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Shaping Perception in the Art of Communication, Part 2

By Terri Davis, Director of Client Relations
And Tom Brennan, Senior Writer

fire juggler

Part 2: F.I.R.E.: A Hot Framework for Managing Perception

I’ve been writing about the importance of perception in communication and interactions — so important, in fact, that we should be proactive about managing that perception. This notion applies to how companies are perceived by customers, how individuals are perceived by peers, how managers are perceived by direct reports . . . almost any interaction you can think of. In my previous post I suggested that the first step is asking yourself, “how do I want to be perceived in this interaction?”

Now let’s get down to some practical tactics. In Beyond the Obvious: Killer Questions That Spark Game-Changing Innovation, Phil McKinney describes a framework for approaching innovation. I’ve had success applying it to innovating around perception management. He calls his framework F.I.R.E., which stands for focus, ideation, ranking and execution.

Light it Up

Before the interaction, try to focus to clarify three key points: (1) the issues that need to be addressed, (2) the outcomes you want to achieve, and (3) the perception you want the other person to take away from the conversation. That perception impacts where the relationship stands and how the other person judges you, your efforts, your expertise, etc.

During the interaction, ideate (don’t you love that word? Still, it is pretty close to “idiot,” so be careful!) so that you can come up with a solution that works for everyone. This might include brainstorming new product ideas, huddling with peers to share insights, interviewing a job candidate to explore goodness of fit, or other interactions. Ideate with the other person, of course, but you also need to do some internal ideation.

Stay on Your Toes

Before, during and after the conversation, rank ideas, issues and objectives to keep priorities straight. Yes, it is a lot of thinking during a conversation, but it helps to keep your eye on the prize, especially because the prize can change. For example, suppose you’re a recruiter trying to tempt a candidate with excellent benefits. If the candidate says that her hot button is not benefits but the opportunity to make an impact, then you need to re-rank.

That leads to the final tactic: during and after the interaction, execute on these tactics, adjusting as you focus, ideate and rank. If you keep pushing benefits after the candidate has told you something else is more important, she might perceive that this position is not a good fit . . . the exact opposite of your goal!

#1 Takeaway: Positive Perception

If you’ve followed the advice, every interaction should end with the other person coming away with a positive perception. Maybe they feel good about the solution the two of you came up with, or about your collaborative approach. Of course, not all interactions end in a win-win, but even if you have the unfortunate task of terminating an employee, you can shape the employee’s perception of the interaction — they may not be happy, but they can come away feeling that you treated them with respect.

A good example of the kind of situation that deserves this deliberate focus is when a recruiter, let’s call her Betty, wants to ensure not only that hiring managers (HMs) perceive Betty as a value-adding partner, but also that HMs engage as active partners in the recruitment process. DT Founder Jay Barnett recently posted a series on the importance of recruiting hiring managers as partners, and F.I.R.E is a great guideline for challenging conversations, such as convincing a HM to loosen up on requirements.

In Part 3 I’ll take on the challenge of managing perception when there are negative issues involved.

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3 Responses to “Shaping Perception in the Art of Communication, Part 2”

  1. April 01, 2013 at 6:31 am, Shaping Perception in the Art of Communication | Blog | Decision Toolbox said:

    […] my next post I’ll write about a framework for managing perception called F.I.R.E. It’ll be hot, so […]


  2. April 16, 2013 at 9:40 am, Shaping Perception in the Art of Communication, Part 3 | Blog | Decision Toolbox said:

    […] comes away with a perception of the other as well as of the relationship, the outcome and more. In Part 2 I outlined a strategy for managing perception to ensure your interactions result in the kind of […]


  3. May 22, 2014 at 10:23 am, Shaping Perception in the Art of Communication, Part 4 | DecisionToolbox said:

    […] plot so far: in Part 1 I made a case for taking a deliberate approach to shaping perception. Part 2 outlined a strategy for ensuring that, in any interaction, the other person comes away with a […]


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