When the person you are is the person people think you are.
We hear a lot today about reputations, self-branding, marketing etc. So many people, (and I’m one of them), encourage the idea of self-branding; where you think consciously about who you are and the image you want to project to those you come into contact with.
And companies? Companies are always marketing themselves and their products and services, striving to ensure that the quality and consistency of those messages with each interaction backs up and reinforces the identity of the company behind them. Every time the customer has a good experience the reputation grows and solidifies; and the reverse is equally true if the experience is poor, the reputation erodes and crumbles.
The same is true when people interact with you and then compare this interaction with what they previously knew or thought of you. With this latest experience, those we interact with judge whether what they’ve experience runs counter to their expectations or perhaps reinforced what they expected; i.e. authenticity.
What you should be striving to achieve is a consistent brand where people can be assured that the experience they have with you in the future can be reasonably predictable. When this is the case, people understand and rely on this identity; they not only come to expect that same consistent experience themselves, but they pass on your name and reputation with it to their friends and contacts.
Here’s the thing to remember; if someone has a good experience with you, they leave satisfied because their expectations were met and whatever they anticipated was realized. If on the other hand, their expectations of you fell short, you expose yourself to two liabilities; they themselves may not give you a second chance to deliver, and your reputation as unreliable and inconsistent may be spread to others.
If and when your reputation takes a hit, you have two choices: a) do nothing about it, b) work hard to restore that reputation. If you look around you, you’ll see examples of people and businesses that don’t do much of anything when it comes to damage control. They dismiss the person who didn’t have a good experience as an annoyance, and concentrate on the next customer; the next sale.
Other companies do stop and address the dissatisfied customer or client. They go out of their way to ask, “What can we do to make it up to you?” This is their attempt at really asking, “What can we do to restore our good reputation because you matter to us.”
Like a business, you and I – we have our reputations to build and take responsibility for. When you think of your status in your workplace and look at things objectively, what is your reputation? Are you dependable, creative, sensitive, kind, overbearing, manipulative, approachable, hard-nosed, hard-working, fun? Are you the Jokester, the Leader, the Steamroller or the Fountain of Inspiration?
Depending on how you want to be perceived and how you actually are perceived, you have likewise two choices, a) work to keep your current branding or b) work harder to change how you are perceived so that how you are perceived matches the way you wish to be perceived.
Look, suppose you notice someone going about their work in a different way; taking things a little more seriously, acting responsibly, watching their language a little closer. You don’t have to be an expert in Human Behaviour studies to see that something is up. Could be that the person has aspirations of applying for a promotion in the near future and they’ve been told that unless they show some development and increased responsibility they’ll never get a chance. So what have they done? They’ve adopted some changes which they hope will change how they are perceived, and by continued practice of this change in behaviour, they hope to match the typical qualities of people successfully picked for promotion in the past.
As humans, we evolve and change; we mature, our priorities change, our outlook on things alters and with all of these shifts, it’s only natural that we may want different things at different points in our lives. We may start off ambitious, put in the overtime and work with zeal. Possibly we get comfortable and settle in to our titles, then grow restless later and feel we’re up for more challenges and more money to go along with them. Later, we might re-evaluate and ease back on the driving force we once had and then ride off into retirement.
As people come and go in our professional lives along our own journey, they will perceive us based on what they learn about us when they meet us. Meet us when we’re hungry and working with drive and hunger for more and more and we’ll be tagged that way. Come to know us as we are rounding out our career and they may see us as laid back, set in our ways, going through the motions.
If you feel you’re being perceived as too young or too old, first evaluate what about you is giving off those vibes; creating that branding. It’s not just the gray hair nor the remnants of teenage acne. It’s how we move, talk, act, behave etc.; all part of how we are perceived.
Change if you wish how others perceive you to fit with how you wish to be perceived.