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7 Ways to Improve Your Reputation as a Leader

7 Ways to Improve Your Reputation as a Leader

Your leadership reputation is critical to your success and the success of your venture. Your reputation is the overall quality or character as seen or judged by people in general. It is the recognition by other people of some characteristic or ability in you. It’s not what you think it is. Or should be.

For example, “She’ll always have my back.” Or “She’s only out for herself first.” Or, “What a jerk!”

These may not be nice things to say, socially appropriate, or politically correct. But they are what people say. And they are saying it about you. Quietly in their minds…over coffee with a colleague…and particularly after a couple of glasses of wine.

I met a leader the other day who bristled when I used the word “reputation” to describe how people may seen her in her workplace. She didn’t understand her power as it relates to her reputation.

Your reputation is what others unconsciously expect from you…before you walk in the room. And leaders have powerful reputations.

The most salient reason why leaders’ reputations are so powerful is because they have power over peoples’ lives.

Leaders control the rewards people get. They have control over unpleasant things in their peoples’ lives like a bad shift, a transfer, or even whether they remain with the organization. And they often control the salary people receive that pays their rent and feeds their families.

As Marshall Goldsmith says, “Amid all your list-making, organizing, and planning your next move, when was the last time you sat down and thought about your reputation?”

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Probably never. It’s not something we naturally do.

But it can be a very powerful thing to do.

You see it’s powerful because it helps you reduce blind spots in your leadership. And blind spots can be a killer.

You are creating the culture of your business or the group you work with from the moment you step into it. A simple but practical definition of culture that I like is “how we get things done.”

Not what’s in the policy book or the SOP guide. But how we get things done.

And so, let’s touch upon my previous examples.

  • If our fictitious leader’s reputation is: “She’ll always have my back,” then what do you think her people will do for her? They will have her back. They will go beyond the normal job description for her. In our business jargon these days we might say that she’ll likely have engaged employees.
  • But if the fictitious leader’s reputation is “She always looks out for herself first,” then it’s likely people will see her as a bit of dangerous ground. They won’t trust her. And it will be very hard for her to achieve her goals.

The danger is not knowing what your reputation is.

Working in the dark, so to speak.

You can’t control what people think about you but you can influence it. And your influence is determined by your actions. Your character as some would call it.

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But for you to change your reputation, if it needs changing, then you first need to be aware of it.

Bob Anderson and Bill Adams, authors of Mastering Leadership, say that leaders need to keep their promises, set the right strategic direction, keep the organization on track, execute efficiently, and to effectively lead the organization to produce results that sustain the business. And depending on where you sit within the organization you may be expected to set a vision that captures people’s imagination and provides inspiration, to engage employees in meaningful work, and, of course, model how people are treated and valued.

That’s a lot. And that is why leading is difficult.

But to meet these demands, leaders must increase both their competence and consciousness. This means being committed to their own personal development as well as being committed to developing the people they serve.

And one way to improve is to increase your awareness of the reputation you are creating around you.

As part of my work, I do executive coaching with leaders and I always use some form of assessment to help the leader increase their consciousness or awareness about themselves. How they are showing up in the workplace; not how they think they are showing up, but how others see them showing up.

And this, as you can imagine, can be quite complex.

The leader and I use this assessment to shine a light on their blind spots so that we can peer in. And that gives the leader the power to make a shift.

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If we don’t know what people are saying about us, we have no opportunity to change our behavior to influence our reputation

And feedback can help a leader increase their awareness of their reputation.

You can’t control what people think about you but you can influence it. And your influence is determined by your actions. What you say and do.

As Dan Rockwell says, “Good reputations are earned slowly and lost quickly. One major blunder outweighs many contributions.”

Here are the seven things you can do to help you with your reputation.

1. Find out what your reputation is. Ask people whom you trust. Send out a survey so people can answer anonymously. Get a colleague to ask around for you. Look for the truth.

2. Be thoughtful about what you want your reputation to be. Ask yourself, “How do I want to show up at work?” And then ask yourself why.

3. Find out what you are doing well to build a strong reputation and then deepen your strengths in what you do well. Your strengths will serve you well.

4. Find out what is holding you back. This is often based in some assumption we make about life and how to get things done. As a young guy, I carried the mistaken assumption that I needed to be liked. That was my number one goal. And wow was I wrong! It held me back in my career and inhibited me from getting good results. Thank goodness I’ve let that go.

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5. Now pick one way that you can let go of what’s holding you back. Something that will be big and powerful.

6. Get some accountability in your life around the changes you want to make. From both the strengthening side and the modifying side. If you don’t engage some accountability it won’t happen. I guess I shouldn’t say never but the odds are stacked strongly against you. Often I, as an executive coach, play the role of accountability partner with a leader. But it can be done in lots of other ways.

Declare what you are working on to others. Your boss, your peers, the people who report to you, your friends, and your family. Ask them what you could do immediately to make a difference. Thank them. Don’t get defensive.

7. Finally, assign a time in your schedule once a week for you to reflect on how you are doing. Leave the office or wherever you work. Go and sit by yourself in a coffee shop or go for a walk. Think about what you’ve set for your reputation goals, what you have done this week to achieve them, and what you’ve let slip. Trust me. Something will slip. We are human. And you are busy. Then recommit for the next week.

Almost everybody is a little nervous about getting some feedback about themselves. I was.

But it can be one of the most powerful tools to help you be a better leader and therefore have success in whatever is important to you.

I laughed when I saw an article the other day that referenced gaining and losing a reputation. I chuckled because you never lose a reputation. You change a reputation. For the better or worse.

And while you have different circumstances to deal with that significantly influence the successes of your ventures, only you control your reputation and the power it has on your leadership and its influence on the success of your work.

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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