The Power Of Perception: Creating Better Leaders And Employees With Dr. Maja Zelihic

More than we give it a thought, our perception controls most of our lives. How we see things and the way we think about them greatly influences our decisions and behaviors. That is why perception is powerful. Dr. Diane Hamilton and Dr. Maja Zelihic, a Fulbright specialist and Department Chair of Advanced Management Studies at Forbes School of Business and Technology, have known this to be true, leading them to write the book, The Power of PerceptionIn this episode, they take a deep dive into their work, explaining what perception is all about not only to ourselves but to others and how we can become more self-aware, so it works for us and not against us. Putting this to the workplace setting, Diane and Maja then discuss what they call the EPIC process and how it helps people take assessments at work. What is more, they also talk about the importance of perception to become a better leader and employee, the ways social media is making it harder, and why data is both a blessing and a curse.

TTL 831 | Power Of Perception

 

I’m glad you joined us because we have Dr. Maja Zelihic here. She is a Fulbright Specialist, a Full Professor, Department Chair of Advanced Management Studies at Forbes School of Business and Technology, also the Cofounder of DIMA Innovations, and my co-author for the book, The Power of Perception. We’re going to talk about perception. It’s going to be a fascinating show.

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The Power Of Perception: Creating Better Leaders And Employees With Dr. Maja Zelihic

I am here with Dr. Maja Zelihic, who is a Fulbright Specialist, a Full Professor, and Department Chair of the Advanced Management Studies at the Forbes School of Business and Technology. She is the Cofounder of DIMA Innovations. She has quite impressive background, but she’s also the co-author of the book, The Power of Perception. It’s nice to have you here, Maja.

It’s nice to be with you.

This is going to be a lot of fun. This time we’re going to talk about perception because it’s such a fascinating area but I want to get your backstory. How did you get to this Fulbright Specialist genius point of your life that you’ve attained?

Sometimes we’re in the midst of our own reality or the reality that our mind created. Click To Tweet

I had quite a bit of experience in the financial industry. I worked in the world of mortgages for quite some time. Eventually, I went into corporate training. I’ve discovered my love and passion for education. Once I got my PhD degree, I started working part-time, and in 2013, I started being a full-time professor. I discovered my love for field research. I’ve done lots of research ventures in the developing world. A couple of years ago, I also became a Fulbright Specialist. I was able to do some research work for the US Government and in Zambia in particular. I was thankful for that particular program because it helps US researchers across the world to conduct a lot of different ventures and also discover lots of interesting things.

We know of Rhodes Scholar, Fulbright Scholar, and all these different things, and we know they’re smart people. Can you tell us what a Fulbright Specialist is? What’s Fulbright, for people who don’t know?

TTL 831 | Power Of Perception
The Power of Perception: Eliminating Boundaries to Create Successful Global Leaders

A lot of Fulbright Scholars start off as students. Fulbright Specialists are already established professionals. They don’t necessarily have to be in the world of academia, even though many of us who become Fulbright Specialists are in the world of academia. We’re able to contribute to the body of knowledge as far as doing different research ventures, doing different lectures, partnering and collaborating with different institutions across the world and enhancing the overall body of knowledge, and also helping at the same point of time. The vast majority of the Fulbright Specialist ventures that are being sponsored by Fulbright are in the developing world where there are some shortages of resources, shortages of subject matter experts. It is a win-win situation for both parties.

I know you’ve done a lot of amazing work in the area of business in general. We thought it would be fun for us to partner and write a book together. We looked at some of the different options that were out there of what kinds of things we wanted to study. We covered a bunch of different ideas when we were looking at this. We both knew we liked behaviors and we wanted to help engagement, innovation and all that. I know that’s the discussion we had to come up with perception, and it was fun writing with you. You’re much better at the historical, storytelling aspect of writing. You got some great stories into our book. I know I came up with a couple with the frogs and the different things. That was from reading other people’s stories who had shared that with perception. It’s not my best area to come up with stories. You got into Greek mythology and different philosophers from the past. We filtered out what stuff I did, and you did. We came together in the middle. It was fun because we were different in our styles. What was your favorite story that we included in the book that was something that I could have never come up with about perception, and why did it resonate with you?

