When your title says manager, supervisor, team lead, or director, you’re a B word. Boss, that is, of course. However, those other B words employees might call you matter nearly just as much, if not more, than your official position. Whether they talk about you in frustration, or anger over a decision you’ve just delivered, or they talk about you and your bullying tactics or less than charming demeanor, the facts are what they say can hinder or help your career ambitions. Successful leaders are aware of what others say and while they may not live and die by the latest gossip, they continually work on and monitor their reputation. For your own leadership reputation, today’s Monday Moment shares five steps to manage it more effectively.
1. Begin with a Base
Your reputation is what you are known for and as the old saying goes manage your reputation or someone else will. But to do that, first assess what is important …to you. What do you value and what do you want to be known for at the office or in your position? Are you the spreadsheet guru? Are you the one who always follows through? Are you the leader who will drop all office work if one of your children calls? Are you the leader who’s on the road 24/7 killing yourself to do everything yourself and never asking for help? For good or for ill, there are actions for which you are already known. For improvement, assess what those are and determine if that is how you wish to be known in the future. Your base of operation is to start with what is important to you, your talents and your skills, and the demeanor to which you are well suited.
2. Build on Your Base
If you have become the leader known for your witty remarks and razor sharp come backs but would rather be known for your serious take on ideas and all that you could contribute in the way of innovation, then there’s work to be done. Where are all the wise cracks coming from? Are they a cover that minimizes vulnerability if no one likes your creative ideas? Work that out and get to the bottom of what’s driving the different behavior than what you want your reputation to be based on. Then consciously take actions, even small ones, that build on your base of what is important and your preference. Be consistent. Find and take opportunities to showcase the behaviors that are listed under what you want for your reputation.
3. Be More Aware of Perceptions
Whether they use bully, boss, brilliant or some other B word sentiment, listen to what others are saying about you. Find a few trusted sources with ears closer to the grapevine than yours and ask for input or feedback about the general description used when talking about you, the leader. Your goal is not to immediately change, defend or remark at all about what others have said or are thinking. Your goal is to become aware of the general perception, take note of what others already think or say about you, and then utilize that information to identify where you need to make changes. Perceptions others have can be painful and often are wildly inaccurate, but so are reputations. You don’t control your reputation entirely, you manage it. You don’t control how others interpret your actions, read your facial expressions, or even read between your lines when you thought there weren’t any. You control how you behave, how you respond, how you react, and how you align your behaviors with the way you’ve decided is important. Stay in touch with the perceptions and avoid being consumed by them. They’re informative, not definitive.
4. Be True to Your Brand
Your base line of preferred behaviors and those actions in line with your character are what make up not only your reputation, but your personal brand. Honor it and adhere to the reality that not everything and not everyone will be a fit for it. Much as you continue to buy the same brand of jeans, the same brand of pizza, or even same brand of car when you find one you really like and works for you, people build loyalty with others who embody behaviors that really work for them. You, too, are well served by sticking to your own brand. When in doubt, leave it out. When that social media post that you think is really funny and share with your spouse, is one you want to share, but feels like a risk because of the number of ways it could be misread, don’t share it. When what you’d really like to tell your team members, when they completely fail to do as you’ve asked, doesn’t line up with the reaction you’d be proud of and for which they follow you, take a breath. Ask for a moment. Stay in alignment with your brand.
5. Be Patient
This is perhaps the hardest step for ambitious, hard charging, action-oriented leaders. Much as you don’t graduate from college and walk into a six-figure management position, reputations don’t change the moment you decide you want them to be different. People perceptions are based on interpretation, then beliefs, and then habits. Those don’t change overnight and all you can really do is provide consistent influence. Be patient with the process. One blow-up moment of frustration over how long it’s taking can and will ruin months of work you’ve spent showing others your skills with being patient. It’s not worth it. Practice acceptance. Some will change. Some will see. Some will not and you’ll need to let them be. Be consistent, true to your brand, and conscious in exercising efforts and actions that are in alignment with the person you want to be known as and the type of leader that is your preference.
In the list of Top Ten 2019 Leadership tips the third tip states handle harassment with common sense. Well what if you feel being called a B word is harassment? Even if they were incessant about referring to you as BRILLIANT! Leaders and employees alike can experience harassment of one form or fashion, and boundary crossing that is hurtful. The key is to control what is at your disposal and for most of us, that is simply our own thoughts and behaviors. If you’re not happy with what they’re calling you or how they talk about you when you’re not present, then let’s get to work on your reputation. Your reputation is perhaps your most important leadership asset and remember: your reputation greets people you’ve never met long before you’re close enough to actually shake their hand.
Ready to Take the Become a Better Leader Challenge?
Each Monday Moment shares a Become a Better Leader Challenge relevant to that week’s topic. This week your challenge is create your base of operations for your reputation:
- What do you want to be known for?
- What words would you like to hear others use to describe you and your leadership behaviors?
You’re on your way and you’re ready to become that better leader by Monday.
I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week and of course, stay Contagious!
Monica Wofford, CSP develops leaders. CEO of Contagious Companies, her firm designs and delivers leadership training for those managers who’ve been promoted, but not prepared. Author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica may be reached at www.ContagiousCompanies.com, www.MonicaWofford.com or by calling 1-866-382-0121.