Julie works for a national association and she is an expert in her profession. Given her extensive in-depth experience and knowledge, she is quick to identify problems before they become problems. Given her penchant for identifying gaps quickly, whenever any new initiatives are brought up in meetings, she is quick to point out why they won’t work, as planned. While Julie thinks she is being helpful and preventing future breakdowns, her colleagues think she is being a pessimist, and they feel she constantly throws cold water on their ideas--and as a result they feel its exhausting to work with her.
Mark is a newcomer to a start-up organization that is entrepreneurial, and is staffed with go-getters, many who are much younger to him. He comes from a very large organization and has significant experience that includes running operations, developing strategy, and business development. Mark deeply cares about this organization given its mission to help people. As he observes his colleagues going about their days with little systems and processes in place, he asks them questions about what they are working on and offers his (unsolicited) advice. Given his passion to serve, Mark thinks he is generously sharing his expertise and experience to help his co-workers succeed and moving the organization forward. His colleagues think he is checking-up on them and meddling in their business. Silently they wish he would mind his own business and overtime they begin to resent him.
Rajeev had been a rising star throughout much of his career. He has strong analytical skills, can manage numerous projects at the same time, and is a “make it happen” kind of a guy. He loves to move fast and get things done. Whatever needs to be accomplished, he goes after it with determination. The drive to succeed in him is strong and he does whatever it takes (within moral and ethical bounds of course) to "win the gold". When he then entered a new company as a manager, where he was hired based on his past successes, after sometime he began feel as if his team members didn’t really seem to like working with him. In this organization, collaboration was highly valued and Rajeev had come from an organization where the culture was very different. As a result, his team members would avoid him and they even started to complain to the higher up saying they didn’t like working for him. Rajeev all along thought he was trying to deliver results and move the team forward, while his team members viewed him as being pushy, aggressive, unfriendly, and abrasive even.
In each of these cases (all real…only names have been changed), Julie, Mark, and Rajeev saw themselves through the lens of their intentions while others saw them through the lens of observed behaviors. And since colleagues did not have access to intentions, they would judge through observed behaviors and in the process labeled them all as difficult to work with.
It is also that in each case, while these 3 individuals were all bright, talented, had strong technical and functional competencies, were great at execution, and were experts in their respective professions, the way they were being perceived by their team members, peers, and managers was negatively impacting their careers and their future opportunities. In one case, the individual was even at the risk of being let go. And all along all three were blind to how they were being perceived, and they wondered what was keeping them from moving to the next level and why co-workers didn’t seem to like working with them.
Finally, when they took the courageous step seek help to understand what was getting in their way and took necessary steps to adjust some of their behaviors (how they were doing what they were doing), they each then began to move forward, and new opportunities began to open up for them. And for this to happen, they had to first be willing to seek out and be open to hearing honest feedback (even though it came as a shock when they first heard it), than accept the feedback, and then do something about it. Looking back each of them remains thankful for having done so. Thus lesson here is that recognizing how others view you can help you begin to pave the way towards stronger relationships and greater achievements. And not doing so can have quite the opposite undesired effect.
So, with the above in mind, do you know how you are being perceived? Is it possible that one or more of your behaviors could be keeping you stuck, from getting to the next level, from other opportunities?