Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A new direction...

I've decided to close my web-site in favor of using my Blog in a more frequent manner. 
So here goes...

For my first "new Blog" I'd like to reprint an article I wrote for business clients that talks about influence.

Effective Business Ideas

Manage Perceptions or they will manage you!

They don’t understand! True and most likely they don’t care either. The question, your question, is how to get their attention so they understand and care.

You sit here in the middle of your life, your career, and your reality. People with whom you need to interact surround you. Some are clients, others may be people reporting to you, others you report to, and increasingly these days there are a lot of people that have a matrix relationship with you – all those other dotted line connections. They all have their own perception of what you do and how well you do it. So how can you help this large group of people understand and care about what you do, or more to the point – How will you be able to work most effectively with them? Answer: By managing their perceptions, their reality.

Is it Real or only your Perception?

Reality is very personal. So much so that my reality is most likely different from your reality in more than just a few ways.  For example, I see myself as a very effective business consultant and coach. JR, a client, saw me as a great coach, especially for someone starting out in the entrepreneurial world. (I had not coached someone as young or in this area before.) CK saw me as a nice person, but a total waste of time. (I am nice.) I could go on, however I believe you get my point – I have my idea of who I am and what I do and this is often at odds with how others perceive me and my effectiveness.

The people you interact with all have their own “real” beliefs about you - their perceptions. The difficulty is their perceptions are usually talking to them louder than your words. So how do you get your point across? How do you inform them about your reality?

Know Thyself

First be clear about what you are doing and why. Be articulate about your goals and which needs (tactics and strategies) are going to help you achieve these goals. State your priorities. And you should know that this all changes as time moves onward – Nothing is permanent and flexibility is a requirement. You must come from a solid and known position to influence others and change their perception.

In your working environment, this means you know how what you do fits into the larger picture or scheme of things. You find this out by talking with other people. Also, you have to know the relative priorities of all aspects of your work. This means not only knowing what to do first, but also what to drop down the list when someone you report to says “do this now.” (And you have to let them know some other item just dropped down the priority list.) This is especially important when you receive a request from one the “matrix” people; not people you report directly to, but very important dotted line people nonetheless. You need to know where their request fits on your list. And you have to determine this so you can tell them how you will be able to help them and when.

Remember that priorities are not fixed; they are positions that can be negotiated. For instance, if Matrix person A already has an item on your to do list, offer to move that item down the list to take on the new request. Be creative with this approach.

Know the Other Folks

Be Interactive. This means you get involved and stay involved with people without the need for a problem to prompt you. You need to learn what is happening around you. For instance, do you know your bosses’ goals? What concerns do your peers and customers have? What do the people in your matrix want? If you have people reporting to you, what are their concerns or thoughts? And don’t be reticent about your own goals and needs. Make sure other people know what you are thinking and planning. The more you know about your organization and the more other people know about your goals, the more successful the organization and you will be.

Will being interactive or staying on top of the situation automatically create positive perceptions? No. You still have to work at creating them. However these efforts will enable you to know more about the goals and needs of others. Conversation and actions change perceptions. Both have to occur continuously.

Some tips on how to Change Perceptions

How do you make this shift? Try these suggestions, practice them and share them with others.

1)    Be clear - What are you doing and why? What is important – what are your priorities?
2)    Be flexible - Keep reassessing your goals, needs, and priorities.
3)    Always question - What does this request mean to the person asking? How does it fit into your priorities? Let them know this.
4)    Know the people you interact with. Do you have direct reports? Who are the other members on your teams or task forces? What does your matrix look like? Who is really at the end of that dotted line and what do they do?
5)    Know the goals and needs of all the people you interact with. A tall order? Yes, and it’s very important for you to be successful at managing their perceptions. If you don’t show you care about their goals, you can never change the perception they have about you.
6)    Recognize the points of intersection between the needs of others and your needs. These are the points of possible synergy. Be on the lookout for these and use them for mutual advantage. Where you have synergy, you usually have an ally. And an ally helps you manage perceptions.

You can use these suggestions to help you manage the perceptions of others.

The most important additional point I need to make is this: Get feedback on everything from everyone. Find out what the perceptions are about you now and keep checking to see how they change. A 360 degree, or multi-rater survey is useful for this task, however they do not take the place of talking with people. Ask direct questions of others and be sure to let them know why you are asking.

© Fritz M. Brunner, Ph.D. 2007

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