If you are an ambitious, self-aware, dedicated manager, you are probably making efforts to improve your leadership ability. Maybe you have identified areas for improvement and learning and are putting new skills and behaviors into practice.
One measure of your success is whether your manager, direct reports, or peers have noticed that you are changing for the better.
People tend to see others through the same lens or set of expectations they have always used. It makes their interactions with you easier. It’s not easy for them to take a different perspective. Some changes, of course, are obvious. But small, incremental changes that you make in your leadership style or communication skills are often lost on a busy and preoccupied audience.
You may be putting a lot of effort into being more patient or listening more attentively, for example. Over time, changes like this can improve your effectiveness as a leader, but the change is subtle.
In other instances, people may notice a new behavior, but they don’t know what to make of it. Will it last? Is it genuine? What is your motive?
If you think there is a disconnect between your effort and the outcome, there are four things you need to do.
The first thing you need to do is revisit your goal and the changes you are making. Is your goal clear? Are the steps clear and the behaviors specific? For example, if you are working simply to “be a better manager,” then your goal lacks focus and specificity. Set goals and identify behaviors that you can change. These are the behaviors you want others to notice.
Second, lead people’s perceptions. Let your staff, peers, your boss and others know what to look for. This highlights your intended change and gives you a chance to describe what the change would look like and steps you are taking. Some call this “announcing the goal.”
If you have set a goal to be more decisive, but people continue to think of you as indecisive, for example, you need to start talking. Whether one-on-one or in a group, let people know that decision-making is something you are working on.
The third thing you need to do is invite others to let you know how you are doing. Ask key people to give you feedback on whether or not you are doing what you said you want to do. When you are trying to break a habit, learn a new skill or try a new approach, feedback is essential to your success. It helps others to recognize the changes you make.
And finally, it also helps to point out to people when you are making changes. What specific phrases could you use to call attention to your actions? You might say, “I’ve received some feedback about my being indecisive, so I’m going to make a decision here.” Or, “The team knows that I’m trying to improve my turnaround time on reviews. If I get this one done by Thursday, will that give you enough time?”
So to recap:
- Revisit your goal and the changes you are making.
- Lead people’s perceptions.
- Invite others to let you know how you are doing.
- Point out to people when you are making changes.
Changing behaviors can be difficult and changing your reputation takes time. Perseverance is a must. Taking the actions we have outlined here will help ensure the changes you make get noticed.