Perception, Reality, and Trust

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It has been said that perception is reality; however, in organizations that rely heavily on data to drive decision-making, reality tends to be more concrete.  Frequently, there is disparity between perception (what leaders say is happening) and reality (what the data shows).  What happens to trust when there is significant disparity between perception and reality?

Trust in the organization and its message decreases as the disparity between perception and reality increases.  Here’s an example for clarification:  The CEO of ABC Industries holds a press conference and shares that his company’s stock prices have outpaced every other similar company in the most recent quarter.  Upon further examination of the actual data regarding stock performance, stock holders learn that while ABC Industries’ stock did increase in value over other similar companies, that increase was only one cent per share.  How will this impact trust in the CEO?  When the next press conference is held, will stock holders be more or less likely to believe what is being conveyed?  Would the level of trust be different if the increase in ABC Industries’ stock value compared to similar companies was multiple dollars?

A wise leader will minimize the disparity between perception and reality by accurately reporting to all constituents without overselling or underselling results.  The outcome will be a consistent level of constituent trust for the work of the organization and its leaders.

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