Recently, we’ve coached a number of people leaders who’ve received feedback from their upline managers around the importance of building their personal brand. We thought it would be interesting to talk about how to build your reputation from a perspective of building relationships.
Though you may think relationships happen organically, the truth is, you can and should have strategies to grow stronger relationships across your networks in order to grow your reputation or brand. (You can do this for yourself or, particularly if you're talking about stakeholder relationships, you can do this for your team as well.)
With the template in front of you, start by listing all the people in your network who are important to your success. Write their names in one of the four quadrants based on how you think they rate you (your reputation, expertise, knowledge, performance) and the strength of your relationship (Is it open and transparent with a high level of trust? Is there two-way feedback and cooperation?).
Top left - The people who rate you highly, but with whom you have a weak relationship.
Top right - Those who rate you highly and with whom you have a strong relationship (Tip: you want to leverage these ones).
Bottom left - Those who rate you poorly and you have a weak relationship with. (Lots of work to do here).
Bottom right - The people who rate you poorly but you still have a strong relationship with.
Tip: It might help to chat this over with your manager. Though you might be the best person to gauge the strength of your relationship, your manager might have a better idea about how people rate you.
Top left - Ask yourself what steps you can take to build a relationship with those people who rate you highly, though your relationship is not strong. It shouldn't be hard to make a connection as these guys already think you're pretty great. Think about offering to work with them on a project, sharing some research with them or offering to mentor someone in their team.
Top right - The people who rate you highly and with whom you have a strong relationship are the ones you need to leverage. Ask them to introduce you to key people in the organisation and to advocate for you, particularly with those who don’t rate you so well.
Bottom left - For those who rate you poorly though you have a strong relationship, think about whether you could you talk to them and ask why they don't think highly of your capabilities. Perhaps they’ve not experienced much of your work or they’ve had one bad experience which gave them a negative impression. This can be a difficult conversation but it’s an important one. It takes time, energy and a little bit of marketing on your part, but we’ve seen turn arounds where people have really changed the way others think of them just by having the difficult conversation and clearing up concerns or misconceptions.
Bottom right - With people who rate you poorly and with whom you have a weak relationship, one idea is to find out what they value and consider whether this overlaps with your area of work or expertise or a connection you have. You can then see if there’s any way you can work on improving the way they view your performance. It may not be appropriate to talk to them directly, so you may have to find a mutual connection to ask what the person is like and what they like before you can work on building the relationship.
When you’re thinking about how to improve the way you’re perceived, it's important to remember that you can't be everyone's cup of tea. There will always be people who don't rate you and will never rate you and in such cases our advice is to just move on and focus on the relationships that have real potential.
Once you’ve thought about these things, articulated them and planned action, you’re one step closer to taking action. And action is the only thing that affects change. Those who take action, (and not just because their coach says they should but because they want to grow and develop), are the ones who are making leaps and bounds in their careers as people leaders. You get out what you put in. So try this activity and plan some action. Let us know how you go.
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