Written by: Subir Palit
About the author: Business leader | Motivational Speaker | Former COO, CMO | Current Country Head – Greenply Industries. He has over three decades of experience in marketing in consumer electronics and building materials industry
“I don’t care what others think about me, I just want to get on with doing a good job only”, well good job and hard work surely matters and there is nothing wrong to have such attitude, but such attitude may not be enough for achieving the desired career goals. Personal branding has a key role to play in the development and advancing of one’s career. Creating yourself as a brand at work can often be the deciding factor for a successful career.
At work, one is not judged only on what one does but also how he does it and hence other people perceptions and evaluations play a major role in one’s career.
Positive perceptions matter a lot for success at work. If your boss and co-workers have a negative image of you, it’s almost certain that the chances for you to climb up the ladder will be slim and surely will be delayed. That’s why it is so important to take charge of the way you are perceived in your organization.
These days careers at workplace mostly are not managed by organisation’s but are directed by individuals themselves.
Perception management at work is all about creating an impression through conscious activities and awareness of your audience both internal and external and the impact you have on them. It’s all about adapting to the changes as and when required to adjust and improve your communication style and fine tune your values with the target audience without trying to manipulate or mislead them.
One needs to be very careful as trying to build a reputation by misrepresentation or misleading your audience, lying to them or through insidious means are always short lived and can-do irreparable damage to one’s reputation and image.
In the last three decades of my work experience I have come across cases where individuals were viewed and rated by their immediate superiors much more and higher than their achievements or actual contributions.
I have seen very often that the perceptions of people around the individual about the individual’s capabilities are extremely important and sometimes even more than the actual capabilities. Of course, this does not mean that a complete failure can still be packaged and sold as success. What this means is that along with achieving something, we must ensure that the environment perceives us as achievers & a future star. The bottom line here is that it is just not enough for us to reach milestones and targets. We have to ensure that the message is communicated and received appropriately.
Organisations spend huge amounts on sales promotions, advertising, and PR to change perceptions of a brand and create differentiation to influence customers and people who matter. Similarly, one at an individual level needs to develop skills and determine a strategy to influence perceptions.
People who know how to influence other’s perceptions have much better chance of success. However, to understand how others view you, you need to have an accurate understanding of yourself. You need to identify your personal brand assets which you already possess like your skills and credentials, your passions and interest, what are your most important core values, what do you stand for, what do you stand against, what do you believe in. Building self-awareness requires courage and commitment.
Before embarking on any perception management action plan be clear what your goals are. Focus on the do’s and don’ts.
A few simple and conscious steps/ habits which may help can be -:
- Associate with people who are respected by others in the company. Be in company of bright guys. Be positive.
- Be on the lookout for opportunities to participate in new initiatives and projects that will get you more visibility within the organization. Find out which projects are considered important by upper management and try to get involved in them. Raise your hands and don’t be afraid to ask for opportunities to show your skills and talents. Trying to be nice and with an attitude of trying to please one and all in the workplace isn’t going to take you ahead, actually strong, clear ideas will, such as participating in or taking charge of initiatives directly tied to organisation’s business goals.
- Avoid behaviour that provoke a negative response.
- Encourage feedback from people you value, without making demands. Spend quality time alone for self-evaluation. Think two levels ahead in your career. Once you have that image in mind, start dressing for it and taking on projects that will lead to that role.
- Be a keen observer and learn to interpret your colleagues verbal and nonverbal signals. Try to comprehend what is unsaid during the interactions.
- Focus on your body language. It is key to your self-image and how others perceive you. A small grin, the right handshake and appropriate eye contact can go a long way. Therefore, make sure that your body language is confident, relaxed and warm.
- Engage and be engaging. Don’t try too hard to wow or impress with your knowledge instead try to create a conversation and listen to what your audience have to say also. Be a good listener. People love to talk about themselves and the better you make the other person feel in your company, the more they will be inclined to have a positive impression about you.
- People respect people who does what they say they are going to do. Delivering what you say you’re going to deliver impacts your personal credibility. The adage that under commit and over deliver does help to build a reputation. However, one needs to be careful as consistently over delivering suggests you’re sandbagging your forecast. That may hurt your credibility.
- Challenge the status quo. Always try to look out for a out of box solution to a problem your company is facing. Maybe a creative way to meet a new challenge? If your organization is forward-thinking, all ideas should be welcome. The next time you have an innovative solution to a problem, share it openly to show what you have to contribute. Don’t feel shy to share your ideas. People does notice the person who challenge the current process and communicate the possibilities of a different solution. It is not always necessary these recommendations will be implemented or appreciated, but you will surely stand out in the crowd.
- Lastly, remember influencing and managing your perceptions is never about manipulating your audience with misleading information’s and values which you don’t believe in. Managing perceptions is all about understanding and assessing your true self and thereafter inculcating good habits and adapting to changes as and when required to improve.
It’s often been said that perception is reality. The way you are perceived at work is a result of people’s impressions about you. They may never share those impressions with you. But when unmanaged, these impressions can become ugly rumours and gossip that can ruin your image and reputation at work. This is why it’s essential to play an active role in managing your reputation and perceptions in the workplace.