It was such a great experience writing this book with you because we’re vastly different. Our perceptions are vastly different. That’s what got us to write this book. Deep inside, I’m a philosopher and historian but I do teach and I do research in the field of business. There were several stories. I had to touch upon Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, and the perception of the word rose. Also, the Plato’s Republic inspired me quite a bit with The Allegory of the Cave. The prisoners chained to the walls of the cave and looking at the shadows.

Sometimes, the best decision-makers are not the ones that are impacted by those decisions the most. Click To Tweet

Tell that in deep because I hadn’t explored that story. Give a background on that story.

The story goes that prisoners were chained to the walls of the caves, and you had puppeteers playing behind their backs. The prisoners kept looking at the shadows on the walls of the cave, and that is their reality. We were talking about correlating this to the prison of our own minds, how our perception plays tricks with us, and sometimes we only see the shadows of the actual reality versus the true concept of reality. The Greek philosophers dwelled on that concept of, “Is there such a thing as a true reality?” You and I talked about, “Is there such a thing as a true business reality?”

I’ve been binge-watching things because of COVID. I was watching Fringe again. They were dealing with this superior race, the Observers as they called them. The Observer was telling the main character, “You don’t even know what you don’t know because you’re looking up the sky. You’re like an ant. You’re at this colony, and you’re looking up at the sky. You think it’s a dark sky, but it’s the bottom of my shoe about to squish you.”

It’s interesting because I’ve read a lot of books like Neil deGrasse Tyson. I listen to his book at night a lot, Death by Black Hole. He talks about how in Science, you have to know when to get up close and when to back up because it’s like a painting. If you get close, all you see are brush strokes. You don’t see the painting. If you get back, you get to see the whole picture. When we were talking about this perception thing that was a great story of The Allegory of the Cave because you don’t know what people are seeing. They have a limited amount of information, like the frog story. Tell the frog story.

The two tadpoles were swimming in the pond. One jumped out and became a frog. After a short while, she came back. The tadpole asked, “Where did you go?” The frog said, “Where it’s dry.” The tadpole said, “Where is dry?” The frog said, “Where there is no water.” The tadpole said, “What is water?” The frog laughed saying, “It’s all around you.” Sometimes we’re in the midst of our reality or the reality that our mind created. We’re in that own cave of our minds. We’re not able to see what’s around us, and we’re in the midst of it. That’s why we’re saying when we’re making decisions, “Sometimes the best decision-makers are not the ones that are impacted by those decisions the most.”

Speaking of a couple of things that you mentioned, it’s like a matrix. What’s a true reality versus the reality that we see? You go back and forth from those two. Another thing is with research. Being further removed from the research venture. You have to have a healthy amount of passion towards a particular research topic. You cannot be too passionate about it because if you’re too passionate about a particular research topic, you’re going to steer the findings in the direction of your preference.

We both have had the students going through the doctoral program that tells you what their study is going to tell you at the end, and they haven’t even done it yet. I’m like, “No. You can’t do that. You don’t know.” We don’t want to push things in a certain direction, but we do that with life. I know I started out with these stories because a lot of people when they’re thinking perception, they’re thinking about, “Do you see the blue dress or the gold dress? Do you see the cigar in the wall, or is the dot the same size over here as it is over here?” Those are perception, fun things to talk about. I had a lot of great people on the show. Beau Lotto is a great perception expert. He has some wonderful TED Talks about that.

TTL 831 | Power Of Perception
Power Of Perception: Our perception plays tricks with us, and, sometimes, we only see the shadows of the actual reality versus the true concept of reality.

 

What we were looking at was the impact of having the understanding of other people’s vantage points and the things that go into the process of perception. I had come off of creating the Curiosity Code Index and writing about curiosity because I had done the factor analysis and learned how to do that. Maja and I thought, “This would be fun to figure out how to measure the factors that impact perception.” I know we’ve talked about it. We’ve thought of perception as IQ, EQ for Emotional Quotient, CQ for Curiosity Quotient, and CQ for Cultural Quotient, but the factors didn’t line up specifically that way. We found that there was some overlap. We look at it as more of a process. We call it an EPIC process of how we Evaluate, Predict, Interpret, and then Correlate to make our conclusions. Why do you think it’s important that we figure out this process, explain this, and help people take these kinds of assessments in the workplace? What was your motivation behind that?

