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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 January 14, 2019

The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

Regardless of whether you hold an entry-level administration role or regularly travel to the ends of the Earth as a hot-shot senior executive, you can still find yourself harboring an emptiness… a feeling that something is missing. A popular assumption that experiencing job satisfaction and a successful career should be underpinned by a well-rounded suite of tangible benefits, no longer holds true for many of us.

We’d never deny health care benefits, appropriate and fair remuneration, bonuses and travel perks in a job package. However, even if served to us on a silver platter, those features can only satiate us to a certain point.

You might wonder what governs entrepreneurs and start-up business owners to quit their lucrative jobs, essentially look the gift horse in the mouth and kiss such benefits goodbye! There can be an irresistible pull to mastermind a business with products and/or services that serve the greater good of community wider than that constituting their daily existence.

Even with research showing entrepreneurship to pose greater threats to their mental and physical health, this unique breed of individuals choose to go against the grain in chasing their dreams of being their own boss. Why? Why would anyone risk this type of career suicide?

Whether you’re an employee, have recently taken the leap to being a business owner or been in business for a while, the commonality is a congenital condition we all share as human beings; to feel a sense of purpose, value and contribution to our community. Despite it being harder to find this for ourselves in today’s world, these approaches will help you achieve ultimate satisfaction through the twists, turns and joyrides that are essential features of shaping a successful career.

1. Search for Opportunities That Feed Your Passion, Not Temporary Excitement

Even though well-intended, the ‘feel good now’ compass that career coaches and consultants often recommend you use to create career satisfaction can actually do you more harm than good. Excitement is transient. It doesn’t last. Passion is the compass you need.

Passion and excitement are two different things. The resounding career legacy that still draws you to turn up on the job regardless of the sunshine or storm that awaits you…that’s passion. It’s like a mental and/or emotional itch you can’t shrug off. Staying attuned to that calling will breed success for you sooner or later. Patience is key.

You’re also likely to have more than one key passion. Beware of getting caught in the notion you have to find your one true purpose. In fact, run immediately from any coach who tells you there is only one. There isn’t.

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Your passion is a journey that can take multiple forms so forget thinking there is the single dream job out there that will give you satisfaction in every way you can imagine. It simply doesn’t exist.

Consider embracing different roles and projects to help you fuel your passion or fuel your pursuits in finding it. Job satisfaction and your career success will be all the more sweeter from a wider range of enriching experiences.

2. Don’t Position Job and Career Satisfaction Assessments as Pivotal Guides to Your Success

Despite their popular use for vocational guidance, assessment tools such as Gallup’s Clifton Strengths and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator have come under fire[1] as being limited to the amount of true value and direction they can offer partakers.[2] These and many other guidance assessment tools (e.g. VIA Character Strengths , DISC ) are self-report questionnaires that don’t have normative population data against which to compare your results.

Simply remember these tools help you develop a stronger sense of what you identify as strengths and weaknesses within yourself, not in comparison with other people. They will still add insight around what sorts of career opportunities, tasks and projects are going to light your fire, what ones are going to extinguish it and what will prod and keep the coals steadily smoldering.

3. Be Clear on Your Personal Values, Ethics and Principles and Choose Relationships That Support You Honoring Them

Teamwork, collaboration, open communication and trust are commonplace for any flourishing work environment. However, whether or not your personal values can be honored in your work can make or break your job satisfaction.

How committed do you want to be to an organization that expects an average of 10 unpaid overtime hours every week under the guise of ‘reasonable overtime’? Are you willing to accept their construing this expectation as ‘strong commitment’ at the expense of your partner and children waiting at home for you? What are your boundaries concerning when you clock on to their time and when you clock off to yours?

Being very in tune with what your personal values, principles and ethics are will bid you well in the job satisfaction stakes. Spending time to reflect on experiences and working relationships you’ve had – the good, the bad and the ugly – will help you make well-informed searches and grounded decisions that will propel your career success.

Finding and nurturing relationships with associates and colleagues who share similar values doesn’t just make your day-to-day pursuits more enjoyable. You become fortunate to work with like-minded people who will support, understand and appreciate you like a second family.

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Being able to honor your personal values in your work means you will still be able to sleep at night when you have to tread where others fear to, and make extremely difficult decisions others would never ever dream of having to make as you forge success in your career.

4. Be Clear on Your Own Definition of What Having a Successful Career Means for You

It’s tempting to get caught up in the ideals and projections of success expressed by those we love, admire and respect. Underneath, we all want on some level to belong to a successful club of some sort.

With research reporting how much money we feel we need to be truly happy,[3] many of us try to subscribe to the notion that having the car of our dreams or taking a European holiday annually will not bring us happiness. The truth, however, for many of us is these tangible rewards are congratulatory reminders of our persistent efforts to chase our career pursuits.

