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 Feature
28 April 2010 | Alim Ozcan Blog
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Which is Better, Substance or Perception?
This week Alim asks if we are turning into a nation that makes judgments based on perception, rather than substance...

The UK General Election for the next Prime Minister is hotting up and the polls are consistently showing that it will be a close call between the three main parties of Labour, Conservative and the Liberal Democrats. The 6th of May is when the public will be able to cast their vote and I am of the view that the media is differentiating between the party leaders by categorising them as either having substance or being good on the eye.

It seems that Gordon Brown is generally not perceived well by the UK electorate and he is therefore primarily opting for the substance approach. Whereas it seems that David Cameron and Nick Clegg are trying to woo the voters with their looks and mannerisms, and many have the view that their policies are not as fully developed with detailed costs.

With the ever popular shows where contestants are judged by a panel such as Britain’s Got Talent and the X Factor, it seems that we are turning into a nation of making judgements based on perception, but what happened to the saying, don’t judge a book by its cover? Is the media changing us or have we always been this way?

When it comes to working as a consultant, I think that perception plays a significant part in how the client feels or thinks about the work being delivered, so I would suggest that perception is rightfully important. However, if it transpires that there is little substance behind all of the talk, then the client will be reluctant to use the consultant again. Hence, I believe that there should be a healthy split between perception and substance, and I would also suggest that this success can be planned and managed. For example:

Perception
Regular communication
Smile, body language
Involved in social events
Listen and provide credible advice
Thinking one step ahead of the client (exceed expectations)

Substance
Statistics based on facts (avoid spin)
Estimate work accurately and deliver
Plan and mitigate risks
Deliver on Critical Success Factors
Lead by example (set high but achievable benchmark)

Furthermore, I would suggest that the above should not always be 50-50, as this will depend on the nature of the work and the client. Maybe categorising the client using a tool such as Myers Briggs would be useful. Do they have the Introvert or Extravert indicator? Do they have the Thinking or Feeling indicator? Do they have the Sensing or Intuition indicator? Or of more relevance to this blog, do they have the Judgement or Perception indicator? For more on Myers Briggs click on the link.

For your information, when I undertook the Myers Briggs survey, my assessment demonstrated that I was an ESTJ. If you have undertaken Myers Briggs, I would be interested in hearing what your Indicators are and how this benefits your work. 

Feedback and comments are always welcome! 

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