Our index in the training program, we are already seeing some of the results, and it’s helping the companies out there in order for them to tap into the potential of their employee’s perception, in order to get them more motivated and more effective at a workplace. I think that when we ventured out to do this research, it started as a fun conversation between the two of us as we worked together because we realized that our perceptions are vastly different, and dwelling on what’s impacting our perception from our culture, experiences, gender, lots of different things that we’re playing into why you, in particular, see things a certain way versus the way I’m looking at things.

The business reality is an ever-fluid concept and we just talked about Plato. Is there such a thing as a reality? When it comes to the way business leaders communicate, when it comes to the way they lead, it is very important for them to realize the way they project whatever they’re trying to project, the way they’re being perceived is a two-way street and to ensure that their message comes across the way it’s intended to their employees. If the employees get the receiving message, if they misunderstand what the message was intending to convey, they can get de-motivated and not being good performers at work. That’s the why behind why for the companies, why for the employees.

Assessing one’s own perception mechanism is of crucial importance in order to be a better leader and also, frankly, a better employee. As much as both of us are researchers and in the world of academia, it’s important to note for the audience members that we wrote this book that is easily processed by general audience members. It can be of use to someone in the business world, but also in our personal lives as well. Our perception is impacting the way we interact at a personal level as well.

Business reality is an ever-fluid concept. Click To Tweet

What we were looking at was some of the things that influence perception, but also how perception influences other things. For example, things that influence perception are things like our intelligence, spirituality, curiosity, emotions, culture, gender, experience and all those kinds of things. Perception then influences some of the things you’re talking about. Leadership, innovation, status quo, thinking, engagement, collaboration, all the things that people are losing money in the workplace because we know people are hired for their knowledge but fired for their behaviors.

If we don’t recognize that these soft skills and some of these behaviors are what the companies are working on to try and solve some of these problems, emotional intelligence, leadership, collaboration, engagement, we’re talking billions of dollars. We know it’s $550 billion alone on engagement. The leadership collaboration and emotional intelligence piece are all that, it all ties into this. You talk about how we’re different, which is interesting because we’ve had similar experiences. As you were giving your background, I was thinking about I worked in the mortgage industry. I’ve worked in the sales like you have and teaching like you have. We worked in the same company. I’ve been your boss. You’ve been my boss for different periods of time, but we’ve had the same experiences, and yet, we are uniquely different.

A lot of it can be cultural. We’re both from different parts of the world. A lot of it can be family. Obviously, we’re both the same gender, but we have a lot of these things that we write about in the book. It’s a fascinating look at how important understanding perception is because anybody who’s had more than one kid, I’ll tell you that they’re completely different even if they’re raised in the same house. For us, we were looking at the importance of understanding what goes into your decision-making process. If people are conflicted in many ways, we have a divide in politics. We have a divide in all these different areas. A lot of it is a lack of empathy and the ability for us to put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes. That’s what understanding perception. A lot of it boils down to, how can we see things from other people’s vantage points? Not changing our stance, not changing what’s important to us, but recognizing they have the right, background, and whatever reason for having this sense of, “This is why this should be that way.”

We both ran the MBA program at the Forbes School of Business and Technology. I know when we were designing different things there, we were looking at how can we incorporate critical thinking and soft skills. To do that, you have to have this sense of value for people to have that ability to take data and take information, compare, contrast and come up with an idea. I’m curious how much do you think social media and external influences are impacting people’s work relationships? They see one thing or another. There’s this confirmation bias that we hear a lot about, which is, “I believe this, so I’m going to keep reading more about this. It just reinforces what I believe.” Do you think social media is making it harder?

Some of the blessings of our generation is that we have easy access to data, but one of the curses of our generation is that we have too much data. As we’re swimming through the data, we’re trying to confirm our own beliefs. We talk about it in the book and we use the terminology of suspending our beliefs. Keep in mind, we’re not asking anyone to abandon their belief system or to abandon what they stand for, just the suspension as they’re observing others.

Especially to be a global leader, one has to be an open-minded individual that is in-tune with what others are saying and being able to observe at first. Suspension of one’s beliefs is allowing you not necessarily to embrace the beliefs of others. That is not the point. The point is to understand the beliefs of others. In order to be a successful leader, you have to do that. We now know with social media, there was a good documentary on Netflix.

