Six ways to build the right image
Chances are people see you differently than you see yourself. For example, it’s likely your anger is bigger to others than it is to you. The problem is perception is reality, at least in the mind of the perceiver.
It’s frustrating to be perceived differently from your own self-perceptions.
Successful leaders successfully project the “right” image.
The “right” image is the alignment of organizational values with professional behaviors. For example, if your organization values relationship building, you should be able to describe and exemplify five relationship building skills. (Five is a number pulled out of the hat for illustration purposes)
Leaders can behave their way into a public image that reflects their inner reality.
Six ways to align the internal you with the external you:
#1. Fully embrace and freely align with organizational values.
#2. Invite, acknowledge and accept the perceptions of others even when they seem wrong. You’ll never learn how to project the right image by verbally correcting another’s perceptions.
#3. Listen to exceptions. It seems there’s always one or two people offended by your humor or overwhelmed by your demeanor. Sometimes the exceptions are expressing what others believe but won’t say.
#4. Invite an outsider to evaluate you. The perceptions of someone that doesn’t have history with you helps with defensiveness.
#5. When someone says you seem sad, angry, worried, stressed and you don’t think you are, ask them to explain what you’re doing that makes you seem that way. Explore your behaviors.
#6. Identify specific behaviors that clearly express to others your personal alignment with organizational values and practice, practice, practice.
Do you think this “image management” is important?
How can leaders learn how to project the “right” image?
Very nice advice, Dan. I especially like the advice on seeking outsider feedback.
Who hasn’t struggled with this topic at some point in their life/professional development? Only the dishonest (with themselves), in my opinion.
Leadership starts within, it lives within, and projects out. Nobody can “see” your leadership, they only ever witness it. Feedback from your witnesses is ultra important.
Great work, Dan.
Thanks for your kind words.
Even though this topic may border on manipulation or fakery, I don’t think it has to. Your comment concerning the internal aspects of leadership are essential to lift the conversation above pretending to be something we aren’t.
All the best,
I couldn’t agree more, I have only contempt for “pretend” leaders. Leadership is 100% genuine in all aspects: persona/people/process/pathway.
Your post hits home the importance of interaction with others.
Dr. Henry Cloud (in his book, Integrity) says a person with an orientation toward the truth seeks feedback about themselves. Cloud says, “They don’t only wait for others to give them feedback, they also go after it themselves. They desire it and see it as an opportunity to grow.”
Great seeing you. Thank you for stopping in.
Of the suggestions in this post, I think getting feedback from the outside and of course listening to it, may be the most important to creating alignment between the internal leader and external behaviors.
Success to you,
Hmmmmmmmmm Hi Dan, another interesting and inward looking post.
I definitely agree with all 6 recommendations. That Perception is reality is a concept that anchors the healthcare industry. After all we are a “service” enterprise. One of the key metrics we monitor is patient satisfaction. We use Press Gany and have been doing so for the past 5 years. Needless to say it has been a true challenge to convince 150 physicians of the validity of the survey and how to use this tool as simply a metric and gauge of how our patients perceive us. As noted above the reality of the “witness” (in our case patient) needs to be the reality of the leader.(Physician).
Several years ago we implemented a “shadowing” program where another HealthCare professional (usually a nurse or Mid Level Provider) actually followed the physician making rounds, doing office work, interacting with staff and other patient related activities.
There has not been a single case where the subject followed has not had a significant improvement in their patient satisfaction survey.
This validates and should serve as a testament that we don’t always and I would dare say frequently understand nor realize how we come across in our daily interactions. There were plenty of physicians that when presented with their summary report at the end of the day would comment: ” Was I really doing that?” “Did I not acknowledge everyone in the room?” “Was I truly interrupting all of the time?”
I have mentioned before but I think it is worth repeating that all feedback should be welcomed by all of us.
A simple experiment which I sort of tripped into demonstrates how we don’t really know ourselves. Leave yourself a voicemail and then listen to the recording when you get home. Ask yourself if the person on the voicemail sounds to you like the person you heard when leaving it! I believe you will be pleasantly surprised that it does not and of course I am not referring to the verbiage but rather the all important tone.
