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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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Published on March 20, 2019

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

What is a Mission Statement?

Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

“Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

  • What we do?
  • How we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

After all, that did check off all the boxes:

What we do? Provide widgets.

How we do it? Online.

Who do we do it for? The consumer.

What value we bring? The best widgets.

The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

Compare that mission statement to this one:

“We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

What’s the difference?

Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

1. Keep It Brief

Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

2. Have a Purpose

A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

3. Include a “How”

Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

7. Think Long Term

A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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8. Get Feedback

This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

Strategic Planning

A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

Measuring Performance

By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

To Hold Management Accountable

By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

To Serve as an Example

This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

Final Thoughts

Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

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Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
[2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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