As a leader or manager you are in a position where you have more impact than most. While your intention will always be for that impact to be positive, sometimes it’s affected by factors you may not be aware of. Your reputation for example.
If you have a reputation for being strong or principled, then chances are your words and your directions will have more impact than someone with a reputation for not walking the talk. Where there’s a misalignment, problems will arise. They may be small or they may be not so small but they will be problems nevertheless.
In our work lately we’ve come across a number of situations where there was a misalignment between how managers perceive themselves vs how others perceive them. Almost always this creates friction within the team. This comes to light through a number of 360 degree feedback or profiling tools that we use such as the MBTI, LSI/OCI and others.
While those tools are great for a formal process, it isn’t always necessary to go to those lengths to see if there is a misalignment between your desired reputation and the ‘real’ reputation you have. Following is an outline of an informal feedback process you can initiate so you can use for a reputation pulse check.
You might use if you are seeking a promotion (or have missed out on one), if you are transitioning to another role or organisation, or just as part of your general career management process. We discussed the tips on this podcast episode here or you can read about them below.
Before we do, keep in mind that seeking feedback can be a challenging process but don’t let that stop you from doing so. You will be asking people for professional judgments rather than personal opinions so treat it as such and you will arm yourself with powerful information that will enhance your career.
Step 1 - The Set Up
You’re going to need some help with this. In order for the feedback to be as honest as possible, you’re going to need to have a third party help you out. They will be receiving and collating the feedback before you receive it.
You could ask someone in the HR department, or it could be a coach or mentor from within the organisation, or it could be a colleague. Choose someone that the people you are getting feedback from will trust that they can keep confidence.
When approaching the third party, make it clear what you are asking from them. To be an impartial collector of information and to present it in a way that will help you assess your reputation.
Step 2 - Identify Your Participants
We suggest no more than 5 people. Any more than that and it becomes a cumbersome project to manage. You are after a 360 degree view so don’t just go to staff that report directly to you. Go upline and go lateral. Select a manager, a colleague, a stakeholder and a team member and perhaps one other that you would like to participate.
Step 3 - Approach Your Participants
Approach the participants you’ve selected individually, either via email or through a conversation. Let them know you’re doing a self-review to see how you are perceived by others and would like them to answer 5 quick questions that will help you assess your current reputation. Let them know that you respect their opinion and the feedback will be anonymous and via a third party so they can be as honest as possible in their assessment.
“I’m really interested in getting some feedback on how I’m perceived by others as part of a self-review I’m doing. I respect your opinion and would like for you to contribute. The feedback will come through a third party to ensure confidentiality and it will take five minutes at the most to complete. Is that something you could help me with?”
Step 4 - Identify Your Questions
We’ve trialled a few over the years and here are the ones that we think work best.
- What do you see as [subject’s name]’s strengths? - Get’s things started on a positive note.
- What would you say are [subject’s name]’s biggest development opportunities? (e.g. leadership skills, communication…?) - Gives something concrete to work towards.
- If you were to give [subject name] one piece of advice, what would that be? - A chance to find out what’s most important.
- Which, if any, aspect of [subject name]’s style concerns you most? - A chance for some frank feedback (if it’s necessary).
- What is [subject name] most known for (this can be positive or negative)? - This is the essence of your reputation. An opportunity to find out what people are thinking and/or saying about you.
Once done, either send the questions to the participant or have your support person do that for you.
Steps 5 - Aggregate The Feedback
Have your third party support person combine all the responses and collate the feedback. We recommend asking them to mix the order of the feedback and remove any nicknames or phrases that might indicate who an answer came from. The goal is to know what people think rather than who thinks it.
Step 6 - Return The Feedback
Have your support person send you the aggregated feedback.
Step 7 - Review The Feedback
The moment of truth! At this step it might be helpful to have someone run through this with you, to help you interpret and reflect on the results. It could be the same person who collated the feedback for you or your coach, mentor, manager or someone from HR.
Step 8 - Form Some Goals
Now that you have a sense of what your reputation is and what you are known for, you can form some goals to either change that perception or to enhance it in the view of your peers. It may mean that you need some training or coaching in a particular area. You may decide to change your style a little or make more effort to be approachable by your team. Or it may simply mean that you continue to do what you are doing but do it more or more often.
Where To Next?
If you’d like more reading on this you might like to take a look at 10 Tips To Invigorate Your Career In Your Organisation or 4 Simple Steps to Create a High Performing Career. And of course if there are any questions arising, we’d love to hear them. Email us directly.
Know your impact & know your reputation to manage your leadership & management career #leadership #management