We have worked with and coached many executives. The most common derailing factors (weaknesses or issues that have the potential to derail your career) are those related to style, personality, and communications. In other words, some execs are not easy to work with! You do not want to be the person that causes people to cringe when they hear they need to work with you.
Seriously, you have a reputation, but do you have the self-awareness to know what it is? Everyone else knows, and you don’t want to be the last one to know what’s getting in the way of your ability to optimize impact and results.
Many leaders suffer from poor or inaccurate knowledge of how their managers view their performance – their reputation. Unfortunately, this is a common problem that gets in the way of a leader’s ability to be successful. When you are unaware or unclear about current performance levels, it is more difficult for you to set appropriate goals and targets. Efforts for improvement need to begin with a benchmark and include a plan for transitioning from today’s reality to tomorrow’s goals. Leaders can have a significant impact improving their results when they understand:
- How their managers would evaluate their performance
- The reputation they have in their organization
- How well their teams are meeting goals and producing results
- How the organization perceives their team’s contributions and effectiveness
- Whether or not they are perceived as being good or easy with which to work.
It is critical that you know how your superiors, peers, and employees view your performance and managerial/leadership style. By establishing the right benchmark, or starting point, improvement plans will be more realistic and operational. The most successful leaders have good self-awareness and know how to keep their ears to the ground to listen for valuable information about how they and their teams are doing. The journey from good to great, or great to greater, is paved with well-planned initiatives and improvement efforts.
Leaders must understand the reputation they have in their organization, be it positive, or disappointing. Peers, managers, and team members respond differently to each manager based on past results and how that manager has reacted in good times and bad. The quality of relationships plays a big part in determining a manager’s reputation. Leaders with poor reputations will find it harder to garner support for initiatives and will likely not receive full and helpful collaborative efforts from others. When people say that a leader has a good reputation, they are saying that he or she:
- Can be trusted — Leaders are perceived as trustworthy when their words and actions are consistent.
- Does what he or she promises — Keeping promises means doing what was agreed to, whether the agreement was spoken, written, or implied.
- Produces good results — Leaders who pull their weight and add value to the company are respected and appreciated.
- Is pleasurable or easy to work with — Leaders that other staff members like to work with will be perceived more favorably.
- Is knowledgeable and creative in their chosen field — Leaders and peers acknowledge and appreciate professionals who know their stuff.
- Is an asset to the company.
When a leader has a bad reputation, people think that he or she:
- Cannot be trusted — Perhaps he or she has abused confidences or burned someone in the past?
- Does not follow through on commitments — Has he or she let people down?
- Does not get the job done when others do — Are his or her results disappointing?
- Is in some way difficult to work with — Not a team player?
- Does not have the right skills or aptitude — Does he or she lack creativity or technical expertise?
- Is not an important contributor — Does he or she make a difference?
Leaders can use one or more of the following three approaches to discover their reputation. The first, and easiest, approach is to ask. This method will work in environments where honest and open feedback is available. Leaders should also try the second approach, which is observation, particularly if the first approach does not yield full or truthful information. Many peers, managers, and team members will not feel comfortable being candid with their thoughts. If the first two approaches fail to provide you with the necessary information, then try the third approach, which is to use an objective third party. Leaders who need to use the third approach will often have a reputation that makes people reluctant and guarded with their feedback. Leaders should be aware that it is going to be harder to get useful and helpful feedback as they progress up the ladder in their organization. This is unfortunate, because everyone needs good feedback to perform up to his or her best.
We’ve helped many leaders discover and improve their reputations, so let us know if you have questions about any of the three techniques for improving self-awareness. Leadership is a social act and your success is contingent upon the relationships you build and keep.