February 2, 2012

The Experience of People

Tom DeLong
Attended a dinner meeting provided by the New England Society for Applied Psychology last nite. The speaker was Tom DeLong from the Harvard Business School. Tom had an energetic and interactive style of presenting which was fun, and he based his presentation on the usual HBS case-based style of teaching which centered on succession planning in a professional services firm.  

There were a number of interesting tidbits but what seemed to resonate most, were the 3 questions he posed as being most relevant for people like us who work with high-achieving professionals:
  1. How do people experience you;
  2. How do you experience people; and (most importantly)
  3. How do people experience themselves when they are with you.

Question 3 is indeed the most intriguing and the one less frequently asked.  My interpretation is this:  when people are with you, how do they feel about themselves? What exactly is the experience like for them?  What is the mood in the room? 

Do they feel energized, enthusiastic, authentic, inspired? Do they feel good about themselves in your presence? Or, do they feel intimidated, small, diminished in statue, next to your grand presence? Do they feel hesitant, unsure, stifled, limited?

This is actually quite a serious question.  We often think about how we come across to others, especially in the age of 360s and how our behavior impacts others. But this question is slightly different, it is getting to a deeper level. It is looking at what happens in the moment when we are with others---and how does that experience, or dynamic, impact how others feel, think and behave.

This is especially relevant for those in management positions. Like it or not, managers have power over their employees: the power to hire and fire. This is true at all levels of an organization. Therefore, as a manager you have the opportunity to impact how other people experience themselves. It starts by understanding more about yourself and your own behavior "in the moment".


  1. Tom's presentation was indeed thought-provoking and offered significant insights about the high-achiever. With much emphasis placed these days on "perception", your last sentaence is truly relevant.


    1. Good point, Angie. Its true that perception is important in organizations and 360s do a good job of getting people information on how they are perceived by others. But it is only a part of the picture, isn't it? Thanks for commenting.-Betty