How Great Leaders Manage Perceptions

“You can influence people’s perceptions of you by playing to their needs. Once you understand how to make other people feel comfortable with you, you’ve won their approval.” Corporate marketing consultant Camille Lavington, You’ve Only Got Three Seconds (Main Street Books, 1998) Even at the highest levels of government and business, leaders struggle to communicate their intentions. Most of us have some demonstrable deficiencies when it comes to influencing others. A leader’s words may be misinterpreted, misquoted and/or taken out of context. Communicating and managing perceptions remain significant challenges. Leaders cannot succeed without consistently and accurately telegraphing their thoughts and intentions. If you want to shape others’ perceptions, you must take control of the messages you send. Major problems occur when listeners distort your words to fit their existing views. Their prevailing agendas and beliefs may prevent them from liking, trusting or even noticing you. This workplace dynamic is seldom logical or fair. In fact, it’s often biased, incomplete, unconscious, inflexible and largely automatic. Think of your last verbal workplace exchange. You probably thought you explained yourself well and that your listeners understood you. Here’s the unvarnished truth: You and they likely didn’t. How, then, can we ensure that people hear what we say? The Perception Process Perceivers (your audience) are prone to perceptual errors governed by rules and biases we can identify and anticipate. Understanding this predisposition allows us to unlock the perception puzzle. As leaders, we can alter our words and actions to send desired signals. Listeners experience a flurry of brain activity as they try to understand what you’re saying. They’re also sizing you up, forming...

Digital Distractions: The War for Your Attention

Are you letting digital devices overwhelm you and eat away at your ability to focus and concentrate? Is technology really saving you time and energy – like it’s supposed to do – or is it running rampant, creating unnecessary work? Most of us are bombarded by messages, texts, alerts, and buzzed throughout the day with rings, chirps, and dings, making it difficult to concentrate on crucial information. With the slightest urge to procrastinate, we’re never more than a click away from diversion. This 24/7 connected culture is taking its toll professionally as well as personally. We waste time, attention, and energy on extraneous information and interactions, staying busy but producing little of real value. The Information Overload Research Group estimates that knowledge workers in the US waste 25% of their time dealing with too much information, costing the economy $997 billion annually. Smart, productive people know they must manage their devices and data, or else information streams will drown them. Digital Addiction or Anxiety In a Harvard Business Review article, “Conquering Digital Distraction,” psychologist Larry Rosen at the University of California, Dominguez Hills, suggests the overuse of digital devices is not so much an addiction as a response to fear-based anxieties, such as the following: FOMO: the fear of missing out FOBO: the fear of being offline Nomophobia: the fear of being out of phone contact In the information age, knowledge has power and those who stay ahead of the data stream are perceived as smarter and more capable. This demands that you manage the content, analyze it, and put it into perspective so you can apply what’s valuable...
Midcareer Crisis …or Opportunity?

Midcareer Crisis …or Opportunity?

Have you ever had a midcareer fantasy where you quit your job and go do something new? Many executives secretly admit to their coaches that they’re contemplating midcareer shifts. They may not actively seek change, but they certainly start imagining it. Of LinkedIn’s 313 million members, 25% are active job seekers; 60% are passive job seekers (not proactively searching for new jobs, but seriously willing to consider viable opportunities). There’s also been a steady increase in self-employed and temporary workers over the last two decades. Entrepreneurship may sound lucrative every time a startup goes public. Regardless of your age, background or professional accomplishments, you’ve probably dreamed about a new career at some point. Midlife is often a time when we reevaluate our goals, aspirations and what truly matters to us in life. In “5 Signs It’s Time for a New Job” (Harvard Business Review, April 2015), Columbia University...