Algorithms that we’re being fed what our preference is. That’s devastating because the way you learn, open your mind, understand others, and sometimes even embrace the beliefs of others is to be able to get to that other side of the spectrum, to be able to view the other vantage point. Therefore, I think those algorithms are not doing us any service. All they’re doing is if I’m in favor of ABC view, all I’m seeing is confirming that.

We need to get the message out to people that it’s some of your responsibility to don’t always read the same things. Don’t always go to the same source. We’re back to the critical thinking thing. I think that companies can help in that respect with people to get people much more open to different ways of doing things. I know a lot of companies do a great job with cultural training to some extent. I know IBM does the cultural training to make sure that they have a deep cultural understanding of an area before people go in. They talk about decision-making styles based on that culture. They talk about all these different things with people. In Coca-Cola, they make sure the wife or the husband goes through the program as well because if your spouse doesn’t feel comfortable in a culture, that’s going to be a problem in many ways.

I know HBR had 40 case studies on this. McKinsey has got some research on this. SHRM’s got research on this. There is no shortage of the value of having the ability for people to work together. When I taught different courses and trained different groups about working together on teams, what I would do is I’d put a bunch of people who had the same values and norms of personality type in one group. I’d put another group where they were very diverse and had all these different types of preferences. The group that was very similar, you would give them Legos. You would ask them to build a house, and they built you a house. It was boring. Then you go to the group of diverse people where they’re all unique. They’d build you this castle and a moat. It’d be a cool thing. You get a better output if you have a diverse workplace. You have more issues because you have a diverse workplace, and people don’t have that understanding of everybody’s perception. That’s what we were trying to get at with our research.

TTL 831 | Power Of Perception
Power Of Perception: It’s some of the blessings of our generation that we have easy access to data, but also one of the curses of our generation that we have too much data.

 

Let’s talk about the EPIC model because that was such a big part of what we wanted to discuss. We started by sending out lots of different surveys. We’d looked at thousands of people and researched this in the United States for quite a while. We were looking for factors that aligned to perception, and we eliminated the ones that have questions that did not work. We ended up coming up with this EPIC process. That was a fun process to find out what are the things that tie into this. The first thing that we found was evaluation. Evaluation is self-control, composure, acceptance, body language and tone. A lot of it is the first part of emotional intelligence, which is, “How do I understand my vantage point and how I see things?” Why do you think evaluation is critical in the perception process? Why do we need to know our point? Why did you think that was an interesting factor?

It starts with us. We have to reflect on our own selves because a lot of times, there is a misalignment between what I think I’m projecting versus what I’m projecting. Being aware of the way I come across is going to impact my leadership abilities. It’s also going to impact every single interaction that I have with any individuals in my life. I wrote a short blog story about a leader when I worked in the financial industry that was reprimanded by his superiors because every single member of his team complained about him. As he was exiting the conference room, I was witnessing him saying, “I’m an excellent leader.” At the time, I was not thinking about perception. I was thinking in terms of, “He’s clueless.” However, his perception of his self, of his leadership capabilities, was completely off.

We have to start with our own selves. We also have to define our opportunities clearly. When you and I, in a joking manner, interacted, you did notice that at times, I would jump to a conclusion. Even though I’m a researcher in professional life, in my personal life, I would skip all the research steps. I’m going to the worst-case scenario. A lot of times, you kept me in check saying, “Let’s stand back and reflect on this.” I’m aware of my opportunities. You are aware of your own opportunities. It is connected to emotional intelligence and life experiences. We are not necessarily changing who we are at the very core of our being, but we’re able to improve. Life is the process of constant improvement. That is why evaluation matters.

The big part of emotional intelligence is the ability to understand your own emotions and react appropriately. It takes some evaluation. Travis Bradberry had some research he likes to talk about with CEOs having lower levels of emotional intelligence after a certain point. I’ve talked to a lot of people on the show about this, and they will say that you might get promoted for having higher levels at the beginning because you’re around people with who you’re having good conversations, you’re interacting, and you’re having a certain experience with people that are developing your emotional intelligence. After a while, you’re promoted to this point where everybody is agreeing with you, and you’re getting unlimited exposure to certain real feedback.

