Reality or Interpretation? You decide…

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about communication and perception. A friend of mine has gone from team member to project leader. I’ve known this person for a decade now and it’s been a fascinating process to see how he views the team now that he’s in charge, and vice versa, how the team views him.

Some team members seem to willingly accept the change, while others treat him as if he’s still a team member, complaining about all the little things that most of you in your right mind would never complain to your boss about – at least not without worry of getting fired. Why is it that some of us seem to accept change and are able to adapt quickly while other’s of us get stuck in what was? And how do you as a new leader gracefully navigate through the obstacles that will be thrown at you by people you thought were your friends.

This is the time that managing the project team knowledge area will really help you along with the tools and techniques of:

1) Observation and conversation
2) Conflict management, and
3) Interpersonal skills

Since most of us seem to be hard wired to get things done, we forget about some of the tools and techniques of project management that will really help us out in times like these. With a clear project management plan and clear staff assignments some of the confusion of the team can quickly be clarified. It is especially important to observe your team and have conversations with them. And use your very best interpersonal skills. It may not be the time to push for managerial type dominance. Remember your team members still see you as one of them. They are confused and off balance, so using your active listening skills to uncover their concerns will be most helpful. Remember that many of them, especially if they have more seniority than you, may be wondering why they weren’t picked to lead the project, even if shortly thereafter they are glad they weren’t.

Patience is key – and not taking things personally. This is where your perception comes in. If you believe it is – it is, and if you believe it isn’t – it isn’t. The truth is somewhere in the middle – maybe…

Another tool you may want to use is exchanging the word “but” for the word “and” in your conversations with your team. The word “but” for many of us feels confrontational – try it out for a week – see if others react to you differently by making this word exchange. Remember, we’ve probably been using the word “but” as a filler – so it’s just one of those habits you may want to break.

Other concepts to practice are to remember that:

1) Reality is just your interpretation
2) Truth is your perception of reality, and
3) Blame is a perspective – so what might be another perspective?

Next time I’ll explore how communication plans are a have to have rather than a nice to have…


1 thought on “Reality or Interpretation? You decide…”

  1. Thanks for the reminder, Cheryl!

    Reality and perception. (btw, what is that thing in the picture?) Our perception is our reality and we’ve lived with it all our lives, so it’s not too surprising that it’s hard to even consider that another reality could co-exist.

    I suppose it would be useful to have a strong “reality distortion field” a la Steve Jobs to bend others’ to our reality. Alas, it’s probably just going to take more work… and patience, as you suggest.

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