Are you aware of your own perception?
I believe that strong perception management comes right after vision on the level of importance.
Why is perception management is such an important attribute for a successful Leader?
To many people perception is reality. Therefore, what they see or how they perceive you is what is real to them.
Are you giving out a perception of yourself that you intend to give out?
For the longest time I was misjudging how important managing your perception can be. I managed a group of people and always promoted 'open door' policy, encouraging my direct reports come to me to share their thoughts, feelings, feedback, however, for whatever reason only few people were actually approaching me to share their feedback. I wandered why was that the case, since I was truly opened to their feedback. One day I asked by boss at that time: "what can I do to encourage my employees to be more open with me?" My boss said something which was very simple to say but very hard to do, he said: "Why aren't you just ask them what you can do better as their leader and promote open communication?" I thought to myself, well that pretty simple, however, when you have to ask a large group of people to tell you what your opportunity areas are, it's not so simple as it seems.
As leaders we tend to have this false feeling that we know everything and virtually have no opportunity areas. That is why we are uncomfortable to ask others to point out opportunity areas that we have. The truth is, we all have opportunity areas that we need to uncover and improve. Perception management is something you have to be always mindful of, everywhere, at all times.
When I stepped into the conference room where all my employees gathered, I was still nervous and somewhat uncomfortable, which was very unusual feeling for me, since normally I am very confident and comfortable about speaking in-front of audience of any size. I asked my team: "What I can do better as a leader and what opportunity areas that I have that I need to work on?" At first the team was very quiet , however, as soon as one person spoke up, everyone else begin sharing their feedback. I learned a very valuable feedback about perception I was giving to everyone around me, which was not the perception that I ever had any intention to give out. Because I didn't smile much and looked very focused when in front of my computer, people perceived me as angry and unapproachable, which was absolutely the opposite of what I truly wanted for my employees and what I felt inside. What I always wanted for my direct reports is happiness, work enjoyment, and professional and personal success.
Based on the feedback received from my team, which was eye opening, I began implementing suggestions given to me: smile more, when working I reminded myself to keep smile on my face versus looking serious all the time. As a result I have noticed a significant improvement in employee engagement, people began approaching me more often and sharing their valuable feedback, which helped me to improve and help to move the department and business towards success.
Remember that perception is very important and you, as a leader, always need to be mindful about perception you give out through communication, both verbal and written, dress code, and your attitude. If not sure about perception you may give out, ask your peers or direct reports for honest feedback and listen to them without interruptions or objections. Strong perception management is a critical attribute of a successful leader.