You cannot be too passionate about a research topic because you’re going to steer the findings in the direction of your own preference. Click To Tweet

The 360 evaluation can be important. When Daniel Goleman was on the show, we talked about that. He does some amazing work in that area. I do some emotional intelligence testing on my site. Anytime you can figure out where you are and where you need to go. We look at the evaluation process, and then we’d look at the prediction process. I love the EPIC acronym to make it easy to remember. The P from the EPIC is Prediction, and a lot of that is the second half of emotional intelligence in some respects because you’ve got to understand the emotions of others. You have to develop empathy, so that you can see their vantage point and understand where they’re coming from, which requires curiosity to have that empathy. You have to be interested enough to ask questions to get that sensitivity, look for what’s important to others. Why do you think prediction is such a critical part of this process?

In trying to increase your odds of making the right decision, you’re increasing your chances of success. Empathy and being a decent human being aside are major components. “I’m trying to predict what you’re thinking and perceiving in order for us to have a terrific business relationship.” Therefore, prediction is also a protective mechanism for me because I’m trying to get into a situation where we have a successful dialogue, and we’re effective as business leaders. It is on top of being a great human being. I’m anticipating your reaction. I do this trial and error sometimes. I’m doing this with my life experience. I make mistakes. In predicting, it is very important for me, as I’m projecting whatever I’m trying to project, that I can predict whatever I’m doing is going to reflect on your end and how you’re going to perceive who I am as an individual, as a business leader.

As we progressed and looked at the steps, we recognize that I of the EPIC process was Interpretation. We brought in a lot of reasoning. The curiosity, logic, cultural aspects. Now that I have considered emotions and the way I believe and I figured out what I can expect from you, I have to interpret what I’ve learned and recognize the impact of things like culture, religion, spirituality, all of that, whether I agree or disagree with their idea of what’s important. It’s understanding that this is what has influenced this part. We have to understand how this interpreting can be impacted. Why is interpretation important?

It’s a higher level. You and I interact quite a bit on a personal level. We gain a great sense of appreciation through our conversation where both of us are coming from. At times as we’re sharing certain stories, there are times we do not agree when it comes to a particular point. However, we have this level of being able to interpret this level of appreciation for why you feel a certain way, why you perceive things a certain way. A lot of times, as we go back and forth in our conversations, we acknowledge that. Once you acknowledge that, you’re also able to move forward in a more successful manner. That’s why it’s important. It is a higher level of interaction and at that point of time, I know I evaluated my old self.

I know how I come across, hopefully, and then I’m also able to predict the way you’re perceiving whatever I’m seeing. We’re putting it all together. We’re interpreting what that means. It’s now truly a two-way street. Emotional intelligence, in that particular instance is of crucial importance and the critical thinking. Intelligence is always important, but not as important as the other two, because at that point of time, we are gaining that sense of understanding. During that phase, we are in the process of at times suspending our beliefs as we’re trying to learn about others.

You brought it to how we’re coming to these conclusions at the end and that takes correlation to get to these conclusions. You take everything. The final C in EPIC is Correlation. We were getting that understanding. We’re seeing that other vantage point. We’re taking into account their experience, gender, and other aspects that have shaped who they are and what they’ve experienced. For you to come to a conclusion without taking in all these puzzle pieces, you’re missing out on the big picture. It’s almost like my analogy before of looking at the painting, maybe you’re too close and you’re only seeing brush strokes. When you’re back, you can see the whole picture. What is important about the correlation part of the process?

We’re putting it all together. We’re connecting all the dots and at that point of time, hopefully we’re making good choices. We’re making good decisions. We’re moving forward and we’re becoming truly successful. Correlation is taking into consideration all the variables we mentioned. We’re not necessarily always aware of the fact that we’re correlating, but at that point of time, we’re gathering. We have the whole data pool and we’re putting it all together. Even during the correlation period, we’re still trying to make sense out of it because we talked the fluid concept of business or any reality for that matter. Our goal through this index, training, book is not for everyone to perceive things or think the same way. That would defy the purpose. Our goal is for people that have an understanding and appreciation of this process.

It’s not possible for people to all have the same outlook. We looked at some of the differences, just men and women. I wanted to bring up a couple of them because you and I both were talking about how this was interesting. We saw that men were more likely to say they didn’t allow stress to impact how they interacted with other people and they were more likely to believe that they openly displayed happiness.

