Your reputation is built on a never-ending series of choices that you make every day. And in today’s transparent and frenetic organizations, your choices are seen by more of your colleagues, and faster than ever before.
The work that I do with my leadership coaching clients often focuses on the power of choice. My clients like talking about the concept of choice as they aspire to be more focused in what they choose to do and how they choose to do it. Often, however, in situations where my clients do have a choice, they erroneously believe they have no choice.
The proliferation of professional transparency is creating new ways for individuals to develop an opinion about you. Information sharing and your reputation are now inextricably combined. You can share information about yourself in endless ways (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogging). Most of these do not even require you to be physically present. Individuals that you have never met and may never meet can find information about you faster than ever.
Reputations back in the “old days”
While the importance of a good reputation is not new, the environment in which you are working to build a good reputation is. Twenty years ago, your reputation as a business professional was confined to the experiences of individuals with whom you interacted within your organization or shared experiences with at industry meetings.
Many of the Visibility Accelerators we have explored so far are activities that you do or behaviors that you demonstrate in order to raise your visibility. Therefore, these accelerators are defined as the behaviors that help you get seen. Our final Visibility Accelerator is focused on the activities and behaviors that help you become known. As a result, these activities and behaviors help build your reputation.
Not all who are unresponsive can blame the overwhelming amount of incoming emails and phone calls as the cause of their behavior. Many of us tend to assume that other people’s low responsiveness is due to workload when, in reality, they may not possess a natural predilection to getting back to others in a timely fashion, if at all. Consider these various places you could find yourself when you attempt to balance a desire to be responsive with your actual responsiveness:
You may feel that you should not respond to colleagues until you have the answer to their questions or requests. You may assume that others know you are working on their problem and you don’t feel a need to keep them updated. You may rationalize that you are too busy to get back to anyone except your boss. While these are reasonable perspectives, days could go by before you have an answer (especially if you are dependent on others for information) and colleagues who originally reached out to you may feel forgotten. Without a response or an update, your colleagues are unsure if you received their email or if you are working on their request at all, allowing frustration to grow and progress to stall.
Being accessible benefits everyone. Ram Reddy is the Chief Information Officer at The Rockport Group, offering high-quality dress and casual footwear to customers globally. Despite the daily challenges he faces in his busy workplace, Ram is committed to being accessible to those who reach out to him. “Being accessible is a key part of collaboration. Although many of us have offices that physically separate us from one another, it is important to act as though there are no walls. If a colleague needs me, I want her to be able to get to me. Likewise, I like getting out of my office and, rather than email a colleague a question, ask her my question or follow-up with her in person. This also allows my colleague to access me in ways that help her.”
Your time is precious. Your days are already packed with meetings, conference calls, overdue deliverables, and unanticipated interruptions. Working to raise your visibility in your organization and industry requires that you focus your precious time on specific activities and behaviors that help you produce results. Anyone can engage in a bevy of activities that keep them busy, yet you cannot afford that luxury. The investment of time and energy you make in your efforts to raise your visibility must be productive. What is the difference between keeping busy and being productive?
Reputation is the intangible ways in which we connect with others. This is where activities and behaviors that help you be known in your organization and industry exist. I like to think of reputation as the echo you leave when you exit a room. Your reputation is what your colleagues say about you when you are not there. Perhaps your colleagues are commenting on a presentation you just gave, an interaction you just had, or your candidacy for a promotion. Do you know what they are saying about you? More importantly, what do you want your colleagues to be saying about you?