Perceptions Sometimes Count and Facts May Not

“Perception is reality”

I’ve heard this quote numerous times.  The falsehood evident in those words should be obvious, but these days perhaps it is not.  Reality is reality, perception is perception. 

Often reality and perception overlap heavily – but we don’t notice those times when our perceptions are correct.  Our brains think that’s the default.  There’s also almost always some amount of perception that doesn’t overlap reality – when our brain is jumping to conclusions and we are misled.  These situations often don’t matter too much, and sometimes they even keep us safer than we’d be otherwise.  Optical illusion is one time when perception doesn’t line up with reality.

The quote is usually stated to remind us that often it’s not the reality of a situation that matters, but others’ beliefs about reality.  The quote is often cited to caution individuals away from taking actions that others might misunderstand as ethically or legally wrong.  It cautions individuals away from taking an official-use-only vehicle out to the boss’s house in any capacity.  It cautions individuals away from spending notable amounts of time in private with members of the opposite sex, for even laudable reasons.

These are important cautions!  It’s often hard or impossible to walk back mis-perceptions, and if they are simply avoided then your life will probably be much easier.

But it doesn’t change the falsehood of the statement.  Perception is not equivalent to reality. 

Perception is perception, and reality is reality.  And while thinking people understand the difference intellectually, non-thinking people probably aren’t thinking about it.  Even thinking people will often make mistakes of assumption.

In the era of the false cries of “fake news” and widespread campaigns of actual misinformation, we shouldn’t aid purveyors of this bunk.

Here’s the truth – and I didn’t make it up myself, it’s a quote from a speaker, but was said in a non-attribution environment:

Perceptions Sometimes Count and Facts May Not

That quote warns individuals without suggesting falsehood, and without implying that the situation is acceptable.

It’s not acceptable that, in so many situations, individuals give in to their perceptions and disregard facts.  It happens though, and we must be prepared for when it impacts us.  We should recognize this bias for perception over fact in ourselves too, and seek to avoid being overly influenced by it.

Don’t accept that some hold perception higher than fact, but recognize that

Perceptions Sometimes Count and Facts May Not

Know Your Why

I’m personally driven by a few ideas… Things I’m pretty passionate about. Improving cyber security in the US though education is a major one.

When I remember my goals they my action. Why do I want to volunteer to teach at a college? Why did I spend time building K-12 python, cyber security, and boolean logic short courses? Why do I look for opportunities to have my knowledgeable folks teach the rest of my folks?

That passion is my why.

People that know their why are much more effective followers and leaders. It’s maybe important to work their why into their work…

Make Sure My People Know Their Why

This is the real reason why we make sure our followers know how they got into the mission, why they’re critical parts of the mission, and why the mission is critical. If they don’t already have a “why”, that gives them one.

Why should I get out of bed? Go into work? Give a shit?

Make Sure My People Know Their Why

Personality Inprocessing

One of the things every leadership course includes is some discussion of personality types. Usually everyone has to take or retake a personality test for the Myers-Briggs system.  You usually go around the room at some point and talk about, or show by example, the effects of each piece of the type.

Then, at some point, they recommend building teams with a diversity of personality.

But who actually ends up doing that?  Sure, any reasonably good builder of small teams and assigner of tasks considers personality when doing that job.  Good managers even consider diversity of personality as one input.  Who goes to their list of people and Myers-Briggs types and uses that list?*

Well, I should.

Build and Make Available a List of Personality Types for People Under My Command

When you show up to a unit there’s always a questionnaire about who you are, who your family is, birthday…  And that should include personality type.
I’ve actually seen this on one inprocessing questionnaire, I believe.  It’s easy enough to add on there…  If someone hasn’t taken a test in the last 2 years, ask them to take it again!  Things change.

A recent leadership course introduced me to the 5 voices system.  This also seems great – the predictive power of the system, and the way it got people talking, was interesting to me.

Aside from just collecting this info, it should be on SharePoint so other leaders in the unit can access it easily.  Along with birthdays and such.

Broken Windows

The broken windows theory of policing suggests that when police target small crimes like “vandalism, public drinking, and fare evasion,” and reduce visible signs of “crime, anti-social behavior, and civil disorder” they reduce the likelihood of further and worse crime.

This can certainly be taken too far, as in “stop-and-frisk” policies, if those are examples of broken windows policing, as some suggest.

When applied to a team you’re leading, broken windows policing looks like: making sure uniforms are still sharp and worn properly, office common spaces are kept tidy, individuals are shown respect in each interaction, promises are kept, report and presentation standards are being met, and people generally meet the requirements and standards of each of their duties.

Watch for Broken Windows

It’s easy to forget why the small things matter. So often, we invent, raise up, and perpetuate new small things that really don’t matter. However, there are a set of standards we are each supposed to be required to maintain, either by order, regulation, or law.

Those true requirements are the broken windows I need to watch for. The purpose, which I should not forget, is to maintain a lower probability of more serious problems in the unit.

Mission Qualified

Commanders of operational units maintain their flying qualification. Most units in the Air Force aren’t flying units, but all have some mission they’re responsible for.

Remain Qualified on your Mission System

Once a quarter I should spend a day making sure I’m up to speed on the mission my folks are doing, and if possible I should get some practice actually doing it. At the least I should sit alongside folks as they execute the mission.

It’s important to understand what your folks are doing each day, to understand what problems they face, and to ask of them only things you’d be willing to do yourself. What better way to do that then to sit beside them and work. The social benefit is also easy to realize with this technique.

Remain Qualified on your Mission System

This needs to be time set aside on the schedule, that doesn’t get pushed around by meetings, that doesn’t get interrupted… This is mission qualification time, and it needs to be a priority.