I want to list a couple of things that men are different. They were also more likely to believe that a person’s health can impact their decision-making and they did not view race and age as much of an issue in decision-making as women. That last one was interesting to me because they didn’t have the same negative probably experience in the business world that women might have experienced when they first entered as far as their gender did impact a lot of how people experienced what they did and how they experienced their work situation.

We also found men were more likely to believe other people might come to conclusions about their decisions without doing research. Women were more likely to believe others can allow their perception of someone’s gender to impact their decisions. They were more likely to recognize the conclusions people made were based on information that’s been translated and that could have inaccuracies. Women were more likely to see that others might not conform to their ethical beliefs. The other cultures, they might see their beliefs as more valid than the men did. We didn’t see huge differences in our research data, but I think it’s important to recognize that the data did have some challenges. We could do more research and we probably will. What did you find the most interesting about the data?

Prior to discussing the data, one of the stories that you put in the book that I found fascinating was the story of a gentleman and a lady in a museum looking at the painting. The lady was saying, “Look at the sun the way it’s hitting the barn. Look at the old man’s face being so serene and peaceful, the light and the grass.” The gentleman was looking at the painting saying, “That barn is old and it needs a painting job.” With that said, it’s oversimplifying our differences but that story demonstrates that we are looking at things differently. Women are certainly more likely to accept an additional task at work for free without asking to be compensated. Women are still way more likely to suppress their natural tendencies in order to come across as stronger because they’re trying to mimic whatever they think the male leadership should be.

There were research studies where men and women made the same decisions, used the same verbiage, communicated almost identical, and the man was perceived as being strong and the woman was being perceived as being too aggressive. We cannot necessarily minimize these differences. We can say that they do play a part. The beauty of this universe is that we are men and women. We do perceive a few things differently, but we complement each other. The strength of a true leadership is talking about diversity where when you have differences of opinions and diverse approaches, that’s when the companies are making the best results.

Acknowledging the differences and acknowledging how ladies are still to this day perceived in the world of business. We’re still up working and struggling a little bit in order to reach that fluid concept of equality in a business world. It will happen with more women being high-level ranking leaders. I’m a firm believer that we should not suppress our femininity and our natural empathy. We have some strong points and our male counterparts have some strong points. Let’s take advantage of both of those.

One of my favorite stories from the book was the two salespeople who went into a presentation and had their rear ends handed to them basically after they presented their idea. They came out of the event. It was the woman who had this idea that was the best thing that could’ve ever happened because she found out all the things that to fix, where the guy was going, “That was the worst thing ever. We were destroyed in there.” Recognizing that some of this perception of how you look at things, we fail forward now. We don’t fail as such a bad thing. We’d look at failure as, “What did I learn?”

It’s not necessarily this is like the end of whatever we could have ever been. Things have changed through the generations. I entered the workplace when it was very madmen and it has been great to see the progression. Part of what we were hoping to do was go to organizations and train people, like I do with my Curiosity Code Index and Perception Power Index. We give it to organizations where the employees can find out where they have problems or issues within the EPIC process and where they have areas to grow.

It’s not labeling them into any group or any category or anything like that. It’s more like how we do with emotional intelligence testing, where we go, “Here’s where we stand. This is where we have room to grow.” We learn the factors. We learn to access the information that’s impacting these factors. In the training that we do, we give a personal SWOT analysis that they are able to look at their strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities and threats to formulate these measurable goals as they would in doing engagement training that they incorporate into their personal development plan. This is the kind of thing that they refine as needed as they go along.

TTL 831 | Power Of Perception
Power Of Perception: To be a global leader, one has to be an open-minded individual that is in tune with what others are saying and being able to observe at first.

 

We do this in conjunction with companies, but we also have SHRM Recertification credit for those who want to become certified to do this. If they go on to the website, which is DIMAInnovations.com. You could go to DrDianeHamilton.com and DrMajaZelihic.com, you could find us through all of them. They can take the training if you have HR people or consultant. You give a DISC or different assessments and you’re looking for something very relevant to the time of what people are looking to do. You can become certified to give this assessment and train in organizations, and still get SHRM Recertification in the process. What do you want companies to know about the training? What do they get when we come out to train or if they’re a consultant and they want to become certified? What do you think is the most important thing for them to take away?

I think they can evaluate where they stand. They can get into a higher level of understanding of their employees’ perceptions. In order to tap into its potential, motivate their employees, and assess what type of things are impacting the perception mechanisms of their employees as they’re trying to build new leaders and make the current leader stronger. It is tied to both the motivation and the effectiveness. Ultimately, that results in a higher bottom line.

