Alex had been working for a large financial institution for three years as a human resources consultant. This was her first position after completing her Masters and she was determined to be a rising star. Everything was going well until the day her manager gave her some very devastating feedback during a meeting. “My manager explained that I was being perceived as high maintenance by the senior HR team and business leaders we support. It was the last thing I expected and not the brand I wanted to convey.” Alex’s manager explained that she was very pleased with her quality of work, attitude, critical thinking, decision-making and project coordination. The feedback and perception of high maintenance came from the simple fact that when she was given a project by senior managers in her client group, Alex would constantly check in with the managers, asking questions, probing for additional detail on what to do and how to do it. The result was that she was perceived as a person who could not make decisions on her own, needed a large amount of hand holding, and was not confident in her abilities to manage the project. One manager explained that for the amount of time she spent guiding Alex, giving her feedback on every little decision, and answering daily questions, she could have handled the project on her own more efficiently. Alex was also told by her manager that one individual said she would not use Alex again as it was too much work to have her manage a project.
Alex thought that by being this detailed, asking questions and checking in with the managers daily she was being diligent. Alex worked with her manager to shift how people perceived her and changed her approach to managing projects. She was now on her way to again being regarded as a “high potential” employee at her company.
Two things took place to ensure Alex was able to get back on track: a) Alex had a manager that was willing to give her honest feedback and, b) Alex was open and willing to take the feedback and apply the necessary action plan to improve her brand.
The following are things that are crucial to the success of your brand/reputation regardless of the level of position or the type of profession you choose:
- Credentials. This is what is on your resume. It's your educational and background experience. You can strategically build your credentials to prepare you for opportunities. Credentials are also about your skills and competencies. Do people perceive you as having the right skills to do what you’re doing?
- Track Record - Your record of past successes contributes to your credibility. Ask yourself, are you seen as a good risk? Remember that not everyone will be familiar with your track record, especially as you move within a company or pursue a position with a new company. Look for opportunities to make your wins more visible to your audience. Do you have a reputation for following through on assignments?
- Authenticity - This is about congruence between what you say and what you do, speaking truthfully, accepting failure, apologizing when mistakes are made, and behaving ethically. People respond to authenticity in others with more openness because they know what they can expect from them, and know they can trust them.
- Demonstrate Respect - Hear others’ perspectives. Really listen and adapt based on what you hear.
- Trust - Be credible to others, you need to be seen as trustworthy. There are different levels of trust: trust that you will do your job effectively; trust that you will not mislead me; trust that your motives are genuine; trust that you will not hurt me. Trust is an outcome of authenticity.
- Relationships - People are more receptive to those they like and with whom they have a relationship. As you move within an organization, your relationships with your colleagues and peers become increasingly important, as more and more of your work is done through people rather than as an individual contributor. The more relationships you can build within your organization, the more likely it is that you will have people who are willing or open to helping you achieve your ideas. Additionally, the more likely it is that you will know the people who are sitting across the table from you on the cross-functional team or committee. And knowing your audience goes a long way when it comes to influencing others.