If those are things you aspire to, don’t let anyone steal your desire and want to feel deserving of these things, that those are some parameters by which you define your career success.

Despite consistently being the top revenue earner for two years running, you may not wish to become the sales manager. You may not wish to step out into running your own business even though you consistently excel as an employee, delighting clients and repeatedly receiving glowing testimonials.

Your definition of career success might be enjoying the predictability of a regular workplace routine. You get to leave – without feeling guilty – at the same time each day, love the people you work with and get to spend a good, uninterrupted amount of work-stress free quality time with your family. That picture is also blissful job satisfaction and complete career success.

5. Identify the Sorts of Challenges and Problems You Want to Learn to Overcome

Standard advice you might receive from a career coach might be to look for opportunities where you get to capitalize on exercising your strengths and career-related activities you enjoy.

However, to become a success at anything involves improvement. To excel at anything often involves stepping outside boundaries and comfort zones where others wouldn’t. This means dedicating focus and attention to things you’re not so good at and things you don’t like.

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Here’s where working with a coach can be particularly helpful. Map out the experiences that were unsavory in your working history. Were there challenges you opted out of, projects you failed at or toxic relationships that blasted your sense of purpose and self-worth into oblivion? It’s within these experiences that you might just find the most valuable lessons and guiding lights for your trajectory to achieve greater job satisfaction.

If your natural leadership style is to be a collaborator, finding opportunities that require you to apply a more dictatorial style might be needed. Discussing a secondment or short-term project where you get to develop and test your skills can be a step further in earning contention to lead a larger project down the track.

With several of the company’s boldest personality types penciled to roll out the operation, you’ll not only develop skills that earn your right to throw your hat in the ring; those key players have an opportunity to see your competence. You can then work on building relationships with those stakeholders before you need to hit the ground running should you win the lead.

Greater job satisfaction comes with planning and choosing the lessons and opportunities you want to learn, not desperately flailing, floundering and hoping for the best.

6. Keep Reviewing Your Goal Posts and Be Amenable to Change

The word ‘career’ is indicative of a longer-term pathway of change, growth and development. The journey is dynamic.

You will accumulate new skills and let those you no longer need, become rusty. Your intrigue will be stimulated by new experiences, knowledge and people you meet. Your thinking will continue to expand, not shrink. As a result, your goalposts are likely to change.

A major part of enjoying a successful career is not just setting goals effectively, but regularly reviewing and readjusting them where necessary. However, moving the posts or the target still needs to take place by applying the same processes by which you originally created them. The strength of your emotional connection to those revised goals needs to be the same, if not stronger.

By asking yourself the following questions, you can assure your developmental and growth trajectory is still on course:

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  • Would working toward these goals still allow me to honor my personal values, principles and ethics at the same capacity if not greater?
  • Do the activities I need to undertake to meet these goals honor my highest priorities?
  • Does this feel right for me and those who are nearest and dearest to me?
  • Is this aligned with my passion?
  • Is chasing this goal a right step for me to take now or is this a detour or distraction which could delay my greater plan?

Each of your career goals should have different review periods. Whatever you do, stick to the review schedule you set. It will not only keep you focused but help you see your progress (or lack thereof) and allow you to timely re-chart your course before you get too far down the track. You don’t want to waste time haphazardly heading in the wrong direction.

7. Be Prepared to Let Go

It can be unfathomable to us as to why others risk leaping into the unknown when everything truly appears fine and dandy in the career realm. The company provided stability, recognition, financial success, interesting projects and the promise of a promotion…what was wrong? Why now jump sideways to run a café or train in another field altogether?

Nothing may have been wrong at all. It was all going right. It was just the end of a chapter. Perhaps the yearning for the next step is actually taking a different trajectory entirely. You may want to simply experience a different rhythm. Perhaps it’s time to pursue a different passion.

If you have leaped from employee-land to freelancing or have made the reverse-jump (or you know someone who has), you will have quickly grown a different appreciation for pros and cons each work lifestyle brings. Working for yourself can bring the greater realization of your creativity, whether or not it can be monetized to earn you a living.

When your customers are buying you or a product you designed and fashioned, there is a direct level of appreciation and gratitude that can elevate your confidence in the way you have never experienced as an employee, regardless of your rank.

Similarly, there are times where we need to recognize our business ventures were adventures, not long-term life-changing empires. There are times we need to recognize that time is what provides the clearest limitation of how long we persist for in such pursuits.

We have to recognize the absence of enough financial, mental, emotional and physical breadcrumbs that tells us we’re no longer meant to push in that direction. At least, not for the present time.

The Bottom Line

Above all, keep the momentum. As long as you remain committed to pursuing work opportunities that allow you to honor your highest priorities, the truth of who you are and what you stand for, achieving ultimate job satisfaction and a successful career will never be too far away.

More Resources to Help Advance Your Career

Featured photo credit: Csaba Balazs via unsplash.com

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