Those are some of the core things that companies can gain through taking the training and the assessment. The book is geared towards not only business professionals but the general audience members. One does necessarily have to read the whole book prior to the training, but we are assigning different chapters from the book as we go through the training material. It is easy to take but it’s also a very fun and engaging activity. It’s something that their employees can take advantage of as they’re polishing their perception in their personal lives as well.

Do you know what I think people like about it? It’s that, there’s a couple of activities we do in the training. The first one is you find out your results and you know where you need to go, and how to solve any perception issues. Then the second half of the training, which I think when you’re getting certified to give this if you’re HR professional or a consultant that you would like is the fact that we do an overall company evaluation. If you’re talking to the leadership, they may be saying, “We want to work on innovation. We want to work on collaboration. We want to work in critical thinking.” Whatever it is that they’re wanting to work on, we go to the trainees in the session. We go, “Now that you understand the perception process and how to improve it for yourself, how can we work on these issues and solve the perception problem to solve leadership’s communication issues?”

We go through all the issues that are important to the leaders. Then the trainer, whether it’s Maja, me, consultant, or whoever is giving this training, has all this feedback from employees. It’s anonymous. People feel comfortable giving it. It goes back and we can create this report. We’d give it to leadership. Basically, employees are giving you all this great content. You get this report. The leadership gets all the answers. It’s like when Disney was having a turnover problem in their laundry division and they went to their employees and they said, “How can we make your job better?” They gave them all these great suggestions, “Put an air vent over my desk. Have my desk go up and down, so my back doesn’t hurt.” You don’t realize how much you can get by going to employees and asking especially if it’s anonymous.

We’re this wall between having them have the sense of comfort because they know they can say, “This would make this better. This would help in this area of perception. This would help you be better at having us be innovative or agile or whatever it is that you’re trying to work on.” That’s an important part. What do you think? Is there anything else that I’ve missed that you want to talk about in terms of the sale or the training?

You’ve covered a lot. It’s a valuable data pool for the leadership to use and take advantage of in the future. Also, it’s a self-reflection tool. A lot of times, as I presented some topics from our book among business leaders, students, HR professionals, the feedback that I’m getting is that they found the self-assessment incredibly valuable. Sometimes it’s very hard for us to pinpoint what’s impacting the way we perceive the world because it’s not one topic that one dwells on. It’s such an integral part of our being. It is a two-way street. It’s benefiting the employees through the reflection. It’s benefiting the employer through gathering that data. As the leaders communicate moving forward, hopefully they can use that in order to communicate better. In order to ensure that they are whatever they’re trying to project, whatever they’re trying others to perceive, is taking place within the workplace.

Our work is getting a lot of attention. I was thinking of how we were contacted by the startup that was creating a way to interview people without having their name or picture, and all these different things come up that might influence perception. They were looking at us for their board and there’s so much potential for cultural experts on these boards because this is such a huge area. I know I do a lot with curiosity, and now we do both a lot with perception. I think it’s good to add some action items that people can be working on.

As we go through the EPIC process, I’m going to put a question out there to people. For evaluation, “How do you use interpersonal skills like self-assessment to determine how you come across to others?” For Prediction, “How do you use interpersonal skills, curiosity, and empathy to predict how others are going to interact with you?” For Interpretation, “How do you assign meaning to the beliefs and culture of others by using critical thinking, reasoning, and logic?” For Correlation, “How do you come to conclusions based on considering all parties’ vantage point and life experiences?” Those are critical things because there is no truth. There’s only perception is a very often stated citation. There are our perceptions and how we handle the perceptions of others. This was so much content. Try to put that in a book, that was fun.

It was wonderful working with you. We have two different styles and that was the beauty of it coming together. I was impressed with all the knowledge that you had and all the people that you interviewed, and you were sharing a lot of that knowledge with our readers. You also were not getting annoyed with my stories.

Your stories add so much. We did well. We had a good friend of ours help us with the organizing of the material. I would be remiss if we didn’t mention G. Ross Kelly, who has died since we have launched this book and we dedicated this book to him. He was such an amazing influence in our work. I’ve worked with him on other aspects of things that I’ve written. He is an amazing individual. I hope he continues to be an influencer on everything I do. I know, Maja, you felt the same.

