Picture this. You are in the restroom of your favorite restaurant. You see someone in a chef coat walk out. Without washing their hands. It makes you have second thoughts about whether that restaurant is still your favorite, doesn't it?
That's why when I worked on hourly training manuals, we always included an instruction to wash your hands, no matter the reason you're in the restroom. Because a guest doesn't know what you're doing in there. You might just be checking to ensure toilet paper is stocked, but the perception could be that you used the restroom, didn't wash your hands and now you're going to go prepare or serve food. Yuck.
Several years ago, I eagerly prepared for my first keynote speech. It took a little while for the audience and me to get onto the same page, but we found our way and the speech turned out to be a big hit with everyone. With one exception. One person, someone I had considered a friend, was on his BlackBerry almost the whole time. His lack of participation was obvious, shocking, and painful. I called him on it afterward, and he stammered, "I've already read the book. I knew the content." It was a brand-new speech! Based on several different books! Regardless of whether he "knew the content," his teammates didn't know that! (Trust me, he was no role model of the positive behavior I was talking about in the speech.) And he was an "emerging leader" in the firm! He looked sheepish when he realized how his behavior was likely viewed by those around him, people who someday would be expected to follow his lead. He had failed to consider the perception of his actions.
Often on your phone while your child is talking to you? Consider the perception.
Consistently late for meetings with your boss? Or your team? Consider the perception.
Frequently making errors on important paperwork? Consider the perception.