Overcoming the Power of Perception

Since I’ve started my new job, I have had many conversations with community members about the great work the Kennebec Valley Humane Society is doing to fulfill our mission “to care for, protect and place animals for adoption in lifelong homes; to prevent cruelty to animals by educating our communities in the proper and humane care of all animals.” Our vision is to end pet overpopulation and to advance the humane treatment of all animals.

Inevitably, I find myself blocked by those who don’t understand our role in the community, or those who remember the shelter that we used to be. Yes, there was a time where we euthanized for space, and yes, there was a time when we had an active crematorium, and yes, there was a time when we were difficult to adopt from– however, all of these things are no longer true.

Now, we treat and care for animals with all kinds of medical issues from hip dysplasia, upper respiratory infections (of which the leading cause of is stress, not bacteria… I had no idea), and wounds to behavioral issues such as food guarding, lack of socialization, toy aggression and more.

We are no longer simply a place to come and adopt a new family member, but we are now a place to come and learn about humane treatment of animals, breed specific behaviors, spay/neuter clinics in your community, grooming, and training for the newest addition to your family.

Currently, we are working on an education program aimed at 4th graders in the state of Maine to educate them on spaying and neutering, and why it’s important to them. This project will empower them with knowledge that we hope that they will share this message at home and with their friends.

Most importantly, we are no longer in the business of reacting to pet overpopulation. We are in the business of saving lives by educating people on how to prevent it from happening in the first place. The mindset has shifted greatly in our shelter in the past 10 years, and it is a trend for shelters around the country.

So how can you overcome the power of people’s perception of your business?

Start With Where You Are

If you really want to make a change, you have to be willing to take a real, honest step back to see where you are right now. It can be really tough to realize that there is a lot of work to be done– that maybe you aren’t as far ahead of the perception curve as you thought– but now you know, and because of that you can create a more realistic plan on how to move forward.

Decide Who You Want To Be

Now that you know where you are, plan on where you want to be. By mapping out a timeline and developing strategies to fulfill that timeline, you can start to measure how far you’ve come and how much further you have to go.

Be Patient

The thing about someone’s perception of something, whether it’s accurate or not, is that it’s developed over a long period of time, or solidified by a positive or negative experience. This means that you are not going to change it overnight, so be patient.

Be Consistent

Patience is nice, but consistency is the key to changing perception. One good experience is great, but a great experience every time is even better. If your message is jumbled, then so is the perception. Developing tactics to convey clear and consistent messaging is vital to your success.

Be Transparent

Say what you mean and mean what you say, and don’t make promises you can’t keep. People are loyal to brands that deliver what they say they will deliver. Often, we’re afraid to share the negative stuff, but acknowledging past mistakes and proving that you’ve learned from them is a great way to build trust and regain loyalty.

What are some ways that you’ve encountered the power of perception in the workplace?

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