Life can be an interesting thing when you bring up stuff that alters their thinking on a topic or event. Last year I wrote a piece here called Whose Fault Is Perception, where I talked about a company where everyone thought this particular duty was someone else's and no one, including the person who actually was supposed to be over it, knew who was responsible for it.

vitreous floater
Jesse Draper via Compfight

Last week I wrote a post here titled Diversity In Health Care, challenging the perceptions of people in health care who believe that they don't have any issues with diversity, and even after that piece heard from a couple of people, who didn't want to comment on the blog, on how I'm stirring things up by finding problems where none exist; oh really?

All of us hate having our perceptions of what's going on challenged, right or wrong. It's the same issue many of us have with change that we don't understand. It's not comfortable when someone disagrees with us, and our first reaction is to protect our borders, if you will, and tighten our stance because we know we're right.

But are we? A couple of days ago I had that same reaction when an article I wrote for a client's blog was challenged by someone with what looked to be a pretty good pedigree. I knew that the article I wrote was correct and was ready to challenge this person head on.

That is, until I read the article again and then read his letter again, which once again bypassed the blog and came directly to, well, my client this time, who forwarded it to me. I realized that when I wrote the article I knew exactly what I was thinking, was correct in my thinking, but left out some critical words at one point in the article that totally changed the meaning to something else; oops!

I wrote the man back, thanked him for pointing out what I'd omitted, told him my position and the purpose of the article and what I knew about the subject, and sent it back to him. He wrote back understanding my point, agreeing with it, and offered one more thing that I hadn't thought about, not to correct the article but to help bring my own point home. It all worked out in the end.

See, that's how perception works sometimes. I originally saw his letter as being pompous, a know-it-all, and challenging my position when I knew my position was correct. But stepping back a beat and checking what I'd written, I realized that I hadn't said what I meant to say and that he was absolutely right, and that his letter was more helpful than I could have imagined since, when all is said and done, my client would have been the one taking the heat for an incorrect article than me, since her name is on every article I write.

Back to my stirring up problems where there aren't any. In my own way I was this man. I've worked in health care for 29 years, and I've seen a lot of things. I've worked in many hospitals and visited many others; I know what I see. I know what I hear. And I know that very few hospitals, or other businesses for that matter, take seriously the issue of diversity, even if they say they do.

It's all about perception. If they perceive that they're right, they're right, even if they're wrong. The thing about business is that it's not always about you if you're afraid or not educated enough to look beyond what you think you see and address what you really see.

Good leaders address these things before they happen, and definitely address them when they do happen. Everyone else... well, when the incident comes and the lawsuit is filed, don't say no one warned you.