problem. What you'll usually find is that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. This creates common ground.
  3. Create Unity- Many times you can't change a person's perception, but you can help them understand one another. Creating unity doesn't necessarily mean that one side acquiesces to the other. It simply means bringing both sides into alignment and finding the way to move forward.

Despite how rational people think they are, perception usually creeps into judgment. If people don't feel they are being heard and don't feel empowered to make things better, it creates a culture of animosity. Just like with the movie example, it doesn't get you far to argue over perceptions of an issue. What's more effective is to listen, find common ground in the facts and use that discovery as a way to move on from the situation as a unified team.


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