Behavioural change, the power of perceptions

PEOPLE’S behaviour in the workplace is strongly dictated by their perceptions. Just consider the many things in a work group on which people’s perceptions can differ and you get a good idea of why things don’t happen the way they could happen: • What their real priorities are; • What they are trying to achieve; • What their real role is; • The various ways to do their job; • The things they prefer to do; • How well they perform their key tasks and roles; • What they do well and not so well; • The various ways to do their job; • What’s important and what’s not important; • What their peers expect and want them to do; • What management expects and wants them to do; • What the customer expects and wants them to do; • The causes of problems; • The best ways to resolve problems; • How open and honest they can be with management and others; • The extent that they do the important things; • How well they do the important things; • The usefulness of information they receive; • The motives of management and others; • How they are treated; • The quality of the service they provide; • Underlying issues that affect productivity; • The image of the organisation / business; and • The everyday occurrences which affect their willingness to make improvements. And there are many more. People’s perceptions are based on: • their awareness of the context; • the information or knowledge they hold about the issue; • the perspectives they choose to take; and • the interpretations they choose to make. Perceptions within work groups vary greatly. Differing perceptions are important if used constructively but they can cause inefficiencies, waste of time, effort and money, stress, conflict, errors, re-work, poor quality products and services. To make improvements in your workplace, you need to use a process that aligns the perceptions of the group through constructive exploration and exchange of context, information/knowledge, perspectives and interpretations. This needs to be done in a climate free of repercussions for people speaking openly and honestly. This is easier said than done. The following ground rules (while not guaranteeing it) will help generate a climate more conducive to the constructive expression of thoughts and feelings: Ground rules for discussion 1. Everybody is invited to express perceptions - no one is compelled. 2. All perceptions are treated as valid to the person expressing them. 3. Differing opinions are encouraged and acceptable. 4. No ridicule of other people’s perceptions. 5. No repercussions - now or later – for expressing perceptions. 6. Facts are to be separated from assumptions and inferences. 7. Exaggerations, distortions and generalisations can be challenged. 8. Elaborate perceptions with factual examples - elaboration without justification. 9. One person speaks at a time - no interruptions. 10. Focus discussion on what we (all of us) can do to move forward on this issue - make sure that everybody does their bit - the workload is distributed equally. • Daniel Kehoe, author of the international best-selling books, ‘You Lead, They’ll Follow. How to inspire, lead and manage people. Really.’ Volumes 1, 2 and 3 published by McGraw Hill, delivers the You Lead, They’ll Follow Experience® for leadership, people management and business improvement to small, medium and large organisations. Systematic-Innovation® see T 08 9477 1135 E

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