Perception Is Reality

Most mornings begin by taking my dog on a walk around our neighborhood. It’s not a big walk—usually a mile and half or so—but it is one of my favorite ways to start a day. I love watching the neighborhood wake up and embrace the day. The garage doors opening as people head off to work, the sound of a mom yelling “Molly, your bus is here,” and the way nature seems to be transitioning itself from rest to bustle.

There is a couple I see pretty much every morning, and every single morning they are both rushing out their front door—seriously, pretty much running—to get in their car and go. They always seem to be shoving things into briefcases and gobbling the last bits of breakfast as they make their way to the car. I am assuming they grab a train to the city and, if you are aware of our train schedules in the suburbs, there is no wiggle room with the time trains leave. A 7:14 train is going to leave at 7:14. So, I get the need to rush to the train station, and I would understand if this was a couple that didn’t take the train very often or if it is just one of those rare mornings where the alarm didn’t go off as planned.

However, this rush happens pretty much every single morning, and for some reason, it bothers me. How can they not get their morning routine together? They could set their alarm a little earlier, or maybe they need to pack their briefcases the night before. If their morning starts so frantic, what does the rest of their day look like? I imagine they are this disorganized throughout the day. They sit at desks piled high with papers and folders, they are the last to arrive for meetings, and they are probably those parents who always show up late to curriculum nights and band concerts.

In all honesty, I have no idea what this couple is like in the “real world.” I don’t know them, I’ve never talked to them, in fact, I don’t live by them, so the only time I ever see them is during this brief morning moment. But, I have created their personas in my head. I have made them out to be two very unorganized people, always running a few steps behind the eight ball, always screwing up other people’s schedules and activities, and I am most certain their beds are never made.

Perception is reality. It reminds me of a quote Jeff Bezos once said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” The impression we give, whether offline or online, is sometimes the only thing people will ever know about us. So what impression are we offering?

I’m preparing for a presentation I will be doing for the ChickTech Chicago Western Suburbs members in late September (click here if you’re interested in attending) all on personal branding. It’s a topic I love and one I find that most people think they don’t need. The first thing I will ask the audience to do is to Google themselves. When you Google yourself, what pops up on the screen? If what you see from your Google search isn’t reflective of who you are as a person, you have some personal branding work to do.

This happens with companies all the time. There is often a disconnect between whom a company thinks it is and whom people perceive it to be. When someone tells me they are getting leads, but they aren’t the right leads, I know automatically they have a messaging issue. How they are telling their story to the world isn’t resonating with the right target audience. And, unfortunately, that happens with us as individuals as well.

If you do nothing else today, spend a moment to Google yourself and your company. What you see is who are to the world. I would also encourage you to extend this idea offline. Whom do people see when you walk into their office or meet you during a networking event? If you are a brick & mortar, how do people feel when they enter your space?

As I said before, perception is reality.