Leaders Are In The Perception Business

Written by on January 19, 2017

It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how many policies you have implemented, how many people you have helped, or how amazing you think you are doing, if no one perceives it as so. The people you lead will ultimately be part of defining your success in any leadership role.

During a recent interview with President Obama, he said one of his biggest failures was to continue to inform the American people of all of the progress his administration had made. It made me think of how valuable the Fireside Chat was for Franklin D. Roosevelt. He delivered 30 radio addresses during his Presidency, aimed at creating a dialog with the electorate. He felt it was important to present his ideas directly to the American people. He began the “chats” 8 days after his inauguration because of the banking crisis and the media was creating an alarming reaction in covering it.

The result of his chats? As stated in Wikipedia…“The result, according to economic historian William L. Silber, was a ‘remarkable turnaround in the public’s confidence’.”
Think of the power of that statement. Speaking directly to the people created a “remarkable [and I’ll add swift…according to our history lessons] turnaround in the public’s confidence.”  Seems like a great idea that every leader should engage in. Too often we leave our intentions up to interpretation by utilizing emails, texts, having a supervisor convey information, etc. Talking directly to your team might seem like it would take too much time but NOT talking to them will cost you far more in the long run.
If you are in need of a “remarkable turnaround in the public’s [your team’s] confidence” or even if you aren’t…direct communication to your people is a can’t-miss strategy. It can be accomplished in a single conversation with all or by strategic conversations with some.
If you have no idea what the perceptions of your team are, I will give you the best way to know. Ask them. Most people will feel honored by the question and happy to provide the feedback. And know that their answers could determine your success as a leader.