It’s hard enough to change our behaviors, but even when we change them, people often still see us the way we used to be.
So once we’ve put in the work to change ourselves, how do we let other people know that we’ve changed?
Have you ever tried to change something in your life only to find people reminding you of who you used to be? Take Susan as an example. She and I worked on developing her interpersonal skills so she would more effectively connect with her team.
She changed her behavior almost instantly because she believed that it was important. She began making eye contact, not multitasking while listening, nodding her head, raising her eyebrows, and even sitting on the same side of the table with people for their one on one meetings.
Susan’s manager acknowledged the changes when they did their 2-month review. He was impressed at how fast she did change! But at the 3-month 360 progress review, her peers and direct team reported very little change. We knew we had a perception issue.
I admit, to some degree, I do think that it’s none of my business what other people think of me. But - when we’re trying to change, and we’re dependent on other people’s perceptions in order to be successful, well, that’s just a reality of the situation. So we may need to make it our business and manage those perceptions.
The good news is you really can influence other people’s perceptions of you. But it takes a little focus and effort.
How can we influence other people’s perceptions?
Before we start focusing on their perceptions, we need to manage our own thoughts and beliefs, as Susan did. Susan believed it was important to connect with her team. The energy we exude based on what we believe and what we are thinking comes through in our actions.
Change your thoughts and beliefs about yourself and watch your actions change and your confidence increase. Susan experienced this first-hand. This is paramount to managing others’ perceptions of us and it has to happen first. Then we can start managing others’ perceptions of us.
A few tips on what you can do to influence perceptions:
Remember, this change is happening within you and you’re highly aware of it, but others may not be. We have a lot more information about ourselves than others do, so be a little patient.
Respect the fact that it’s really difficult to not see someone as they used to be. After all, this is the reputation you built. It’s not going to change overnight.
We need to make sure we are being transparent about the behaviors we are changing. Be proactive about admitting things. For example, if Susan gets distracted during a meeting, as soon as she realizes it, she will apologize and share that she is working on improving this.
Help others to see the new you. Susan could further point out that she used to think she was being productive by multi-tasking but she’s learned she is much more effective when she stays focused, and it’s more respectful to do so.
Solicit feedback, and don’t get defensive. If someone points something out to you, consider that feedback a gift. Often we’re not aware when we slip back into old habits. We need others to help us be aware.
Don’t correct other people about their perception. It’s their perception. It’s our duty to help change the perception by changing OUR behavior and helping them see the new you.
On Wednesday, November 15 at 2:00 p.m. EST, we will be talking about The Secret to Moving up in Management, and this topic of how other people perceive you is a big part of your career growth. I’ll talk about how to handle the biggest obstacles to moving up in management, what core competencies most managers need to develop and how to identify the RIGHT developmental steps to take you from middle manager to the C-Suite. Register here!
Are there tips in here in this blog post that you plan to use to help others see the work you’ve put in on your personal development? I’d love to know which ones hit home for you. Cheers, Laurie