Isn’t it interesting where (and when) you will get an opportunity to learn? For me, this morning it was while having my blood drawn for my annual physical. When learning I was a professional speaker on the subject of leadership and raising the productivity of our best performers, Rita asked if I heard of Servant Leadership by James Hunter. She proceeded to dig through her cabinets, then handed me the CD series she had just listened to. I asked her what caught her attention to the subject of leadership as Rita was not in charge of the office. Her role was to serve as a phlebotomist (always loved that term), serving clients by drawing blood samples.


Rita explained that while she always got rave reviews from her clients, her co-workers were not as enthusiastic about her in-office demeanor. They found her somewhat aloof and defensive. Her next statement was one that should speak to anyone, but especially those of us who are both challenged and honored with the opportunity to serve in a leadership capacity.


“At first I was taken aback by what I thought was the fallacy in the way I was viewed. Then I decided if I wanted it to change, I was the only one who could make it happen.”


After getting feedback from her coworkers, Rita focused daily on three simple action steps that would change the way she was perceived by the team:


  • Stop nit-picking. In every office there are things that get overlooked or not done to acceptable standards. Rita decided instead of whining or being confrontational, she kept her mouth shut, and stepped up to take responsibility for what she witnessed. She became part of the solution, helping to raise standards by serving as a better teammate.
  • Change facial expressions when listening. Many times while we are absorbing information, our face stiffens. If someone is saying something we don’t agree with, our face may show more intensity that what we are feeling. This creates a belief that we are unapproachable, insensitive or uncaring. We need to listen with more than our ears. Our eyes and facial expressions are great conduits for improved communication.
  • Soften the intensity of your voice. While our passion can be a great asset to the team, the volume in our voice can be counter productive. The intensity in the way we speak can serve to shut down how receptive people are to our message, and create an image that we are spouting from a soap box rather than simply expressing our feelings on the subject. Loud volume can send a message that we are self absorbed rather than empathic to those around us.

Rita has received feedback from teammates that they see a marked difference in her. What is fascinating is Rita’s heart is the same it has always been: focused on the needs of those she serves and works with. What has changed is her effectiveness in demonstrating her tremendous heart.


How have you tried to change perception in your professional life?