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Posts Tagged ‘professional reputation’

To Manage Your Professional Reputation, Learn Who’s On Your Team

Manage your professional reputationYou will be passed over for jobs, projects, and second dates and never know why. Being passed over isn’t necessarily a bad thing, not knowing why is problematic. If you don’t know why you’re being passed over, how can you be prepared for next time?

Organizations are political. People talk. You’ve undoubtedly already experienced this.

If you want to manage your professional reputation, one thing you must know is who talks about you and what they say. How decisions get made in organizations isn’t always obvious. There are the obvious channels of decision making, like your boss and your boss’s boss. But there are also the people who talk to your boss and boss’s boss and have an opinion about you, who you may not be aware of.

Everyone in an organization has people they trust, who they listen to and confide in. Who those trusted people are isn’t always obvious. When you’re being considered for a new position or project, the decision makers will invariably ask others for their opinion. Knowing who does and doesn’t support you in a future role is essential to managing your professional reputation and career.

I don’t want you to be nervous, paranoid, or suspicious at work. I do want you to be savvy, smart, and aware.

It’s not difficult to find out who can impact your professional reputation at work, you just need to ask the people who know. Start with your boss. S/he likely knows and will tell you, if you ask.

To ensure you know who can impact your professional reputation, tell your boss:

“I really enjoy working here. I enjoy the people, the work and our industry. I’m committed to growing my career with this organization.”

Then ask:

  • Who in the organization should I have a good relationship with?
  • Who/what departments should I be working closely with?
  • Who impacts my professional reputation and the opportunities I have?
  • What skills do I have that the organization values most?
  • What contributions have I made that the organization values most?
  • What mistakes have I made from which I need to recover?

Your manager doesn’t walk around thinking about the answers to these questions. If you want thoughtful answers, set a time to meet with your boss, tell him/her the purpose of the meeting – to get feedback on your professional reputation so you can adeptly manage your career – and send the questions in advance, giving your boss time to prepare for the meeting. You will get more thoughtful and complete answers if your boss has two weeks to think about the questions and ask others for input.

Don’t be caught off guard by a less-than-stellar professional reputation. Take control of your reputation and career. Ask more. Assume less.

Write a comment about this week’s blog and we’ll enter your organization to win 50 professional reputation bookmarks!

Manage your professional reputation


Unhappy at Work? Know When to Go.

unhappy at workThere’s when things end and then there’s when we physically leave, and the two rarely coincide. Sometimes it takes six months, a year, or even longer for our body to catch up with our brain.

Knowing when to leave a job, a relationship, and even a party is a skill. If you’re unhappy at work, have asked for what you want, and know you can’t it where you are, develop an exit strategy and act on it quickly.

When you’re checked out, people know. Unhappiness shows up in our performance, attitude, and body language. And quitting and staying is bad for your career, reputation, and business relationships.

If you’re unhappy at work and are ready to make a change, there are a few actions you should take to keep your reputation intact while you make a transition:

  1. Make sure you’ve fully investigated your options at your current place of work before deciding to move on. Share your desires in a positive way, with people who can help you get what you want. Saying, “I’d really like to do _________, or I’d really like to work in the ______ department” will get you much further than saying, “I’m underutilized, undercompensated, and unappreciated.”
  2. Do your job and do it well. Don’t go missing in action.
  3. Only commit to things you know you can and will do, and keep your commitments.
  4. Confide in people about your unhappiness and future plans who are outside your current place of work. People talk. Assume anything you tell someone at work will be told to someone else.
  5. Take at least one action every day towards getting what you want. It can be easy to get into a rut when job hunting. Stay in action.

If you’re unhappy at work, it’s probably time for a change – either within or outside your company. Ask for what you want in a positive way. Do a great job on a daily basis, regardless of how you feel. Confide in people outside of your workplace. And take one action every day towards getting what you want.

Know when to go.

unhappy at work


Wearing Too Much Perfume to Work?

Wearing too much perfume or cologne will make people scatter, or wish they could. Unfortunately, rather than tell you that you’re wearing too much, people will just avoid sitting near you. Scent is such a personal thing, like clothing, that people are hesitant to comment on it.

I suggest not wearing anything scented at work, on airplanes, or when you’ll be in close proximity with other people you don’t know well. But if I can’t persuade you to skip the scent, here are a few guidelines when putting on cologne and perfume:

• Spray the air ten inches in front of you, and walk through the mist, rather than spraying your skin.
• If you can smell the scent on yourself or people who are more than a few inches from you can smell it, you’re wearing too much.
• You should never be able to smell a person’s cologne after they’ve left a room.

No, I’m not an expert on how to wear perfume. I googled it.

The next step is to ask a few people you trust to tell you when you wear too much perfume or cologne. Give people permission to give you this feedback, and promise you won’t bite their head off when they do. This could sound something like, “I want to be sure I’m not wearing too much perfume. Would you be willing to tell me when I do? I promise I won’t freak out or jump down your throat. I really want to know.”

