Great Leaders Excel at Managing Perceptions

Managing-PerceptionsWith any position of leadership authority, you’re likely to experience your words being misinterpreted, misquoted, and taken out of context. Leadership communication and managing perceptions is a huge challenge for most leaders that seems impossible at times.

How do you come across to other people? Is what you say the same as what people hear? Even at the highest levels of leadership of nations and organizations, humans have a surprisingly difficult time communicating their intentions well. Apparently, most of us don’t do a very good job of communicating and managing perceptions of the very people we need to influence.

Without the ability to consistently and accurately telegraph our thoughts and intentions to others, no one can succeed. Once you understand what other people are actually seeing in your words and actions, you will have some power to shape that perception – and to take control of the messages you send. Really great leaders excel at managing perceptions.

The big problem lies in the fact that listeners have a strong tendency to distort other people’s feedback to fit their own views. People may not like you, may not trust you at all, or may not even notice you because of their own agendas and beliefs.

What goes on in the minds of the people we communicate to isn’t always fair — it isn’t even logical. It’s biased, incomplete, unconscious, inflexible and largely automatic. The next time you communicate to people, you may think you’ve done a good job of explaining yourself and that your listeners understand you. But you probably haven’t and they don’t.

Perceivers — the people who comprise your audience of listeners — are prone to errors of perception. These errors are predictable and governed by rules and biases that we can identify and anticipate. This is how you unlock the perception puzzle to understand how others perceive you. You alter your words and actions to send the signals you want to send.

I know what you’re thinking: if a leader is sincere and authentic, he or she shouldn’t have to manage other people’s perceptions. That’s baloney, in my opinion. Humans have a tendency to distort communication to suit their own agendas, especially when it’s a person of authority. But that’s just my opinion. What do you think?

I’d love to hear from you. You can contact me here and on LinkedIn.

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