Perception Trumps Reality



We all know that how-you’re-perceived is more important than who you are and what you do/what you’ve done. However, the raw pain and sense of betrayal of this injustice really eats at you when you’re again the victim of misperception. Take heart – here’s some advice on how to better align how-you’re-perceived and who-you’d-like-to-come-across!

  1. Know the delta between how others see you and how you’d like to be seen. It’s just the way of the world, and blame can’t be assigned on either side. Just work with what you have rather than objecting that it exists!
  2. Always focus on understanding the people involved, their motivations and the problem at hand. Knowing the lay-of-the-land will help you better understand the world view of others and how their world view impacts their perception of you.
  3. Understand the political landscape so you can build the relationships and messaging needed to better align perception and reality about your capabilities. Be flexible about who you like and whom you can work with. Question your own assumptions and conclusions about the people around you. Assume best intent of others, unless they prove otherwise to you – not just by what others say about them. These people don’t have to enter your inner circle, but it helps to build a broad range of professional connections to help align the perceptions with the facts.
  4. Make a proactive and ongoing investment in managing your brand, as that’s how others perceive you. People are going to have their perception about you anyway, so make it easy for them to see you as you’d like to be seen. Communicate proactively, transparently and regularly.
  5. Don’t let misalignments in perception slide. Not knowing what’s being said about you or not saying and doing something about it can be interpreted as tacit approval and weakness.
  6. Figure out who’s playing what political games and for what purpose. The key players of these games are probably impacting how you are perceived by others.
  7. Manage your own emotions and reactions, especially when you are a victim of political games. It’s not that your emotions are illogical or unwarranted, it’s that many people feel uncomfortable and helpless around others who are responding emotionally, and most people think that over-emotives can’t be competent.
  8. Do what you can to facilitate a more transparent, more trusting environment and culture one conversation, one leader, one organization at a time.
  9. Stuff happens to the best relationships, to the best people. Nurture true and deep relationships with good people and stand behind the people in your close network, even if circumstances are making them act out of character. Try to understand what they are going through and be as gracious and supportive and forgiving as you can be.
  10. Regardless of which seat you might have at the table, if you have one at all. In other words, see all problems as opportunities to lead. Turning negative energy and emotions into a positive course forward helps not just you but everyone around you. Are you resilient and courageous enough to see the opportunity in every disaster?

What are your thoughts? What will you do differently the next time?

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