Different perceptions come from different experiences, even in business

Last Saturday, my older brother, Joe and his friend, Sue, were vacationing near Crossville, Tennessee, when they decided to try and find the Benedict homeplace where my grandmother lived and my mom grew up. Family lore suggests it was built by my grandfather.

Joe tracked the location by his memory of the construction of the new US 70 road in the 1960s. As boys, during one trip we heard the roar of the machinery only about a thousand feet or so behind grandmother’s house and rushed to see the large earth moving equipment. The following day we returned and the equipment was idle so we explored the excavated area and found a number of yellow, red, and black plastic covered wires. We were lucky none were attached to live blasting caps.

Once Joe located the old roadcut of US 70, he backtracked and found the old homestead. Since Joe is a cartographer, he is good at using a map to get to where he wants to go. The picture he sent me brought back memories from over fifty years ago.

A low block retaining wall framed the front yard where large oaks under which we played as kids still commanded the view. Between the retaining wall and the road, we remember building toad houses with our bare feet in the damp sand. Gray siding now covered the original clapboard but it looked much as I remembered it.

Joe approached the present owners and when he asked if Nora Benedict once lived here, they quickly replied, “Yes, this is the Old Benedict Place!” When grandmother lived there, water was drawn by a metal cylinder also called a sand bucket from an open well in the back porch. Heating was from a Warm Morning wood stove while cooking was done with a wood-burning kitchen stove.

A single window peaked out from under the roof where we children slept in a partially finished attic during visits. My older sister, Sylvia, who was born in the house, remembers a privet hedge planted to obscure the view of the new neighbors who fed a number of cats on their back porch steps, which disturbed mom and grandmother. The smell of honeysuckle intertwined in that hedge still brings pleasant memories back to my sister.

Being third in the line-up of our family, I remember most of the above stories Sylvia and Joe told. However, given our age differences, we each have a slightly modified memory of grandmother’s place. Sylvia, the oldest, has the most accurate memories. Joe’s remembrances are probably more accurate than mine. However, all of our memories are accurate to us.

In organizations, leaders should understand that after any communication event, people walk away with different perceptions. This differing perception is unavoidable because of our unique field of experience. The answer to solidify understanding is repetition of the message and open dialogue between levels of the organization. Aligning understanding of any event takes time but is critical to the formation of an effective culture and focus on the business needs.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s completely revised, third printing of, “The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success,” visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.