There have been studies substantiating how the tone of your voice impacts the perception of the “listeners.” This Shadowing Program has now been added as part of our over-all orientation for all new physicians joining the organization. Our physicians come from a global community but medical practice is a locally delivered service and skill sets don’t predicate success as much as attitude and service excellence neither of which are taught in medical school or residency training.
So like the great picture you have posted, let’s all look at the mirror and not be upset when who gazes back at us may seem like a stranger and just accept that it really is US. Acceptance is the critical first step to transforming ourselves from who we are to who we wish to be and everone we interact with can be our ally in this endeavor. Oh, Oh, I need to go look in the mirror and see what I can do a little better today! 🙂 Al
Shazzamm!! Your comment added so much value I took the liberty to break it up into paragraphs and highlight a couple comments that seemed to jump out at me. I hope you don’t mind. (When I look in the mirror, I see a control freak looking back) 😉
I respect that you give your time and insights freely to the LF community.
Dr. Diaz is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. His bio is at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/al-diaz
I REALLY want to be a fly on the wall at Al’s digs! Ah, the validity of PG data…hmmm, millions upon millions of responses is worth????
Would have been a blast to watch reactions when the ‘shadowing’ program was first pitched to the MDs.
Major props to them for accepting the challenge though and gaining probably a multitude of lessons learned! I hope you gave serious recognition to the first ‘volunteers’, both the MDs and the shadows.
Thanks for sharing those experiences Al!
You NAILED it Doc; it was literally a true “blast” and in no way an easy “sell and absolutely no volunteers here but rather the “enlisted!” .” We defined three “buckets” holding percentile rankings nationally and regionally in each specialty: Yellow Bucket top third percentile, Green Bucket middle third percentile and the “infamous” Red Bucket with the lower third percentile rankings. Everyone in the Red Bucket was “enlisted” and shadowed and we have done that continuously for the past four years. Fortunately we have a Board with a lot of determination and being that data shows that the folks in the Red Bucket have a 125% higher incidence of legal issues the “persuaded enlistment” was “offered” as a necessity to recognize (“appease’) the majority stakeholders since everyone sails on the same ship. Not surprising every year we have had a significant decrease in the number of folks in the red bucket. This year was our lowest with only 8 enrolled in the program (Besides those that over the last 4 years have de-selected themselves and are no longer on board). We started three years ago as mentioned earlier to make this program a routine part of orientation for all new physicians and now this program is really part of our culture and looked upon as a resource. In fact we have had true volunteers from the other buckets requesting to be shadowed to identify areas for improvement. We have service excellence awards every spring looking at 9 metrics with Pres Gany accounting for 20% of the overall score. Well two out of the 20 recipients this year were “charter members of the first Red Bucket. So yes the program works for us and yes I still have sharpnel and other war wounds from that first skirmish. ( I haven’t seen any medals yet! 🙂 Al
Kudos for your accomplishments, Al.
Thanks for the f/u details Al.
I briefly had a visual flash (flush?) of the red bucket looking more like a toilet than a bucket. (Would have thought the green bucket would be the top bucket to align with stoplight visual, but hey…) And it is not surprising that those in the red had more legal issues swirling round them.
What recognition have the top bucketeers gotten? Have people ‘shadowed’ them to see how they do so well? Would seem like a natural progression to make their approaches more of the ‘best practice’ bucket.
An empty red bucket some day sounds like a great excuse for a celebration!
quick update Doc. Thanks to your “visual”comment we have changed the progression of the buckets to go GREEN YELLOW and RED. of course we will be changing the “credits” to reflect the new DOC rank ordering. Hey whenever I can get more “authors” listed it spreads the “retribution” comments. 🙂 Al. Seriously thanks for the input.
If I ever am in your neck of the woods Al, I would like to drop by, believe I would learn a lot!
