Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Perception is nine tenths of the truth...

This past few days (weeks/months/years) I have mostly been distracted from writing ... trying to improve my leadership skills. I'd rather be writing, obviously, but this pays (some of) the bills and the two things do complement each other. 

The key to leading well is understanding people and the key to understanding people lies in understanding yourself. Recognising your weaknesses as well as your strengths, allows you to make the most of both.

 Good leaders learn their specific personal strengths and weaknesses, especially in dealing with other people, then build on the strengths and correct the weaknesses.
Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan
Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done

We've done lots of questionnaires to categorise ourselves with varying levels of insight but most recently we did a personality test. The Enneagram Institute test. If you ever get the chance to do it then I'd advise you to have a go but be prepared to deal with the consequences of the report it throws at you! 

The very purpose of existence is to reconcile the glowing opinion we hold of ourselves with the appalling things that other people think about us.
Quentin Crisp

Delving into your hidden depths to recognise what makes you tick equips you to acknowledge your prejudices and better appreciate the perspective of others. Which kind of makes sense but not always comfortable reading!

I came out as a Type 2. The Helper - generally caring, empathetic, thoughtful .... All quite lovely! Indeed, listening to the first couple of minutes of the audio streamed feedback I was really quite taken with myself. Then ... 'Twos get into conflict by being people-pleasing, ingratiating, clingy' CLINGY! POSSESSIVE? SELF IMPORTANT!!! Not all good then... There follows nine pages of in-depth analysis to (weep over) read in order to gain insight into your type and learn how to grow and develop. It is absolutely critical to remember, throughout all of this, that there is no 'right' type YEAH RIGHT! Seriously, the most basic and the most difficult thing about all this lies in accepting there is no right or wrong, just different perspectives. 

I'm not the only one who has struggled with this. As if it needed any further emphasis our leader asked us all to close our eyes and instructed us to point north. Obviously I pointed up. We then had to hold our points and open our eyes - you wouldn't believe the pointing of some people! 

There are twelve of us in the group and we are all senior leaders in education. I knew and respected most members of the group before starting the course and have got to know and respect the others during it. We have grown into an open, trusting, trustworthy group. We are supportive of each other, patient with each other and (usually) kind to each other. We have been known to gang up on the Course Leader when we disagree with her - she is not 'in education'; she is very patient with us. Despite this cohesion, we all think we're right and we have all struggled to reconcile this when we have explored and clarified how we are different. Most of the tests have categorised us into one of three or four groups - it's been easy to find the people in the group you're aligned with and sympathise with all the others who got it wrong! The Enneagram is much more complex and in-depth, and although there are a couple of categories that are not represented in our group the range is wide and the complexities within each leave no room for anyone to walk away thinking they're right and what a shame for everyone else! 

There's a WHOLE load more for me to learn about this but my summary thus far:
Perception is nine tenths of the truth; the version of the truth we each formulate which determines how we think and behave. Lets hope the other tenth is the cracks through which we can escape from ourselves to begin to understand the perceptions and perspectives of others...

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