Blog Post: Managing Perception – Why Should You Care What Other People Think?

posted Sunday, August 23, 2009 4:30 PM

by ,

We are creating impressions everywhere we go.  From the barista that hands you your morning coffee, the receptionist as you walk into the office, clients you contact on the phone, your boss, co-workers and employees, your kids’ soccer coach, your spouse, the pizza delivery guy, the HR person you e-mailed your resume to…Need I go on.  Why should you care what other people think?  Isn’t it manipulative to “manage” perceptions?  Well, it all depends on the context and motive.

Perception is an individual’s interpretation of the world and is their reality.  Organizations spend billions on advertising and public relations.  It is to your benefit to be aware of the effect your action (or non-action) has on others and use this information to manage your behavior to promote your life and career while still being yourself.  Just be your best self because it is really hard to change a negative impression.

Impressions others form about you are a result of both your journey and your destination.  In other words, not only the outcome, but how you got there.  Do you behave ethically and are you focused on customer service?  People are watching, even when you think they are not.  In your business and career world, awareness and management of the perceptions you create is essential when you hold any of the following roles:

Leader – New leaders soon realize that relationships become more important than technical ability.  What sets great leaders apart from average ones is the ability to manage perceptions.  What people perceive as your effectiveness as a leader becomes reality.  Your actions need to match your words every single time.  Without follow-through, you won’t have the trust you need to be effective.  Especially now when employee confidence in organizations might have been shaken, leaders need to motivate and act with conviction.  Communicate the reasons behind your decisions, especially the difficult ones.  Be aware of the effect you have on others.  Are your employees happy when you visit their work area or do they dread it?  Know the effect that stress has on you and how this looks to others.  Most importantly, be visible at strategic moments, both the good and bad.  Be around to give explanations and answer questions when bad news is delivered but also celebrate along side your staff during good times.

Job Seeker – Remember that potential employers are creating a perception of you at every step of the way; from your ability to follow directions during the application process, your interactions on the phone when scheduling an interview to receipt of an offer.  Your capacity to manage perceptions in the past will even influence the quality of your references.  Candidates with the knack to influence others’ perceptions have a far better chance of controlling their own destiny.  Showcase your experience in a positive light without overdoing it.  Dress the part during interviews, show respect and pay attention to your body language.

Entrepreneur -   When you are a small business, you become an expert at wearing many hats.  Just as with leaders and job seekers, managing perceptions is vital to your business.  Finding new clients, keeping current customers happy, managing employees, interacting with vendors and business partners falls on your shoulders and involve perceptions.  Persistence in increasing your own awareness will help your business succeed.  Take care of the relationships you have formed because your next break can come from who rather than what you know.

Managing perceptions isn’t easy.  Try asking for feedback from people you trust and spend some time on self-reflection.  Building self-awareness though, involves courage and commitment.  So be open to constructive criticism as you continue to pursue your goals.

Tags Tags hr, leader, entrepreneur, feedback, job seeker, perceptions

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Elissa Heimburger


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My passion is helping businesses optimize their people process! I am a certified HR pro with 15 years of experience. I love coaching employers to engage their staff while leveraging their skills to move companies closer to their goals.

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