Perception isn’t reality

One of my colleagues won an online gaming championship hosted by the co-working space we work at. Close to 50 people participated and our colleague destroyed them all.

I was so proud of him! Sure it wasn’t a crowning achievement but it sure deserved recognition. It’s not easy to win any competition, big or small. Takes real talent and skills to make an impact (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?).

So, I sent out a congratulatory note on our internal group last evening and… nothing! This morning I woke up to check the group messages again (out of curiosity) and there were at least half a dozen responses that were anything but complimentary! I’ll be honest, I was disappointed. I was expecting a different reaction.

What happened, however, is typical of the small workgroups. They’re a bunch of close knit professionals who know each other almost inside-out. Now, that may work great for work-related projects but not so much for personal matters or non-professional affairs (like the gaming championship). Why? Because they lose the ability to zoom out of the micro and can’t help themselves but stay stuck there.

And that means if they’re aware of your shortcomings as a professional (you’re a procrastinator/lazy, not-so-detail-oriented, forgetful or a millennial) they assume that’s how you are generally. I know, I know, that’s judgemental! But you and I can’t change people’s perception of you.

This is an enormous challenge when it comes to professional growth because everyone’s perception of you is already coloured. They can’t help but think of you through their own “filters” than truly consider your potential and capabilities. That’s dangerous.

Thankfully, there’s a way to combat that. If you’re a struggling professional, you can use coaching to explore how to engage some of the stakeholders at the workplace and change their perception about you. It’s process-oriented and works without fail.

The bigger challenge, however, is to eliminate or at least channelize groupthink in a creative way. A high performing team needs to be close knit and more. They ought to have the ability to zoom out and look at the macro and most importantly they need to accept their colleagues as capable human beings who are unique in their own ways.

But how do you do that? Several ways but one that most definitely works for a smaller group is continuous group coaching and invention. Trust me when I say this, most people lack perspective beyond their key responsible areas and family responsibilities.

Your job as a leader is to ensure that your workplace becomes the place where your people not only develop a great bond with each other to get the work done but become better people themselves. And I understand that must be a low priority for you right now, but remember this:

Culture eats strategy for breakfast!

You can’t avoid this universal truth.

And now I need to rollup my sleeves and schedule a group intervention myself!

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