Let’s say you work with someone who wears too much perfume. She hasn’t asked if she’s wearing too much, and you want to say something. You could say something like, “This is a bit awkward, but the perfume you wear is a bit overwhelming. Would you be willing to wear less or none at all when you’re in the office?” This is an awkward conversation that most people don’t want to have. Consider that you’re doing the person a favor. Would you rather know the amount of scent you wear keeps other people away, or would you rather alienate the people around you?

If the relationship is a personal one, you could say, “You wear the most lovely perfume. And I’ve noticed that the smell is quite strong. Would you be willing to wear less of it?” Again, this is an awkward conversation. But you won’t die from having it and the other person won’t either. When she gets over being embarrassed and defensive, your relationship will be fine. And if it’s not, you didn’t have much of a relationship to begin with.

Use our Candor Questions to Advance Careers to find out what people say about you when you’re not there.


Be Specific in Your Business Communication – Vague is Useless

Vague is useless. Being vague is actually worse than useless. Being vague instills doubt in the people around you and reduces your credibility.

When a customer service agent answers my questions with words like, “That sounds right, I think so, or that should work,” I hang up and call back, hoping to get someone who can give me an affirmative answer. People do this to you too, they just don’t tell you about it.

Watch your language. If the answer is yes, say “Yes.” If the answer is no, say “No.” “I think so,” says neither yes nor no. Saying, “I think so” tells people you don’t really know.

A few phrases to avoid and what to say instead:

Avoid:  “That should be done by Friday.”

Instead, be specific and give a final date. “That will be complete by Friday. If I can’t get it done by Friday, I’ll call you to let you know by 5:00 pm on Thursday.”

Avoid: “Sounds right.”

Instead, be specific and say, “That’s correct.”

Avoid: “We should be able to do that.”

Instead, be specific and say, “We can do that.”

Avoid: “I guess.”

Instead, be specific and say, “Yes” or “No.”

When I teach feedback training, the biggest thing training participants struggle with is specificity. “You’re difficult to work with.” “Your clothing is inappropriate.” “I just find you to be negative.” “You did a good job on that.” “It’s a pleasure to have you on the team.” All of this is vague and thus unhelpful to the feedback recipient.  And the same is true when answering questions and making promises.

Tell people exactly what to expect. Be specific. Even if they don’t like your answer, they’ll be happy to have a clear answer.


Business Communication – There is No Crying at Work

crying at workWhen confronted with a challenging conversation or situation, everyone has a reaction of some type. Some people laugh nervously. Some people get quiet and retreat. Other people turn red. Others yell. And some people cry. All of these reactions are normal and natural.

If people didn’t have emotions we’d be androids. And while there are probably days you wish your coworkers acted more like Siri, if the people you work with don’t think more critically than your iPhone, they aren’t of much use to you.

The problem with expressing emotions at work is that it makes people uncomfortable. And often when people are uncomfortable, they don’t know what to do. They just want the situation to go away. And unfortunately in this situation, that means they want you to go away, which is not how you want your boss, coworkers, or customers to think about you.

Avoid crying at work. It makes the person across from you feel uncomfortable and helpless. Men and women alike don’t know what to do when someone they work with cries. They just want the person to stop crying or leave.

I’ve heard some people describe criers as manipulative, as if they cry to orchestrate a certain outcome. I don’t believe that. I think people who cry at work do so involuntarily. It’s their natural reaction to stress. That said, crying at work is not good for professional reputations or relationships.

Here’s what you should do if you have a crier in your office:

  1. Hand the person a tissue.
  2. Know that you are responsible for how you deliver information. You are not responsible for the person’s reaction.
  3. If the person can continue the conversation, keep talking.
  4. If s/he can’t continue the conversation, end it and talk another day. Say something like, “I can see this is very difficult, and I’m very sorry about that. Why don’t we finish the conversation another day.”
  5. If the person doesn’t leave your office, stand up and open your door. That will prompt the other person to stand up.

Here’s what you should do if you’re a crier:

  1. Don’t have difficult conversations when you’re tired, stressed, or are having a bad day.
  2. Practice potentially difficult conversations so you feel more prepared and in control.
  3. Know that nothing is personal.
  4. If you sense you are going to cry, get out of the meeting before you do.
  5. Take a walk outside to burn off stress.
  6. If you cry in a meeting, apologize and try to stop.
  7. If you can’t, excuse yourself from the meeting and circle back to the person when you’re more composed.

None of these suggestions are intended to sound cold or unempathetic. Instead, they’re intended to help criers manage their professional reputation and career. You don’t want someone to be afraid to give you bad news because they fear your reaction. Anything that gets in the way of telling you the truth makes it likely that you won’t get real feedback. And without consistent, candid feedback, you’re working in the dark.

Not knowing how you come across and how your work is perceived are the things that lead to being fired, overlooked for projects, and laid off. Make it easy to tell you the truth by managing your emotions during difficult conversations. As hard and at times seemingly unrealistic as it seems, leave your feelings in your car.


Under Commit In 2013 – Make New Year’s Resolutions and Set Goals That Set You Up to Win

Under commit in 2013Tis’ the season to over commit.

