Seeing is believing, but can you believe what you see? Perceptions are influenced by past experience and uniquely individual frames of reference. Three people can enter the same room and report a very different scene because they are predisposed to notice diverse details. Filtering reality through a personalized lens produces disparate definitions of fact.
The accuracy of perceptions is distorted by certain biases. Inaccuracies in perception cause the thinking process to break down and become distorted. There are three specific barriers to accurate perception that can be surmounted by awareness:
We rely on generalizations and groupings to reduce the amount of time we spend really getting to recognize and understand others. This oversimplification captured by the use of stereotypes leads to false conclusions. Labeling, whether positive or negative, disregards the uniqueness. When you don’t see the individual or team nuances, your perception is stilted. Stereotypes hide aspects that could lead to more accurate perceptions.
2. Multiple Viewpoints
We tend to think our first reaction or response is “all that there is.” However, that misleads us. Look at the illustration below. Some people see a vase, while others focus on the white areas where profiles face each other. As soon as one description of the figure is seen, there is no reason to look for another. It is important to always look for additional alternatives. And, you merely have to ask another: What do you see?
3. Fixed Perceptions
In a quickly changing world, it is important to recognize the everlasting need for new knowledge and new thinking. The answer to today’s problem is not guaranteed to always work. Yet, some leaders prefer to hold onto the past and seek agreement rather than consider new thinking and realities. If a leader only wants what has “always worked” team members will be reluctant to bring new facts or surface new opportunities. Fixed points of view conceal emerging alternatives and opportunities.
Leadership success is impacted by the evaluation and adjustment of perceptions. Accurate and timely perceptions compile information from several sources. Questioning others will bring out different perspectives which must be incorporated to make smart choices. Challenging your own perceptions instead of relying on outdated paradigms, assumptions and skill sets is vital in today’s world.