And an update here, independent and in synchronicity of this thread, we have a group of MDs here that are redoing their standards under the moniker of Physician Excellence rather than ‘compliance’. Definitely needed here. They too are using the stoplight approach for their documentation pieces, will be pushing for the full meal deal with them.
If you have any write ups on your efforts I would be glad to pass them on to the staff here, with props to your camp of course! Email: email@example.com
Mirror moments are vital.
Particularly from those who spend 1/3 of their lives with you…those you serve/work with.
Again this is also about establishing a healthy culture to be able to ask those questions and modeling asking them. Rather than image, perhaps it is alignment, consistency. Initially it may be awkward to ask these questions, but so rewarding, professionally and personally.
And, as entropy happens, this is something that cannot be done just a time or two, it needs ongoing energy. Once established and feeling more natural, it can be such a free flowing process that it opens other venues of communication.
I don’t see it as manipulation unless that is the intent and no genuine effort to improve is planned. #5 might yield some very interesting responses as it may point to inner conflict reflected outward, or maybe you were just thinking hard.
If you want an impartial third party observer, videotape what you present. You will be able to identify gaps pretty quickly because you will really hear your words and the message behind them. Then for laughs, run it at twice the normal speed and see what gestures you do far too often! 😉
I always appreciate the enjoyable way you discuss important topics.
Oh and Entropy does set in … 🙂
As I read your comment I remembered the importance of aligning input and feedback with values, mission, and vision. Personal opinions have value but feedback’s real value is seen in its connection with bigger issues.
I’m running for my video camera.
Doc is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. He generously gives back to the community by sharing his insights and humor. Read his bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/doc
Do you think this “image management” is important?
How can leaders learn how to project the “right” image?
While I do think “image management” is important to some degree, there is a balancing act involved. A leader who “fully embraces and is fully aligned with organizational values” will, most of the time, exude that even if they are missing certain nuances of “image”. I would rather have this kind of leader than one who is not fully aligned w/organizational values but who is trying to concoct an image that portrays him/her as being aligned.
Number 4 (invite an outsider to evaluate you) is among the hardest of the suggestions but the one that can yield the most powerful return. I have been to audition after audition (acting) where the feedback was “be more energetic.” It happened too consistently to be untrue. I then started noticing things as minor as my voice mail message — it did not sound very energetic either! Once I pumped it up a little bit, I received a voice mail the same day where the caller opened up with, “Wow, you sure do sound excited in your outgoing message!”. Outsider evaluation – touch but rewarding.
I share your concern for authenticity rather than manipulation.
As I read your comment you reminded me of times I ride in my PU truck listening to talk radio. Sometimes I mimic the radio hosts style to learn from their technique. It’s a real eye opener.
Your comment is filled with energy. 🙂
All the best,
Paula is a featured blogger on Leadership Freak. You can read her blog at: http://www.waytenmom.blogspot.com/
I wrote a speech once about how perception frames all reality as we experience it. There’s perceived reality and “true” reality. However, anyone with experience in the philosophical fields knows that all things are relative. A ball may factually be red, but if you’re color blind, you’ll never experience it as such.
There is a balancing act, because you cannot become consumed by putting out the “right” image. Some people have a different reality and way they experience life, no matter what. And yet on the other hand, you wish for people to experience you truly as you are, as well as whatever business aspects, etc.. In many ways, on a personal level this is like marketing, but with a higher calling. “Don’t tell, show.”
Pause to evaluate, but move forward in confidence. “Know Thyself” goes a long way when it comes to “right” perception, both yours and others. Be the whole of who you are inside without doubts, and promote the same through the hats and titles and organizations that are an extension of you.
There’s also a balancing act between “don’t try to be someone you’re not,” and “as you think, so you are – so reach higher.”
As far as 3rd party evaluation, this is great when you can get it, if you can keep from taking it personally and try to remember how would you give someone else the same observations. Coaching is a wonderful avenue to gain this sort of insight.