It’s almost January 1st, when many of us begin thinking about New Year’s Resolutions. We vow to lose 20 pounds, save 10% of our income, get promoted at work, take an exotic vacation, be a better partner, etc. etc. Also known as “how to set yourself up to fail” in five easy steps.  The reality is we might do one or two of those things, if that.

Why not set yourself up to win instead? Instead of setting huge goals that are unlikely to happen, why not set more realistic goals that you can and will likely to do?

If you manage people, perhaps you’re thinking about how you can be a better manager in 2013. Or you may be thinking about how you can accelerate your career. You may decide to meet with your employees more frequently, or ask your boss for more feedback, or ask for new and different work. You may think that doing these things will help you strengthen your relationships with your employees and your reputation, and advance your career. Doing any of these things might help you strengthen your business relationships and help you get ahead. But they might not, if those things are not important to your employees, your boss and/or your organization.

In 2013, put energy and resources into the things that truly matter to the people you work with, rather than the things you think they think are important. And the only way to know what the people around you really want and need is to ask them.  Don’t assume you know what is important to your boss, direct reports and coworkers, ask them. Ask more. Assume less.

There are countless examples of managers who went to great lengths to make their employees happy. They gave bonuses, cool projects, and time off. And their employees quit anyway. Or, trying to make a manager happy, employees stayed late, beat deadlines, and took on additional work, and still got a mediocre review. Rather than doing what you think others want, ask them!

How about this for a New Year’s resolution — ask your boss, direct reports and key customers these questions as you begin the New Year:

  1. What’s the most important work I did in the past 12 months?
  2. What’s an area, in 2012, I exceeded your expectations?
  3. How did I let you down?
  4. If I could do one thing differently this year that would make the biggest difference for you and/or the organization, what would it be?
  5. Where do you think I should focus my energy in 2013?
  6. It may be intimidating to ask for feedback from your peers and direct reports. But you won’t know what to do more, better, or differently if you don’t ask.

The right answer to feedback is always “thank you,” regardless of what you really want to say.  Saying “thank you” makes you a safe person to whom to tell the truth and makes it more likely you’ll get more information in the future. So bite your tongue and respond to all feedback with, “Thank you for telling me that. I’m going to think about what you’ve said and may come back to you to discuss further.” They’ll be relieved, and you’ll strengthen your professional image.

It’s easy to assume what others want and are expecting from us. The problem is we’re not always correct. Thus we expend energy doing things that others don’t find valuable or important, otherwise known as wasting time and resources.

Your time and budget dollars are valuable. Use your time and money for things that others actually want, versus what you think they want. In 2013, dial it back. Make realistic, attainable goals that are aligned with what the people around want and need. And in return, you too will get what you want and need.

Take advantage of the last day to get a free box of Candor Questions with a purchase of $75 or more candor products.


Professional Reputation: Who Talks About You at Work When You’re Not There?

Unless you work in a cave, you know that people have a tendency to talk about you, not to you.

Often employees have no idea where they stand performance-wise, in their organization, because for the most part, people don’t tell them. This lack of information leaves employees in the dark, not knowing what to do more, better, or differently.

Professional Reputation

People we interact with peripherally, if at all, talk about us to the powers that be in our organizations. And we have no idea.  We often don’t know what is said about us, by whom, and to whom.

Professional Reputation

I learned this lesson several years ago, before starting Candid Culture.The most senior woman at the company where I was working, the President of a division, told my boss she’d like to mentor me. Doesn’t that sound nice?  The funny thing is, beyond saying hello to me in the hallway, I didn’t even think she knew who I was. We never worked together, and our paths rarely crossed.

During our first meeting, the first thing my new mentor said to me was, “I think you’re checked out. So get in or get out. But decide.” Holy _____!!!!  I was shocked. She was right, of course. I was already planning to quit and start a business.  But I didn’t know that it showed.

I’m not telling you this as a lesson about how to manage your professional reputation, even when you may be looking for your next opportunity. Not that that isn’t important. It is. It’s just not my point here. The reason I’m telling you is this:  My new mentor was the most senior woman at the company. She reported to the CEO. My boss was her peer. She told me she thought I was checked out. Do we think she kept that observation to herself. It’s doubtful. I’m SURE it came up in a leadership meeting with all of her peers –the C-Suite.

If you don’t know who whispers in your boss’s and his/her boss’s ear about you, find out. And the person to ask is your boss. S/he knows and will most likely tell you, if you ask.

Here are a few questions you can ask your boss to help manage your professional reputation:

  • What skills do I have that the organization values most?
  • What contributions have I made that the organization values most?
  • What mistakes have I made from which I need to recover?
  • Who in the organization should I have a good relationship with?
  • Who/what departments should I work closely with?
  • Who impacts my reputation and the opportunities I have?

Yes, you can ask these questions. No, you won’t die. Yes, your boss will answer them. No s/he won’t be annoyed. I assure you, your boss has had few if any employees who asked him/her these questions.  It will be a refreshing change.

Just remember, the right answer to feedback is “thank you,” regardless of what you think in your head. The easier it is to give you feedback, the more  you’ll get.

Read more about how to manage your professional reputation and get more feedback in my new book.


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