The saying goes “perception is reality”. Well, it is, as far as humans are concerned. What we perceive is real to us. As a manager, it would be appropriate to see how your team’s perceptions could be enhanced every day.
Try this ‘time-out’ exercise next time you have a team meeting. The five minutes it takes will be well-rewarded:
Have a volunteer stand up in front of the group. Tell her to close
her eyes and think of a person she likes very much. She should try
not to show her feelings to the group. Let her concentrate on this
person for about half a minute. Then tell her to concentrate on a
person she really dislikes. Again, with closed eyes, she should not
show her feelings to the group. Do this again for about 30 seconds.
The other team members should remain silent, just observing any differences.
Now you ask the volunteer questions about the two persons e.g. which
person is taller, which one is older, which one earns more money,
which one does more sports, etc … After each question, the volunteer
should close her eyes and think of one of the two persons and the
other team members have to guess if the answer is “the one I like” or “the one I dislike”. Even if the volunteer tries to keep a “poker face” the
audience will guess right almost 100%.
This exercise shows that our body is always communicating our
thoughts even if we try to avoid it. Our body language gives away how we are feeling and what we are thinking, as it emanates from our subconscious. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to cover over the fact we are nervous, frustrated, angry, in love, overjoyed, etc, simply because these emotions will bubble to the surface and show in our behaviour.
The volunteer in this exercise will show specific micro-signals whenever they are thinking about one particular person, and these can be picked up by the trained eye.
So, get your team to recognise how they can improve their perception skills by reading another’s reactions and body language. The more they practice, the more likely they are to see another person’s reality, i.e. the way they perceive things. And that will naturally improve their communication skills. Bonus, eh?
This exercise shows how difficult it is to really take notice of things we see every day. Use it with your team in your next meeting, just to see how observant they are.
Pick someone who has a lot of confidence. Make sure they are wearing a watch. Without telling them what you are going to do, ask them to place their right hand over the watch face on their wrist.
Get them to stand up and approach you, still with their hand covering their watch. When they get to you, ask them to turn their wrist over, undo the watch strap and pass it to you.
Ask them how many times they look at their watch, on average, every day. Then ask them how long they have had their watch.
If they say they look at it on average 10 times a day, and they have had it for 3 years, then they have actually looked at their watch over 1000 times. Work out the figures quickly in your head for whatever numbers they tell you.
Now, while you have the watch and they can’t see it, ask your team members some questions about it. Obviously, the more complicated the watch, the better the exercise.
Ask such questions as
– what colour is the strap?
– what words are on the face and where are they?
– how many numbers are on the watch?
– does it show the date, and if so, where?
– describe any distinguishing marks or features on it
Alternatively, you can ask them to describe their watch in detail. When they have done so, ask them questions about any details they have missed out.
After the questions, feedback how they did. Most people will get at least two or three answers wrong.
Don’t embarrass the person, but clarify the point that we all see the same things every day but can often become blasé about them because we don’t pay attention at the conscious level.
Ask the group; are there things that we do every day in the workplace because we have always done them that way without thinking? Could it be that we have become blasé about the quality of work we produce? Is there a way we could become more aware of the standards of our work, simply by becoming more observant?
Maybe if we all noticed what we can do to improve the quality of our work, we would all be able to support each other effectively.
By the way, make sure you thank the volunteer and ask everyone else there if they would have done any better if they had been the one chosen to describe their watch!