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?”
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.
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.
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.
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