People who use perception and perspective are great leaders who build great work teams

In my early 20s, I was humming along in my career, feeling great in my navy-blue skirt suits and bow-tie chiffon blouses (that’s right, it was the early 90s). I worked for an amazing leader on a team that I loved.

One day, my leader called to tell me that we had a situation: a client had complained about me. My heart was racing and my mind was spinning. I remember feeling ashamed and scared. But then my leader said, “I know this isn’t an accurate view of you. So, our goal is to understand and then change his perception.”

With those two sentences, she conveyed her support and belief in me, and she taught me that a person’s perception is not reality … and that perception can change.

I learned more about the power of perception from another leader who taught me an important lesson through his actions rather than his words. Time after time, I watched him look at things from the other person’s perspective and then give that person the benefit of the doubt. He didn’t explicitly say, “Hey, look at things from the other person’s perspective, and then give them the benefit of the doubt.” He just did it, and it was contagious! I do it today, and it has been an essential element of our team dynamic — especially because our team is geographically distributed.

Throughout this time, I’ve also been influenced by so many of my team members. My office has relics from the impact these people have had on me. Printouts of “Do it anyway” and the Irish Blessing, “The Road.” A photo with a colleague of 25 years in a frame that says, “Work Hard. Play Hard.” A small statue of an angel.

The people around me have shaped me into the leader I am today, and I am grateful to each of them. It makes me aware of the impact I have on others.

And if you’re wondering about that complaint about me early in my career — it’s one that probably hasn’t aged well. It was that I was overconfident.

My own path to leadership might have been sidelined if I didn’t have a leader who could see the situation from multiple perspectives and help me navigate to a positive outcome. I’m honored to have the chance to do the same for others.