Two interesting things have happened as people have heard that I am involved in a small way in Gareth Cliff’s new venture: CliffCentral.com
- I have received a massive spike in messages, phone calls, and Facebook friend requests from people who previously didn’t give me the time of day. Fortunately, along with these, there are also those who I had lost contact with who I am pleased to have heard from and rekindled friendships with.
- And then on an ongoing basis people will impose their views of Gareth Cliff on me. In many cases these are negative and accompanied by unkind or downright disrespectful expletives.
The first point has allowed me to have a tiny taste of what life must be like for personalities and celebrities, day in and day out. It is frustrating, disappointing, and must also get rather lonely. My sympathies go out to them.
This is not the point I want to focus on in this article today though. Rather, point number two touches on a number of important leadership issues that I would like us to discuss:
“The term ‘Reality Tunnel’ refers to the concept that with a subconscious set of filters formed from beliefs and experiences, everyone interprets this same world differently. This is not necessarily meant to imply that there is no objective truth; just that our access to it is mediated through our senses, experience, conditioning, prior beliefs, and other non-objective factors. The individual world each person occupies is said to be their reality tunnel. The term can also apply to groups of people.
A parallel can be seen in the psychological concept of confirmation bias — the human tendency to notice and assign significance to observations that confirms our prior beliefs, while filtering out or rationalizing away observations that do not fit with what we believe.” (Wikipedia)
As leaders it is essential we work with facts. Processes, plans, and strategies built on positive or negative perceptions are inadequate and will fall short in addressing the real needs these were developed for. Processes, plans, and strategies built on positive AND negative perceptions, that factor in objective realities and facts, are a much surer and quicker way to succeed.
Are the views of Gareth those people shared with me based in fact? Or are they a representation of each person’s reality tunnel? I am willing to hazard that the latter is far more likely.
“Every kind of ignorance in the world all results from not realizing that our perceptions are gambles. We believe what we see and then we believe our interpretation of it, we don’t even know we are making an interpretation most of the time. We think this is reality.” Robert Anton Wilson, author, psychologist, essayist, poet, and futurist.
The Masks We Wear
A recent experience made me laugh (and reflect): Last week we had our first official “staff meeting” at CliffCentral. All the different show presenters and hosts were invited, and amongst these were some of the biggest names in the South African celebrity social scene. Following the more formal part of the evening, we were able to chat over drinks and snacks, but what we didn’t know was that we were all about to have a good laugh as each of us was expected to do a karaoke number.
The performances were completely entertaining as many of these self proclaimed attention seekers gave their all trying to impersonate, sing, and dance like Michael Jackson, The Spice Girls, Bob Marley, and many more. As the night progressed, I knew that it was getting closer to that time when I was going to have to perform, and eventually my curtain call came.
I don’t remember much from my performance of Right Said Fred’s “I’m too Sexy”, except missing a ton of lines, Leigh-Ann Mol doing some strutting, and really just having a heck of a laugh and great time.
Later I tweeted:
Thank you @GarethCliff @CliffCentralCom @WeChatZA for a great evening! Now you know: my quiet, somber manner is just a façade. #ImTooSexy
— Gareth Armstrong (@GArmstrong_SA) June 25, 2014
Why am I sharing this? A friend of mine, who was there, later remarked, having never seen me do something like that before, that it was “a sight to behold”.
And so questions come to mind: Did those people that night see the real, albeit unaccustomed, me? Did I take a mask off or did I put a mask on? Do we really know who Gareth Cliff is? Or do we see a mask? Are comments we make about who he is, or are they actually about one of the masks he must wear in order to appeal to those listening to his show?
As leaders we need to take the time to see people for who they really are, and what masks they wear when.
“Feeling close to or distant from something impacts our behavior and judgment,” says Sam Maglio, an assistant professor in UTSC’s Department of Management. “We feel more socially connected, more emotionally engaged, and more attuned to the present when something is perceived as close.”
Although the research this statement relates to is focused more on objects than it is people, our own research confirms that this is the case when dealing with relationships as well.
The smaller the barriers are to personal face to face communication, the greater the potential success of the interaction. Why? Because we reduce the opportunity for our perceptions and biases to impact the message being transmitted.
If you want to make statements about someone, please first take the time to get to know them. And this can’t be done by reading their Linkedin summary, Facebook profile, or some article on some site. It must be done with as few communication barriers present as possible.
The saying goes “you can’t trust what you don’t know”, and it serves as a constant reminder to all of us that trust is built upon knowledge and experience based understanding. Leadership in its purest form relies almost entirely upon trust and the relationships and bridges it helps develop and build. Everything that I have shared today comes back to this final point of trust being developed through the breaking down of perceptions, the ability to discern reality, and removal of barriers.
We would be wise to consider this article in two ways:
(1) where we ourselves are Gareth Cliff and need to consider how to better manage these points in our own life;
(2) we, as ourselves, realise the need to be wiser in the way we view, interact with, and, ultimately, judge others.
Let me conclude with this:
Am I saying that I know Gareth? No, I’m not. But I have got a whole lot closer than most. Is Gareth Cliff really a %$#&@? Maybe he is. But what is the real reason Gareth is a %$#&@, to you? I propose that it is the same reason you are a %$#&@, to me: because I don’t know you yet.
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