When I was in 8th grade I went on a ski trip with my school, by chartered bus to Purgatory Ski resort. Upon arriving, my friends decided they wanted to attempt a Black Diamond run (which is not for novices). At that point in my life I had skied one time before, exclusively on a bunny hill. However I did not want people to perceive me as a novice so I agreed to go. When we arrived at the top after the long lift ride I fell immediately. I played it off as if I had a ski issue and ushered my friends to head on without me. I proceeded to “ski” down this black diamond. It did not go well. I would fall and have to climb back up to get a ski, just to repeat this over and over. At one point I was holding my skis under my arms sliding down on my bottom. Later I even laid down with no energy left, it started to snow. Finally after an hour or so I arrived in the lodge done skiing for the day. I soon saw my friends who informed me they decided against the black diamond shortly after leaving me and cut over to a blue run. My perception of my friends’ skills had sunk me before I even began.
Although perceptions are often not grounded in reality, they are in fact reality to those who’s perception it is. When I look at myself I realize that in many ways I am a people pleaser. Not the worst trait to have but certainly a challenging one as a leader at times. I find it to be an asset though when discussing people and their perceptions, as it makes me confront those perceptions to improve the environment we are in.
Not the first impression, but the first perception!
As a leader there will be plenty of people that will not like you or a decision you have made, but understanding that a person’s perception drives their daily work is key. As a new leader at a site or a teacher at the beginning of the year, the perceptions people have of you will predicate how successful you can be initially. Making a great first perception can have a positive effect on the majority of people you will work with. You will always run into people whose perception of you and your ability will never change. I remember, as a pre-service teacher receiving the advice “don’t smile till Christmas,” for anyone who knows me this was not an option. I enjoy what I do and it shows. I realized quickly that a fun-loving good time approach from the get go would not work either because students perceptions of me were formed at the beginning of the year. They knew nothing about me other than I was funny and enjoyed laughing. It was then double duty to get them to delineate between time to get going and having a good time.
How do you make a great first perception?
Get to know those you will be teaching or leading. This can be time consuming but a few days of learning your students/faculties likes/dislikes, learning styles, motivational triggers will enable the year to be a success by making lesson plans, decisions, etc. easier down the road.
Plan accordingly based on the success needs of your staff and/or students. Success needs are those tools that are generally in place for that person to be successful. They may include procedures, practices and in some instances specific materials. In baseball, players need a specific bat, glove, or even place in the batting order.
Survey your teachers/students. What are they interested in? Do they like an itemized agenda at meetings (type A’s probably yes)? Do the students like hands-on tasks, shared tasks, individual tasks?
Have those with the perceptions evaluate you. My team gets a chance to evaluate me. From that I have learned a lot about individual perceptions and can address those. In addition, if all my folks with different personalities and backgrounds all perceive me in a certain way on a given topic it may actually be reality.
What are your thoughts? How do you assist in forming a person’s perception? Am I dead wrong (my wife says this happens all the time) about perceptions?