Resources: Blog Post
I arrived at a meeting with a colleague recently and the other party was late in joining us. I commented to my colleague that this was irksome since both of us were now wasting our time and my colleague responded by saying that the other party was always late for meetings. When the person did arrive, a dutiful apology was given; I asked him if he thought it was fair that he had been late and kept us waiting. arI also asked him if his reputation for always being late for meetings was accurate. He conceded that it did happen too often and so I asked him whether the disrespect for others’ time was something he was happy to be known for. Of course, he claimed he did not mean to be disrespectful, but that he was a busy person. It was explained that we are all busy people. I prodded further and asked whether it was OK for his employees to show up late for meetings because his example set the tone for his whole team. Again, the answer was as expected. The general perception of this leader was that he was caught up in his own importance, and, as a consequence, he devalued other people’s time. Was it maliciously done? Likely not, but the negative perception was widespread.
Perception is, as we know, the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses, and neuroscientists say the brain’s mental simulation merely serves to fill in the gaps. In fact, it is possible that up to 90% of our perception could be made up entirely by the brain. Timothy Verstynen, an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Carnegie Mellon University, suggests that sensory information and our mental models have a primary role in how we perceive the world. He says “as we start walking about in the world, seeing, touching and hearing, our brain learns from experience and builds models to predict our future interactions with the environment.” That being the case, it is possible that much of that perception is fabricated. In the case of the late leader, his tardiness had annoyed me, and the remark about this being a repeated offence, had created the impression that this leader was rude and demeaned employees. It had produced a negative pattern of behaviour in my mind and it affected the way I thought about him.
We all understand the importance of first impressions, particularly in the hiring process. One study suggested that people form an opinion of you the second they hear your voice. Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov, in another study, concluded that we make up our minds on someone within a 100 – millisecond exposure to his/her face. Yes, that is correct – people have already inferred several of your personality traits—including competence, trustworthiness, and likeability, to name just a few, within 100 milliseconds of meeting you. That’s why some companies will often introduce new employees and current employees in ways which show off key skills and highlight the importance of these people to the team, so that perceptions are built around positives instead of negatives.
As professionals, we understand the importance of personal branding, which is what makes us distiFor Linked_Innctively unique. In our daily roles, personal branding is about our ability to execute and deliver on expectations, but in new surroundings, personal branding is our ability to make an impressive first impression. “Winning body language to stand out, win trust and credibility” is the topic of our next SCNetwork event on August 17th. If our senses are key to perceptions, our presenter Mark Bowden will remind us that it’s not what we say, but how we say it that gets results. There are superior communication techniques, including gestures that can inspire, build trust and credibility. Knowing that perception is reality, how we can influence perceptions is a key skill for anyone. If “perception is reality,” let’s also appreciate what Wayne Dyer once said,” Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”
Ian Hendry is the president of the Strategic Capability Network. In his Morning Musings, he provides insight on issues facing today’s business leaders and looks at subject matter related to upcoming SCNetwork events. He is also VP HR & Administration at Interac Association.
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