July 27


Perception versus Reality

By Sara Canaday

July 27, 2011

career, leadership, perception, personal brand, promotion, reality

It’s the classic battle of Perception versus Reality. We all hope that our “messages” (verbal and nonverbal) are received by others the way we intended them, but many different factors can prevent that from happening. We may not be aware that our behavior or tone is inadvertently contradicting our message. Maybe we have unconscious habits that undermine our credibility. Or perhaps we don’t recognize the signals that others are misinterpreting our messages and lose the opportunity to clarify our true intentions. The “disconnect” can take many forms. Here’s the problem: good intentions don’t count in the workplace. Perception always wins, hands down.

We judge ourselves based on our intentions, others judge us based on our behaviors.

The way we are perceived determines whether or not we get the job, the promotion or the raise. We all know the guy in the office who is completely and utterly shocked when he isn’t selected for the top executive position. According to him, he has consistently demonstrated confidence, determination and strong leadership skills. According to everyone else, he has been pushy, domineering and uncooperative. His best intentions didn’t translate well. He lost out on the plush corner office and the stock options for one simple reason: the gap between what he intended and what was perceived.

Given the critical nature of that gap, you can see why it’s extremely important to evaluate how you are perceived by your colleagues and co-workers. How would THEY define your personal brand today?

There are a number of ways to gather that vital peer feedback—from sophisticated online tools to informal chats at Starbucks. If you can challenge yourself to objectively, realistically consider the way you are perceived in the workplace, you can use this estimated feedback to strategically improve your personal brand and accelerate your career.

Let me know what you think! I’d love to hear from you.


Sara Canaday

About the author

Sara began her journey working full-time while she earned an MBA. As she climbed the ladder of corporate America, she repeatedly observed a surprising phenomenon: the most successful people weren’t necessarily the ones with the highest IQ or best job skills. She recognized instead that career advancement was much more closely linked with how people applied their knowledge and talents — their capacity to collaborate, communicate, and influence others.

Today, Sara is happily fulfilling that commitment as a keynote speaker, author, and executive coach. These venues have given her the opportunity to mentor and support thousands of people in diverse situations, inspiring many of them to move from insight to action with dramatic career results.

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