Life and Lessons for and by next CEOs

Leadership, Mentor, Personal Development

How can being wrong feel so right?

Let me tell you three stories;


In Story 1; a Couple of years ago I was delivering a talk on career choice at a local school. During my time there, the student councillor told me a story of a bright young teacher who had joined their school.  She was given a hefty task, and was told that the students in her class are specially gifted children and has exceptional abilities, and that the teacher had to focus on challenging these students beyond the curriculum. She was warned that these students would challenge her greatly and that she would have to spend extra attention with each student. It was a very tough time for the teacher, but by the time these students had to complete the compulsory term exams, each of these students performed significantly above the school’s average.

In Story 2; In a large pharmaceutical organisation, my friend Chris had taken over the sales area of another sales person Jim, who was leaving the company. Chris spent a week travelling with Jim in order to get acquainted with the customers that Jim was dealing with, however time ran out and Chris was unable to get introduced to all the customers. In particular was a specific hospital, where Jim had mentioned that there was two doctors, one who frequently purchased large amounts of products, and the other with whom Jim was never able to convert to any sales. Jim advised that Chris just announce himself to the reception, as Jim had already set up an appointment and Chris was expected. Chris was left to make his own acquaintance, and on arrival, Chris announced himself as the medical sales agent for J&K, and was promptly directed to Doctor Monre’s medical suites. After spending almost 3 hours with this doctor, Chris left the hospital with enough sales to cover his entire weekly target, and since Jim had mentioned that the other doctor never took a sale, Chris decided to reschedule that appoint for another day.

In Story 3; Potential parents were asked to take part in a study to identify behavioural patterns in parents towards children. Each of the couples was given an hour respectively to interact with 2 separate children. Each child was between 10 and 12 months old. Each of the engagement rooms were stocked with exactly the same toys. The couples were only told the name of the child, and instructed to interact with the children using the toys.

The Twist

In Story 1; unbeknown to the new teacher, the school, along with the department of education and the local university decided to run an experiment. Each of these students was in fact underperforming and troubled teens. Some of them were even earmarked as potential drop-outs.

In Story 2; On return back to the office, Jim enquired on how Chris’s appointments at the hospital turned out and was astonished to hear that Chris had closed such a large sale, especially since the doctor with whom Chris had made the sale, was the doctor that Jim was never able to close any deals with, even after years of pampering him with corporate gifts and social invites.

In Story 3; What the researchers never told the parents is that each of these children had been given fake names for the study, and dressed in a sense to depict the opposite of their actual gender. The researchers found that the parents who spent time with a child that was perceived to be a boy, the couples focused on playing with toys which were perceived to be boys’ toys. e.g.: cars, tools and sports equipment. A similar pattern occurred with the couples when they interacted with a child that was perceived to be a girl; they seemed to focus of toys perceived to be biased towards girls. e.g.: dolls, pink toys, housekeeping related toys.


All three of these situations are completely unrelated; however they all teach us the same lesson about human perception and resulting behaviour and outcomes. In all three the cases the subjects were treated in a way that they were prejudged to be in, although these perceptions were totally the opposite of their true situation. In the case of the teacher and students, the situation’s outcome was in favour of the students, and in the situation of the medical rep, the benefit of success was swapped between the doctors. In the situation with the couples and the children, the immediate benefit or the risk is less obvious than the long term lasting impact that such prejudice could have on the development of a child.

What these stories further teach us is that one should always be careful to be impartial to perceptions of a person and or a situation especially when dealing with assumed facts. Approach each customer or potential customer as if you already know that they are already a long running loyal customer. Think about every interaction towards other people and attempt to shift your perception to focus on the goal and outcome.

Always approach life with the willingness to grow and learn, then will you truly give way to enlightenment.

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