Do others see you differently than you see yourself?
Whether you have carefully crafted your personal brand because you think it is the most effective professional image or your social behaviors are hard-wired since birth, how we think these attributes are seen by others may be a lot different than how they are actually viewed.
- You may speak directly and candidly before getting to know someone well. You think you appear interesting and refreshing. They think you are inappropriate and have an oversized ego.
- You don’t stress about your appearance. You think you seem down to earth. They think you don’t pay attention to grooming habits.
- You talk mainly about one specific thing. You think that shows passion. They think you are boring, stuck, and self-absorbed.
- You are willing to share a lot of information. You think you are open, honest and illuminating. Others think you are indiscreet.
- You point out where others fall short. You think you are being an honest realist. Others think you play the victim or throw others ‘under the bus.’
I’m not saying that people DO see you this way. In fact, it may be that people see you exactly as you see yourself. But if there is a gap between how you see yourself and how others see you, you should know where the gap lies so that if you want to get things into better alignment, you can.
Nor am I advocating that you try to be something you are not. That takes a lot of energy and for most folks, it simply isn’t sustainable. But you should make sure that other people see you the way you want to be seen and that the impression they are left with is one that shows you at your best and is accurate.
You may think you already know how others view you — as a skilled leader, a clever tech guru, or the manager who always brings out the best in the team.
But then again, you might be surprised.
One senior level executive was surprised to learn that his habit of presenting and teaching in meetings left people with the impression that he had a very high opinion of himself and didn’t much care about what the concerns of others. Or the VP who found out that the technical expertise she thought was so impressive was not what her team cared about — her lack of coaching support was turning them off. It can be jarring to recognize how you’re really viewed by others. And it may be hard to learn how people see you. Employees don’t want to risk their standing and may conceal negative perceptions they hold. They pretend that everything is just fine and the boss is terrific.
When it comes to your personal brand and your professional reputation — it’s not about how you view yourself. What matters is how the world sees you. And if several people tell you something you think is not accurate, pay attention to what they think. They may be on to something.
So if you are not working with me (or a consultant who provides coaching and guidance) I have some suggestions:
Go Google Yourself – what are the things that come up first when you search for yourself online? Are you surprised? Is that what you had hoped to show the world? If I had never met you and wanted to learn more about you – you should know what I’ll see when I plug your name into my favorite search engine.
Review the Trends – Go back and look at performance reviews and testimonials or letters of reference. While everyone can have a different take on your talents, traits and characteristics, be on the lookout for repeated phrases or mentions of specific information. If several people have noted that you don’t take feedback well or often appear disorganized, take note.
Interview – Invite co-workers, employees, your manager, and even a client or two to get together. Let them know you are looking to develop professionally and ask them what you do well, what 5 words they would use to describe you, and what they wish you would do more of or less of. It’s not a discussion – you are mining for information. Listen and thank them for their time. You may learn something new
There is a lot of useful information you get when learn how other people see you. If it doesn’t match up with how you want to be seen, you can do something about it.