• Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

How Lack of Communication Can Make You Fat

Poor Sophie. At a recent Vet visit we found out our sweet dog Sophie has gained 8 pounds since November! She's a beautiful golden retriever and 8 pounds shows on her. I wish I could blame it on holiday snacking but that's not it. It's our fault!

Here's her glamour shot:

For the last few months I've been filling her food bowl before I leave in the morning. What I didn't realize was that my son was also filling the bowl before he eats breakfast each morning. So Sophie has been eating twice her normal amount for over a month! And, it's made her (I hate to say it) fat!

It boils down to lack of communication between my son and me. We both had good intentions but failed to inform the other person. Our lack of communication has made Sophie fat.

In his book, The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey says,

"While we tend to judge ourselves by our intent,

we tend to judge others by their behavior."

In my case, both my son and I intended to feed the dog but our behavior made it look like we wanted to make her fat.

Isn't this true with people we work with also? We perceive someone as a slacker because he doesn't arrive at work until 9:00 AM - when actually he was up until midnight working from his home office. Or your new boss can't articulate the vision of the company since the merger so you perceive him as incompetent.

People in the Smart Zone have the ability to manage their perceptions using the following Smart Moves:

Stop defending your intentions. When the Vet told me I was feeding Sophie too much food my first response was, "No, I'm not." I was defending my intentions. I didn't get it. The more I defended my intentions instead of accepting his perception of my behavior, the more guilty I looked. It is easy to keep defending your intentions but it can be at the expense of productivity, efficiency, and likeability.

Anticipate what others will think. Consider the following misperceptions given to me by leaders who attended a recent workshop of mine:

  • Working longer hours means you are more productive

  • Asking for help is a sign of weakness

  • I must toot my own horn to get noticed and survive in this company

  • Sharing what I know with coworkers makes me less valuable

  • The loudest voice is always right

  • Only certain people are capable of specific tasks

  • Leaders have all the answers

When delivering a message or presentation consider how the listeners will perceive what you say given who they are, what they care about and what their job description includes. Anticipate what others will think so you can minimize chances of misperception by covering questionable territory ahead of time. And remember what not to put in an email.

Manage the Rumor Mill. When perception is not managed it becomes a rumor, then gossip, and then an unintended reality. So nip it in the bud. Make sure you keep in mind these 6 things you should never say at work.

Money Doesn't Talk. Many companies perceive that giving employees more money makes them happier but most HR surveys report that "feeling appreciated and informed" are ranked higher than compensation by employees. In his book, Delivering Happiness, Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos) says that ultimately what matters to people is passion, growth and a higher purpose. I loved watching this Zappos blog video of a Monday morning.

The organization can't function without you - or can it? Your organization will survive even when someone with perceived value gets promoted or laid off. BUT, wouldn't it be nice for you to be the one people perceive the team can't live without? And not because you are the only person who knows the "secret sauce" recipe. Your character determines your success just as much as your technical ability. Character qualities like determination, compassion, loyalty, punctuality, honesty and responsibility make you invaluable (click here for a list of 49 character qualities).

Proceed with caution. Good leaders are able to size up the strengths and weaknesses of others quickly. The danger is that you will judge others and become overly critical of what you perceive to be their shortcomings without giving them a fair chance.