Who Do You Think You Are?

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Over a coffee last week, a friend recounted how she was adjusting to her [somewhat] new job, and from the sound of it, she’d been able to tackle it quite well, and was enjoying the work. She works for a US organisation, and as we’re in Singapore, I asked her about the lines of communication with corporate HQ.

“Lots of conference calls,” she quickly replied. “Actually, pretty much daily. That’s just how it is, and I doubt they’ll change very much, regardless of what they say. It’s still US-centric. But that’s OK, I can manage it, and also learnt how to manage the conference calls. Because of my [young] daughter, early morning Singapore time, 6 AM, their late afternoon, works best for me, and I can get her ready for school afterwards.”

I told her I still thought daily conference calls were overkill, but it didn’t bother her much. She continued on..

“However, what I am working on now with those calls is to make a real effort to be nicer, less harsh. That’s my goal right now.”

??

She’s nice already, never harsh, that didn’t make sense at all. I asked her what she was talking about.

“Apparently I’m considered to be very difficult, no patience and have little tolerance, so working on changing my reputation to be softer and nicer.”

“Really? How do you know that’s your reputation?”

“Someone actually told me last month, one of the regulars on the calls.”

“Last month only?”

“Yes. I honestly and truly had no idea until he mentioned it to me.”

“I still don’t understand. You would be the last person I would think of as having a difficult reputation.”

“Maybe, but that’s what he said. I was being curt, too direct, impatient, and people were starting to grumble. You know, I only have so much time in the morning before my daughter gets up, so the clock is always ticking when I’m on the calls. So now trying to be softer and more patient. Shouldn’t be a problem.”

We then moved on to other topics of the day.

In thinking about it later, she’s fortunate someone told her what her reputation was becoming, as most people won’t say so (the old maxim of ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say…’). She has two issues; one is limited time, dictated by a young child up at a certain time of the morning. The second is that she is by nature more reserved than not. What came through from the feedback was that she was perceived to be somewhat prickly. People who are more reserved–and in a hurry–may often be more blunt and to the point. That is a pattern, and hence a behaviour.

Do you know your reputation within your organisation?

Not likely, although you’ll know everyone else’s. A corporate reputation is formed by patterns, not by a one time big splash. For example, a strong reputation for successful sales is done through repeat performances over time, steadily. Weak sales results are the same. Over time, steadily, but with different results or excuses.

Let me emphasise this point.

A reputation is not made overnight, but once established, it stays with you, positively or negatively. If you want to change your reputation, it absolutely can be done, but won’t happen in a day. It takes time, effort, feedback, work, and honesty (the elements of coaching, if that sounds familar..).

To change just one pattern you have held on to for years can be done, over time–steadily.

Once you know your reputation, and decide what you want to change and refine–step by step–then, and only then do you start to develop.

Consider your [positive and negative] patterns at work, when you were at your best and when you were at your lowest. Categorise and define them in a few words, see how those words look. Ask a few colleagues you trust whether they agree with your definitions. Or get a coach to help you think it through to start acting differently.

Like my friend, you may be taken aback with the feedback, but if taken the right way, you’ll be all the wiser for it, appreciate the helping hand and move forward.

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