Do you have a perception problem?

Yesterday afternoon I met a friend for coffee. We had not seen each other since May, so we enjoyed catching up for a while. At one point, I was telling her about an upcoming activity with some high school students, and she encouraged me to show a lot of confidence when interacting with kids that age. Another time in the conversation, I mentioned the first year with MRIGlobal flew by yet I feel so new, and she again urged me about confidence. After her second mention of it, I began to wonder if I come across to her, or in general, as if I don’t have confidence.

So, now I’m paranoid and lacking confidence!

The conversation prompted me to dig a little about perceptions. How do our impressions of others impact our behaviors? How do our perceptions of ourselves impact our performance? If anyone reading this has a perception problem, what I learned and pondered might help you too.

The psychology gurus are pretty set on the definition of perception: it is the process by which we translate our environment into our view of the world. Of course, our view affects our behaviors and behaviors lead to success or failure with work and people.

Take a look at the photo to the left. How old is the woman you see? The way you see the woman will impact how you treat her, if she were a real person in front of you. Or, perhaps you see something else entirely?

A colleague told me a story recently. The story was about selling shoes in India. As the story goes, an Indian leader wanted to set up a shoe business in a specific region, so he sent an ambassador there to do some recon work. The elder ambassador spent little time in the region and told the leader that selling shoes in that region would be a waste of time because the people don’t even wear shoes.

In the meantime, an enterprising young man met the leader. The young man was eager to prove himself worthy of a position with the leader, so he offered to go to the same region to assess the shoe business potential. He spent time in the region, interacted with the people, noted their interests and needs. When he returned to the leader, he was excited about the potential shoe business. There was great potential because the people don’t wear shoes! Turns out, the young man was right and the shoe business prospered.

Perception affects behavior, and behavior affects success with work and people. Watch out for three common perception problems to make sure you see things as they are and act accordingly.

Self-fulfilling prophecy: Believing something is true causes it to come true. The best example I can think of for this is “parking karma.” I believe in such karma and it almost always works for me. When people in the car doubt or make fun of it, it always works. Right when a passenger laughs off my parking prayer (“Hail Mary full of grace, help me find a parking space”), someone pulls out of the front spot. Another common example is when searching for a lost item. It is better to say, “I will remember to print the report” instead of “I hope I don’t forget to print the report.”

I read a statistic a long time ago that said 70%-90% of what we say to ourselves is negative. Pay attention to how you talk to, and about, yourself to see if that number could be taken down a notch or two.

 

Self-sabotage: Self-sabotage goes deeper than self-talk. Sometimes people procrastinate or do mediocre work as a way to sabotage themselves. A technique that helps self-sabotagers is Stop-Challenge-Focus. (SOURCE: Turn Self-Sabotage Into Success By Geoffrey James on www.inc.com)
When you avoid taking an action that would help you reach your goals, use the three steps:
1.       STOP. Identify the belief that's causing you to feel emotions that aren't helping you succeed.

2.       CHALLENGE. Question the validity of that belief and find reasons why it's not really true or not true in this case.

3.       FOCUS. Create a specific inner dialog that supports your goals and then take action immediately.

Fundamental attribution error: This is when we give positive explanations for our results and negative ones for others. For example, I got the “A” on the exam because I studied hard, while Joey got the “A” because he was lucky. At work, this might relate to positions, promotions, evaluations, or project assignments. A flawed sense of oneself leads to career stagnation or failure. It is difficult for others to give feedback when our vision of ourselves differs from how others view us, so watch for it yourself.

One of the great philosophers of our day, Stephen Colbert summed this issue up nicely, “It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that's not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything.”

Whether we are with friends, colleagues, or customers, perception is everything. Remember, that includes your perception of others and of yourself, not just their perception of you.

Team commitment requires more than Kumbaya

Think of all the teams, formal and informal, you are on at work: project teams, client teams, strategic teams. You also are on teams at home as the leader of a family, or sibling, or son or daughter. You are on teams in your church, neighborhood, kids's school, nonprofits you support, and with friends. Some of you are on athletic teams--professional or not.

Sometimes you are a teammate and other times you are the team leader. Are you always a team player?