The thing we’d like people to realize is that even though we’re educators and we write this boring, other scholarly stuff for our education jobs, this book is not written in that way. It’s very readable. It’s meant for everyday people with stories, like you would in any other light reading business book. We wanted it to be accessible to all individuals. When I wrote about curiosity and emotional intelligence, this one reminded me of that in the fact that the people who need it sometimes may not be looking for it.

As a leader, we got emotional intelligence to be important because leaders started to recognize that companies need to train their people to develop these important skills. I hope that those of you who are leaders, who are reading this, recognize the value of curiosity, perception, and emotional intelligence. These soft skills are what’s going to build your employee base to effective. Do you have anything to add to the soft skills aspect?

One cannot be a leader in today’s time and age without being a global leader having that global outlook. Click To Tweet

First of all, the global world leaders are a bit obsolete nowadays because one cannot be a leader in this time and age without being a global leader having that global outlook. I do feel that leaders worldwide will have to find some new ways to polish their performance and to do better. Things, such as, polishing your perception and curiosity, the critical thinking skills, emotional intelligence is the way to go. It’s a great value to the leaders worldwide and those of you who are not yet leaders but you’re aspiring to be leaders. I’m glad that you mentioned Ross, a gentle, humble, and knowledgeable soul. He’s still with us in spirit and we miss him dearly. I’m glad we met him.

This has been a great experience. What we’re learning through COVID and some of the stuff that people are going through is we’re seeing a different perception. Think of the perception of online learning many years ago compared to now. Think of the perception of working virtually at home a many years versus now. We’re seeing that we’re having to be adaptable, agile, pivoting, all the top words you hear out there. What that helps is we’re working on our perception of what we need to do to be successful in the business world. That’s what we were hoping to do with our research.

Thank you so much for being such a great co-author and for being on my show because I’ve been dying to do this. I’m glad we finally got together and a lot of people can benefit. They can contact us through our websites. Follow us on LinkedIn. I’m @DrDianeHamilton and you’re @DrMajaZelihic. You can follow us on all the social media platforms. The Power of Perception book is on Amazon and everywhere you find books, and the Perception Power Index is on. It’s easy to go to the PerceptionPowerIndex.com.

It’s such a pleasure to always talk to you and especially talking about this topic. I’m glad we’re able to do this after the book was published because we were busy talking to different companies, HR professionals, and talking about this at different venues. We finally found time to talk to each other.

What’s your next book? Do you have one in you?

I’ve contributed a chapter into an international research handbook. My chapter covers the different research ventures down in Haiti, Cuba, Zambia, and Mexico. I’m very excited about that. We have a publisher, Francis & Taylor in the UK. That is an exciting thing.

We’ll get this as a MOOC, as a Massive Open Online Course. I know my Curiosity Course is available in FutureLearn. We’ll put that out there on some of those sites. In the meantime, you can take the Perception Course on our websites. Thank you for being on the show, Maja. This was so much fun.

Thank you and thank you to all of your readers. Thank you so much, Diane.

You’re welcome.

I like to thank Maja for being my guest. We get many great guests on this show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, you can catch them at DrDianeHamilton.com and I’m happy to respond to anybody who contacts me through the site. I hope you take some time to explore the Perception Power Index as well as the Curiosity Code Index. I hope you enjoyed this episode and join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About Dr. Maja Zelihic

TTL 831 | Power Of PerceptionDr. Maja (Maya) Zelihic is a Fulbright Specialist, Full Professor, and a Department Chair of the Advanced Management Studies at the Forbes School of Business and Technology. She is a co-founder of Dima Innovations. Dr. Zelihic is a Global Dialogue Partner at NAFSA, the world’s largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education. Dr. Zelihic serves on the Board of Advisors of the International Fellowship Program in Arbitration and Scientific Assessment, the comprehensive global academic review platform. She also serves as an industry advisory member at the Amity University Novel Communication Lab (AUNCL). She is the recipient of the Amity Academy Excellence Award. She is an expert in e-learning development and implementation in the developing world. Dr. Zelihic is a Board member at the Center for Women’s Leadership at the Forbes School of Business and Technology, launched in June of 2020. She was listed as Top 200 Global Leaders to follow in 2021 by PeopleHum.

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