How are you perceived – find out

By Kristi Hedges via hbr.org  Article

How Are You Perceived at Work? Here’s an Exercise to Find Out

“In The Power of Presence, I outline a straightforward presence audit to determine how others perceive you. It only takes a couple well-worded questions to a few key people to get the information you need. (If you’ve ever conducted a 360 evaluation, you’ve seen how quickly impressions start repeating.)

While this exercise won’t take a lot of time, it may be psychically intensive. So keep in mind that there’s never a comfortable time to do this and assume now is the exact right time.

Use this process as a guide:

  • Select five people. Choose colleagues who see you repeatedly in relevant work situations: bosses, executives, direct reports, peers, or even former colleagues. Influential co-workers who have their ears to the ground make great sources. … While it’s important that you have trusted people in your group, make sure to choose people who will tell it to you straight.
  • Ask for a face-to-face meeting. Be clear that you’ll keep whatever the person tells you confidential, which will encourage honesty, and that you’ll be collecting feedback from several people to find themes, which lessens the burden for any one individual. …
  • Ask two questions. In the meeting, ask these two simple questions designed to tap into the collective wisdom:
  1. What’s the general perception of me?
  2. What could I do differently that would have the greatest impact on my success?

Depending on the person, you’ll hear responses ranging from eye-opening and helpful to vague and confusing. If the person is uncomfortable, they may rely on job- or project-specific feedback. In that case, clarify:

I appreciate that feedback. May I go up a level now and ask about the general perception of me as a leader/colleague/person?

  • Manage your reaction. Resist the temptation to explain yourself, defend your actions, or reveal disappointment. Your interviewees will be looking to see what effect their feedback has on you in real time. The quality of your feedback will only be as good as your ability to remain comfortable while receiving it. Ask for details or examples if you need them. And end with a sincere thank you.

When you’ve finished the interviews, look for themes and repetitive points (it’s OK to shed outliers as long as you’re sure they don’t contain valuable information). If the perceptions of you are in line with what you intend, great. If not, it’s time to change your behaviors and begin to shift perception.”

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