Another great tool might be to record yourself as well. Performance artists and speech writers learn the value of a video recording of speeches and performances pretty quickly. As a basic example: when I first began my adventures into speech and communications, I had no idea that I unconsciously tapped my foot in rhythm while speaking. (Faults of a musician I guess?) And yet, that was what almost everyone focused on about me at first. What a heck of a way to be perceived! Thank goodness someone helped me discover it, I got to see it myself and learned to control it. A little “reality TV” about yourself can be eye opening.
Thanks for your comment and the powerful one liner, “Don’t tell, show.”
Reading down through your comment I remembered that I’ve asked people to come to one of my presentations for the sole purpose of evaluating my speaking style. It’s amazingly helpful. I’m passionate to continue excelling at public speaking. One person who did this, told me, “When you think you lower your head. You lose me. Keep you head up.” WOW! It’s great advice.
There are somethings we’ll never be able to do on our own. Understanding how others perceive us is OBVIOUSLY one of them.
Best to you,
Julia is a featured blogger on Leadership Freak. She regularly takes time to think through the posts and then brings her own perspective to the discussion. Read her bio at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/julia
To answer to your questions:
1.Do you think this “image management” is important?
-Yes I think it is. Image in management it is important and can be more valuable (in my opinion) adding authenticity and naturalness in behavior.
As I said a time ago, managers/leaders are humans first. So this part of humanity well explored can bring valuable work for any manager/leader.
As you are for example, very authentic in your subjects and way of delivering each message.
2.How can leaders learn how to project the “right” image?
-there is no “right” image. Each of us are different and what is right for me , maybe for you it is not right. This is the beauty in diversity of leadership.
-Important in my opinion is to have knowledge bases about who you really are. If you are a manager or a leader you assumed and you wanted to be a leader who can bring value, inspiration and create quality work trough teams.
For me it does not count what other may say about how is my image. I know me and know what I am, and who I am, what I have to improve at myself, what are my skills and so one. I am aware that I do and try to do thing as good as I can. I am very OK with me wherever I go. And I like to see humans Managers, not robots managers or leaders.
All the best :), thanks for sharing Dan
Thank you very much for your perspective on this topic. I’m so glad you took a few minutes to share you thoughts and ideas with everyone.
Your focus on being who we “really” are is well taken.
Excellent 6 points Dan. Sound advice because it increases self-awareness through listening, pondering, and action to modify behaviors.
I would add 1 thing to your list to build the right image:
Active awareness and adaptation to other personality types. Successful leaders know how to adapt both to different situations/needs and also to personality types. This is not the same as being a chameleon. It is the ability to put others to communicate effectively with other personality types to achieve some goal.
FYI: I will be giving a complimentary webinar on this topic on Oct. 4th at 1pm ET.
Here’s a post to give you a flavor in advance:
Thanks for broaching the subject of image. It is a people skill that is often overlooked!
Nice call on being aware of and able to adapt to others. I think it’s a sign of respect to acknowledge and accept an individual as they are and then learn to adapt to their communication style.
I’m so glad you left a link to your article and mentioned your free webinar. I hope the LF community jumps in.
Usually I don’t know what I’m posting on until the night before. Sometimes I write my posts the same morning I post them. However, I’ve planned a post on leadership development through online resources for Oct 4th!
Best to you,
Kate is a featured blogger and great supporter of the Leadership Freak blog. Read her bio at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/kate-nasser
Yes I agree that image management is important to project your trueself. I see it more like image alignment. When we say we do not tell lie but express our behaviours in such a way that clearly nullify our own statement even if we are not, then we have to think seriously about our behaviour shown. On the other hand, when we say we do not like dishonest person, and you always mix up with dishonest people, even if you are not dishonest, then again you have to think seriously. In such situations, we contradict our own claims. I stongly believe that Action justifies claim. So, to make image more powerful, first act and then claim.
I have seen people struggling to portray right image what they are not. Initially they succeed in creating right image, but sooner people see actions, they find out reality and claimant is exposed and then he or she can not create good image before the same audience. So, the bottom line is that you can not creat lasting image of yourself what you are not.
The best way to project right image is by action, attitude and appreciation. Fist act what you want to show. Create and build attitude that conform your claims, and finally appreciate people who show same image what you believe is right.
