I snapped this picture in the cave of Hercules in Tangiers Morocco. As I studied the cave opening looking out to the Atlantic Ocean, I saw two images, one of a man sitting and looking out to sea, the other a profile of a man wearing the traditional fez hat of the region. Many people in my tour group could only see one or the other- not both images. Why is it that we can look at the same object, the same landscape, the same person and see completely different things? It’s because perception- is in the eye of the beholder.
Anais Nin said we don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are. Therefore, perception is not reality. Reality is interpreted via the filters of our beliefs, values, and core convictions; we act/react based on that perception. These actions / reactions create new realities. Our perspective depends on what we think, do, say, and how we are perceived by others. It is what we tell ourselves about ourselves and about others.
Think about some situations you have been in where several people experience the same thing, and have a completely different response. For example, someone with a quirky sense of humor could cause laughter in one group and uncomfortable silence in another. Does that mean that you need to be a different person with every group with whom you interact? Absolutely not! It does mean that you need to be aware of how you are perceived by others. In order to maximize our impact, we must shift our own perspective.
Take these three steps to help you shift your perspective:
- Access your blindspot. When we are driving our cars, we are well aware of the danger of the blindspot. Moving into a lane without checking your blindspot can cause an accident. The same is true of your career. I once had a colleague who thought she was a great motivating manager. Unfortunately, her staff did not agree. They saw her as micromanaging, demotivating and controlling, a view they shared with others, including HR. Since she never sought their feedback, there was no way for her to know that her perception was not aligned with theirs. In order to access your blindspot you must seek feedback. Ask others to tell you what you are doing well and what you need to improve. Understand the impact of your behavior on others and whether that impact matches your intent.
- Act on the feedback you receive. Find one behavior to moderate – the one behavior that others consistently mentioned. Create a plan to use the newly moderated behavior as often as possible for at least 6 weeks. For example, if you are told that you need to speak up and share your ideas more, create a plan for how you are going to do that. It could be that you are going to prepare two-to three things to add to every discussion in which you participate. Research shows that if you consistently practice a new behavior, it will become habit. Check out the Power of Habit to learn more about creating new habits.
- Follow-up with those who gave you feedback to evaluate how you are doing. Don’t let feedback go into a vacuum. You will create stronger alliance and perhaps motivate other to follow your example.