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The Hardest Lesson

“Perception is reality, Kristin.” I hear this phrase in slow motion as I sit in my bosses office, my palms sweating, heart racing. She is writing me up for being negative at work. I was just a year and a half into my career and had been working really hard to land my first promotion into a team leader position.

Perception is reality. 

I couldn’t understand how this was possible. I constantly exceed goals and quotas set by management. I was a fast learner, always taking on new challenges, and asking for more. Yet here I was, being given a first and final warning at a company I loved, working with a team I adored. 

The lesson I was learning, and would come to learn over and over again, is that how people perceive you is your reality. If my peers and leadership team perceived me as a negative energy on the team, then that was who I was to them, whether I agreed with it or not.

That was my reality, whether I agreed with it or not.

It’s really hard to receive negative feedback about yourself.  But, what’s harder is not receiving it. I am grateful that my boss at the time gave me this real feedback, with tangible action steps on how to adjust this perception. Not many leaders give open and honest feedback to their employees. They often think negatively about their employees but never say it, to avoid conflict and confrontation. That only hurts their employees, stunting their ability to grow, a rather selfish act in my opinion.

Not many leaders give open and honest feedback to their employees… stunting their ability to grow.

I worked really hard over the next year to improve the team’s perception of me. I watched every word I said, was thoughtful in how I approached people, and asked for feedback constantly on how I was doing and where I could improve. Instead of falling apart after being given this feedback, I took action. I wanted to be someone that others enjoyed being around. A year after being written up, my team perceived me as a team player who wanted the best for the collective and I was promoted to team 

leader. 

Instead of falling apart after being given this feedback, I took action. 

“Perception is reality,” is by far, the hardest lesson I ever had to learn. However, it’s also the most valuable one I’ve learned. It’s made me a better leader, co-worker, friend and life partner. It reminds me to constantly check-in with others and see how I am doing and how I am making them feel. 

This lesson reminds me to constantly check-in with others and see how I am doing and how I am making them feel. 

As you move into leadership, I encourage you to assess how you are being perceived by others. To do this well, you have to ask the tough questions and be open to receiving feedback. Sit with the responses and create an action plan on how you can improve your perception, thus improving your reality. 

With Love,

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