I remember when I made a conscious effort to shift my behavior so that it made a difference to my professional presence. As a matter of fact, I made several changes in the way I dressed, the way I showed up on time, and how I waited for others to contribute their opinions before I jumped in. These were subtle changes. But I thought, together they made a positive difference in how I was showing up, based on feedback I had received from trusted colleagues. But, no one noticed. I kept getting the same feedback. Why does this happen?
One’s professional reputation is based on consistent behavior. If you make a change once or in front of one type of audience, this will not make a change in the eyes of others. It must happen consistently – with every audience – in order to be considered a change that makes a difference in perceptions about you. The other factor in changing a reputation is how we all tend to put others in a box with their name on it. It makes people more comfortable to predict and deal with. I put Julie in the “Julie Box” with: “Oh, I know that Julie is always 5 minutes late, so I’ll adjust my expectations.” Or with “Heather’s Box” I say: “I better give Heather a heads up on this news since she always panics.” It works the other way with positive perceptions, too: “Gillian is brilliant with numbers. I’ll run it by her first.” However, even when there is a noticeable change, unless it happens consistently, it doesn’t change the nature of others’ box for you. They will keep waiting to see their picture of you verified and focus on that all the time.
I learned a great technique for changing others’ perceptions so they notice the changes you make. My friend, Marshall Goldsmith, shared it with me years ago and it is a very reliable series of steps. He talks about it in his recent article: You’ve changed, why didn’t they notice?
Take these 4 steps:
1. Approach each of your colleagues (in person, preferably) to let them know you are making some shifts, and specifically what behaviors they can look for.
2. Ask them for assistance in supporting your plan by giving you occasional feedback. This enlists their support and ensures they will pay attention to your behavior changes.
3. Be sure to follow through on the declared changes in behavior – consistently.
4. Check in with stakeholders informally about once a month to get their feedback. This ensures they will be noticing your changes and you will get credit for them, even when you fall down occasionally.
I did this and in only 2 months I was getting positive credit for the shifts I made in my behavior. My professional presence took a positive turn and my colleagues felt honored to be part of my “developmental network.” Try this and please let me know how it goes!
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