How we are perceived matters more to our leadership effectiveness than our intentions. We must not only seek out how we are perceived by others but we must do something with the feedback we get. Canaday calls this applied self-awareness. In other words, using that information to adjust our behavior and close the gaps between our intentions and how others perceive us.
Typically, our blind spots, our perception gaps exist in those areas where we have overemphasized our strengths. “For instance,” writes Canaday, “do your colleagues think of you as assertive? Or overbearing? Collaborative or manipulative? Gregarious or obnoxious? There’s a fine line between these perceptions, but you can see why the subtle differences can have a huge impact on your career and your future.”
Canaday discusses in detail nine common perception gaps and how to begin to deal with them:
- Don’t Fence Me In: Highly Productive and innovative? Or rebellious and uncooperative?
- Intellectual Snob: Intelligent and well-qualified? Or condescending and elitist?
- Frozen Compass: Too Direct: Decisive and candid? Or abrupt and insensitive? Or maybe you’re Not Direct Enough: Supportive and personable? Or soft and Lenient?
- Dust in my Wind: Extremely energetic and driven? Or relentless and unrealistic?
- No Crying in Baseball: Composed and steady? Or robotic and indifferent?
- Safety Patrol: Methodical and compliant? Or inflexible and overly cautious?
- Faulty Volume Control: Volume Too Low: Understated and humble? Or bland and forgettable? Or perhaps you’re Volume Too High: Assertive and enthusiastic? Or self-serving and inappropriate?
- Passion Pistol: Spirited and passionate? Or intense and overzealous?
- Perpetual Doer: Remarkably reliable and high performing? Or one-dimensional and over-functioning?
Whether we like how we are coming across to others or not, it is our reality. It is crucial that we seek out our perception gaps and deal with them if we are to be effective and grow as leaders. “No one is so amazingly self-aware that he or she can clearly see and eliminate every potential perception disconnect before it occurs. Those who are the most successful have just learned how to read the diverse people and situations they encounter and respond appropriately.”
You According to Them is a great place to start. Canaday places an emphasis throughout this book on “actively working to understand our reputations and artfully managing the perceptions that directly impact our careers.”
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