Image is the reflection of character. Sooner or later, it automatically shows its true color. I have seen people making big promise and creating initally charming and magnificent image and when people see they are not meeting their promise, they start doubting the person. So, creating image what person does not have, is actually a dangerous game. The fundamental of creating and leaving lasting image is be true, be real and leave rest on others.
What a super comment. Thanks.
Love how you focus on behavior before words. YOur three words; action, attitude, and appreciation are well stated.
In addition, your warning that if we try to fake it, sooner or later it will come out.
Early in my leadership career I was too focused on what others thought and not focused enough on performance.
All the best,
Ajay is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. I’m thankful he takes the time to read and then share his perspective with us. Read his bio at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/ajay-gupta
Sorry that I come in again, very very nice said Ajay.
“The best way to project right image is by action, attitude and appreciation. Fist act what you want to show. Create and build attitude that conform your claims, and finally appreciate people who show same image what you believe is right.
Image is the reflection of character. Sooner or later, it automatically shows its true color.”
all the best to all 🙂
I especially like the behavioral part of this. “I’m not (angry/sad/whatever). What am I doing to make you think I am. That’s real course correction there.
Thanks for the affirmation! It’s always great to receive a good word.
Best to you,
Very good thoughts. Outsider feedback is very important. It’s the reason the 360 feedback is (arguably) so good. Often we see ourselves how we want to, but sometimes it takes a peer to point out that we’re looking at the wrong mirror.
Love the “looking at the wrong mirror” image. It’s great!
Thanks and best to you,
Mark, I had to do a 360 evaluation as part of a certification program, and I really appreciated the comprehensive feedback. The area I thought I would be perceived strongly in (writing) was average at best and an area I thought I was succeeding in (decisiveness) was below average — challenge there being that particular response lost anonymity since only one person at that “level” in our organization responded — but it was important for me to understand that perception — I had been looking in the wrong mirror for sure!
This is just the kind of thing I have wanted to put across in my own development plan, the idea of aligning my own personality to good leadership to identify leadership skill gaps.
Thanks Dan for the excellent six points. I shall definately be considering them in the future.
Thanks for the good word. I appreciate it.
Success to you,
I was completely blown away by number 5, especially ’cause I am told similar things at times and, I realize, my reaction to that is something along the lines of “how dare you guess how *I* feel?”. Wow, thanks a lot for expanding my mind.
This post reminds me of the family therapy concept of ‘re-membering’
To re-member is to establish our agency over self and preferred ways of seeing self and being perceived.
When working with a person experiencing CONFLICT in the workplace I assist them to re-member (then remember) and align with organisational values and expectations of professional behaviour.
Next step is to invite that person to consider how they will demonstrate this re-membering to other members of the organisation.
I am heartened when a person arrives at the conclusion they are in charge of their self, attitude and actions and take affirmative steps to renew their membership (ie signing up ) as a person of value in the workplace with commitment to demonstrate same. Ending of course with the question ‘as a leader how might you exceed these expectations.’
Now, that’s a solution focussed conversation for another time!
Immensely enjoying leadership in 300 words or less.
All the best
Mediator and Workplace Consultant
Thank you for your comment and your good word about LF. You’ve added value by extending the conversation with your expertise.
I appreciate your use of language “re-member then remember” creative and insightful. Additionally your interest in employees renewing their membership in the workplace is well stated and well needed.
Geez, I love the word dance in that! Creates a great image!
Real eyes realize…;)
Very very insightful!! Especially no. 5 I often get that but never thought of asking why someone perceives me as sad, tired etc at that moment!
I think a lot and now realize that some thoughts might show on my face more than I think!
This could actually be a very good excuse to start with Botox :-D. Need to get rid of those negative facial expressions!
I enjoy LF tremendously!!
Thanks for all the valuable input!
It always feels good to read such wonderful compliments. Thank you.
I’m with you, I walk around thinking, with my head down looking like scrooge or the grinch. I’m not angry or sad. I’m thinking 🙂
Learning to think and smile,