How committed are you to your teams and their goals? How committed are you to your teammates? Does your commitment waiver when the teams are winning v. losing? Or, does it waiver depending on how the teams are led? Or, is your commitment dependent upon commitment demonstrated by other teammates and leaders?

Our commitment to the teams we are on is not a one-time promise. It is impacted all the time and must be renewed frequently. Team leaders in any field who expect a version of Kumbaya at the start of a project or season will form and keep player commitment will cause their teams to lose.

Work teams lose when projects take too long or cost too much. They might get finished, but the lack of commitment is costly and lack of trust will impact future projects too. I was on a project for a nonprofit training event several years ago. The leadership of the team was so bad (wasteful of our time by lack of preparation), the team has never heard from him again. Another team I was on was run by a leader whose ego was bigger than everyone else, and the only things that were completed were what she micromanaged and instructed. She personally caused the finances and membership of the group to decrease, plus, she missed out on so many great ideas. You have been on similar teams, right?

As a team player, it is important to assess your commitment to your teams. When you are not All-In, assess your behavior and reasons. It is okay if the team changes its Mission for you to change your commitment; however, it is not acceptable to sabotage the team overtly or with poor performance.

Players often make self-centered decisions when they have not bought in to the culture, leadership, or goals. If you are a teammate over the age of twelve, it is unacceptable to behave in a selfish manner. You are taught by that age to put the team first.

When players put themselves first, they reflect their own character and how they feel about their teammates and leaders. Good leaders know team commitment can be fleeting and must be renewed frequently. Slogans like "There is no "I" in TEAM!" don't work when hollered once. There may be no "I" in team, but there is "ME". Experienced, talented leaders pay attention to player commitment and build it often, even when a player makes a mistake and puts himself first. It takes more than punishment or discipline to earn a player's commitment.

As a player and leader, pay attention to commitment all the time. Paying attention to it once is not going to lead to success in any field.


Facebook's obvious disregard for stakeholders

Companies today seek to align their focus on all five of their stakeholders in order to position themselves for long-term competitive advantage.

Facebook, however, appears to be disinterested in stakeholder alignment.


You've already heard about, or have been involved in, Facebook's IPO debacle. Some fault for that fiasco rests outside of Facebook, but much of it rests inside. In mid-May, the stock was expected to trade at $38. It was higher than that for a short time on opening day but has been nowhere near $38 since. The stock has risen in the last two weeks, closing yesterday at $32.06, down 16% from IPO price. However, even as the stock trends upward, Facebook and its investment banks are being sued by dozens of shareholders who allege that financial forecasts for Facebook were cut prior to the IPO but the change was not publicized. 

Facebook contends it did nothing illegal with regard to changing its forecasts or how it announced the changes. Companies truly concerned with stakeholder alignment care when their stakeholders, including shareholders, are angry and feel cheated. Facebook has shown it does not care, as long as what it did was legal. Shareholders don't care much about the touchy-feely side of business, as long as they are making money. However, since they are obviously not making money, they will scrutinize (and sue!) Facebook until they are compensated and do not feel duped.

Duped investors are not the foundation of long-term success. 

On to the next action that shows Facebook's blatant disregard for its stakeholders...

Yesterday, Facebook changed its users/customers' email addresses to the ones Facebook created for them. In 2010, Facebook introduced its own email service but it was not widely used. Yesterday, without any notification to its users, Facebook changed users' profiles to have their Facebook-created-whether-you-want-it-or-not email address as the primary email on the account. They did not change the way they reach users, just the way users could reach each other.

Facebook's customers do not want another email account and they certainly do not want Facebook changing their accounts without notification. In response to the outrage yesterday, Facebook did not explain or even admit to altering the default account settings. Facebook has made similar changes to accounts without notification. They continue to show lack of respect for their customers.

What Facebook should recognize is: they need its stakeholders more than we need Facebook.

Investors can make money elsewhere and users can be in touch with friends on other sites, and most are. If Facebook continues to show disregard for its investors and users, two primary stakeholders, they will erode the trust necessary for long-term sustainability. If Facebook continues to dupe investors and users, another social site can take its place. Get ready, that's what is likely to happen.