An article from the Economist discusses a philosophical concept that has been put to great use by many successful business people.
“French philosopher, Michel Foucault, argued that how you structure information is a source of power. ‘A few of
America’s most celebrated bosses, including Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett, understand this implicitly, adroitly
manipulating how outsiders see their firms. It is one of the most important but least understood skills in business.'”
The above quote from the Economist is an important summary of a skill we (at EII Consulting, LLC) often help lead executives integrate; perception is reality. When I was working at GE Financial, now Genworth, I had a mentor who brought this to my attention. I learned the basics of sales; how to identify customer need for sales calls, how complete the sales process and, most importantly, how to build long lasting client relationships. He believed that for me to truly maintain success, I had to understand perception and reality.
At the time the company was still using the philosophy of eliminating the bottom 10% sales performers every year. It didn’t matter the market, or the success of the team, if you were on the bottom you were gone. He believed my priorities were off balanced – in his words, I cared to much what people thought about me to have truly meaningful and difficult conversations. As a mentor he did not want to see me in that 10%, so he offered me advice, for my own well being and as a mentor investing in my success. His words remain with me to this day, “You care too much about what people think about you. Now remember, you should care what people think, if you don’t, you’re not human. But you are focused on the wrong thing. Rather than worry about what they think of you, care about what they say about you after you leave. Control their message.”
What he was saying at the time is analagous to the traits of like Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffet discussed within the article; the perception I allow my clients to create, will in fact become their reality. As a leader you must do the same. You must coach your teams towards the goal(s) you want to achieve by helping them create the perception of reality that helps them succeed.
If you don’t, they will create their own perceptions of reality anyway, and that may not be a healthy reality for your organization’s culture.
by Christian Ehrhart (co-founder EII Consulting, LLC)