Wise Words

Wise Words

I was thinking the other day about the annual processes of (360?) review and performance review, something I was part of for 30 years, but aside from talking to myself, I have largely avoided for the last 8 or so. I found that three pieces of advice/feedback had stuck with me, and I thought I would share them.

The first was

Perception is reality

This came at a time when I felt frustrated as mid-’20s, full of self-belief and had (in my opinion at least) outgrown my then role and wanted to move onto something bigger and more challenging. My manager at the time was not unhappy with me – I had fixed a major flaw in his operation- but he was not opening any doors for me either. I felt trapped and frustrated. The Head of Country Operations took me to lunch, and it was then that I first heard the saying “Perception is reality”.

He explained that it didn’t really matter how good and ready for a move I thought I was if other decision makers did not see/perceive that then it was unlikely that I would move as far or as fast as I wished. In short, if I believed “A”, while others saw “B”, then “B” is the reality.

Of course, I had tried to let others know of my achievements and capabilities and had very respectable performance reviews, but none of that is as powerful as someone else (i.e. not you) telling others of your merit and value.

It is something I have kept in mind as I moved forward. The key is to find your fans and help them tell others what they see.

The next was

If everyone likes what you are doing, you are not doing your job

My career has largely been about changing things, finding better smarter ways of doing things. Inevitably this can meet the normal resistance from people who are happy with the way things are and do not see the need or want to change. With that in mind, the proliferation of 360 feedback has often been a personal challenge in that depending who is asked and indeed what is happening at the time the feedback can vary.

In one job I was charged with making substantial improvements to a firm’s management of change. There was a person in another department who was an important influencer, and whatever I did, and however I tried to do it he found some way to be unhappy.

For a while, I struggled with the source of this negative feedback. I might have tried to duck it, but he was important, and I don’t like quitting. Eventually, I said to my boss that I didn’t think I would ever make a fan of this critic. I explained all that I had tried and that I was now out of ideas. That was when he told me that if everyone liked what I was doing, I would not be doing the job of championing and leading real change in the organisation. He agreed that I would not make the guy a fan, but that that was OK given who and where he was, just as long as I was aware of the situation and made plans that recognised it.

The third was

You are able to communicate with everyone from the Chairman to the cleaner without changing gear.

This came from a time when I worked as a catalyst and what might today be called a COO for the trading business or a privately-owned family bank. I was not family, had no links with the family and was a newcomer.

It was given during a performance appraisal by my boss, a man I respected greatly. While not family he had been with the business for over 20 years and was clearly trusted by the senior management and family.

I don’t recall what triggered the comment, but it resonated then as it does now. The ability to communicate easily and well is the single common skill linking almost all successful people. The key to this comment is that everyone you deal with is important. While the CEO may make decisions, the secretary may guard the door to her bosses office, the technician may be the only one who can do what you need to be done in a rush, the clerk could be the one person who will spot something wrong with what you do AND be prepared to tell you, and so on.

What pieces of feedback/advice do you carry around with you?

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  • Laura Matthews

    Every single person within your organisation is important.

  • Craig Skinner

    Thought provoking read

  • Eric Bierling

    Never judge a book by its cover

  • Mike Horlock

    This really makes sense.

  • Bryan Marshall

    You nailed it !

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Ian J Sutherland 

Business Change Expert

Ian J Sutherland is a highly skilled director with expertise in governance, partnerships and regulation and almost four decades of experience serving as a powerful catalyst for change for organisations of all sizes and sectors. He thrives on identifying areas for innovation and improvement, forming effective strategies to drive efficiency and create bottom-line results. He has a proven capacity to serve as a bridge between organisations and functions, creating unity and operational coherence. A personable and creative leader, with a unique insight and the ability to see the big picture and provide constructive challenge, he writes on many matters including the delivery of change in today's world and is an opportunistic photographer who seeks to capture images that interest him. He enjoys good beer, good company and good music - not necessarily in that order.

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