At a recent seminar in Arizona with 25 top female executives, I asked the question: What is your reputation with others? More succinctly, how do they see YOU?
Despite being a simple enough question, many did not have an answer.
Not having an answer is in no way a reflection of any shortcoming on the part of those in attendance. In fact, having what I call a reputation blind spot when it comes to how people see us is the rule rather than the exception.
Uber’s CEO’s Blind Spot
By now you have probably heard the news that London will not be renewing Uber’s license to operate in that city.
In what had been called a remarkable email to employees regarding the setback, Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wrote about there being a “high cost to a bad reputation,” and how “it really matters what people think of us.”
What stood out for me was when he shared one of the lessons he had learned over his successful career that “change comes from self-reflection.”
However, last week’s events painted Khosrowshaki in a different light. Headlines read: “After a promising start, Uber’s new CEO just threw its old one under a bus.”
Triggered by cofounder CEO Travis Kalanick’s appointment of two new members to Uber’s board, in a second email to employees, Khosrowshaki stated that this was “disappointing news.” He then commented that “anyone would tell you that this is highly unusual.”
While Kalanick admittedly made some serious mistakes, which he acknowledged when he stepped down as CEO, he is one of the founders of Uber. Given the fact that many employees were with him from the beginning, criticizing the former CEO can only bring further division and apprehension within a culture that is sorely lacking leadership and unity.
Walking Your Talk?
Managing your reputation means that every touch point matters, from what you say, to how and to whom you say it. You are the only one in control of the impact of your messages.
When it comes to your reputation, self-reflection is critical to your being able to understand how other people will perceive both your words and brand. Not knowing how people perceive you leaves you vulnerable and at the mercy of speculation and opinion.
The need to proactively manage your reputation is one of the reasons why at the Arizona seminar, I asked these four important questions:
Question #1 – Am I seen as current in the way I package myself?
You know what happens to yesterday’s news; today’s headlines replace it.
Like a breaking headline, being current and relevant means actively seeking ways to continually align your strengths and unique abilities with your organization’s goals – especially as they change or evolve (and they will).
But what if your strengths or particular skill sets are no longer aligned?
- You have to be able to adapt to a new reality – be seen as a change-agent
- Acquire new competencies that recruiters in your company are actively seeking out from future candidates in similar positions
- Look for another organization that appreciates them
Question #2 – Have I successfully differentiated my brand?
If you were a product on a shelf in a store with countless other products, why would someone choose to buy you? What makes you unique and stand out from the crowd?
Replies such as ‘I am a hard worker and do the best job that I can’ is not enough as they cause you to slip into a state of innocuous complacency.
You have to be looking for ways to shine continuously. So how do you shine?
- Volunteer for new and challenging tasks
- Become more involved in areas outside of your comfort zone where you can showcase your flexibility
- Expand your market appeal – look for ways to stand out for all of the right reasons
Question #3 – Am I seen as essential to the future growth of the business?
What have you done for me lately?
I used to hate when people asked this question. It is as if everything you have done in the past is no longer relevant. I say “used to hate.”
The reality is that every day is a new day, and while you cannot dwell on your past failures, it is equally unwise to dwell on your past successes. Like the future growth of your company’s business, your continued reputation as someone who delivers results has less to do with what you have done, and more to do with what you will do.
- Be an active participant in understanding where your company wants to go regarding strategic direction and growth
- Be plugged in with leadership
- Be the first person that comes to mind when they need someone to lead the charge to bigger and better things.
Question #4 – Does leadership seek me out as a thought leader?
Remember when you were in elementary school and there was always one or two kids that would eagerly raise their hand to answer the teacher’s questions? It probably did not surprise anyone when the teacher would usually call upon these same students for the right answer when everyone else before them got it wrong. What is ironic is that you probably knew the right answer, but because you never raised your hand, your teacher never called on you.
In today’s business world, being a periphery player will relegate you to the organizational sidelines, which is just a short step away from being expendable.
- Start putting your hand up if your boss isn’t actively seeking you out and engaging you
- Initiate engagement with your boss more frequently
- Keep up to date on the big challenges facing your boss and ask where you can help
How Is Your Reputation Vision?
If you don’t manage your brand, if you don’t invest in relationships, if you don’t have sponsorship, and if you force people to take sides, the probability is that you will get blindsided like Uber’s CEO.
As a result, the reputation that you have taken years to build will be undermined, creating a disconnecting uncertainty with those around you.
In this regard, I will go back to the initial words of Khosrowshahi when he wrote; “it really matters what people think of us.”
If I ask you what people think about you, do you know the answer, or are you going to be blindsided by your assumptions?