How we perceive the universe dictates how we view and interact with the universe. All our decisions are based on our perceptions. In a nut shell perceptions become our reality.

Worst case: Perceptions are based on partial information, gossip and personal bias. This leads to someone developing a reality that does not reflects the real situation. Once this reality has developed all a person’s communications they send or receive will be coloured in a way to validate this reality. Once this happens it is very difficult for a third party to change this person’s perception, reality and ultimate reactions to situations.

In this scenario a team member who has developed this worse case reality will not be effective and will be a hindrance. They will very easily create dysfunction within a team.

For example, say Bob is working on a project and given some of Hank’s work. Bob assumes he is given this work because Hank is “lazy”. In reality, there may be many reasons why Bob was given this work. Maybe Hank’s part of the project is more resource consuming then initially estimated or maybe another resource was re-assigned so the workload has been reassigned. There are many possible explanations for this transfer of work. However, if Bob forms the wrong perception that Hank is ‘lazy’ this will eventually lead to bitterness and grudges and dysfunction within the team.

A team leader managing by perception will not be effective and will be a hindrance. Managing by perception will take a team from executing well thought out plans to reacting to a never ending series of emergencies. This is because the decisions will be knee jerk reactions that do not address the larger issues. The problem here is two fold. First, the initial problem is not solved; it is just getting worse. Second by ignoring the issues, the team will become dysfunctional.

Best case: Perceptions are based on facts. Instead of acting on perceptions team leaders and members should first ask is their perception valid and examine the facts before making a decision. The decisions should always be long term instead of short term.

For example, when work is re-assigned instead of jumping to conclusions a person should first ask is this norm or the exception? If it is the exception, they should not worry. If it is the norm then they should seek further information and figure out what is the larger underlining issue. There is a chance their co-worker could be overwhelmed and needing assistance. Or maybe the co-worker needs some mentoring. Either way, this is a good opportunity for a team member to show their leadership potential.

A team leader, when faced with a challenge, should investigate and determine the facts. Once they are armed with the facts, they should formulate a solution that solves the underlining issues in the long term.

We formulate solutions based on our perceptions of the world. whether our solutions are positive or negative, depends on how many resources we devote to formulating our perceptions. Like everything in life, if we devote the appropriate amount of resources to a task, we will reach a positive solution. If we neglect to devote the appropriate amount of resources, we will reach a negative solution.

Thanks to:
Cyrus Jeejeebhoy