The heartful leader – part 2
Extraordinary outcomes through inspiration
RAVI VENKATESAN introduced the Heartful Leader framework shown below In part 1 of this series. He also established paradigm shifts that require leaders of the future to get more done with influence versus control. They need to navigate situations where they don’t have authority but rather need to collaborate. They develop and use ‘soft power’ to accomplish what is needed. He discussed how our inner state reflects in outer behavior, which either does or doesn’t create trust & relationships, which over time create reputations. The combination of trust, relationships and reputations results in the influence that we have. In this article he looks at reputation more closely.
The word ‘reputation’ comes from the Latin reputare, which means ‘to think over’. The thinking over happens over time. It is defined as “beliefs and opinions generally held about someone or something”. It is also defined as “a widespread belief that someone has a particular characteristic”. Some examples from day-to day-life are:
A person in your family circle who has a reputation of being helpful to everyone.
A manager at your workplace who has a reputation of getting things done at all costs.
A politician who has a reputation of not being trustworthy.
A neighbor who has a reputation of being a naysayer to all new ideas that are brought up in your Home Owner’s Association meetings.
The CEO of a non-profit organization who has a reputation of high integrity.
Reputations can be good or bad, like being viewed as an expert in a certain field, or not being trustworthy. They can also be good or bad based on context. For example, a leader who has a great reputation for being a visionary may not wield enough influence to lead the execution of a new initiative. On the other hand, a leader who has a reputation of being very good at getting things done, but not at vision and strategy, may not be taken seriously if he tries to rally a team behind a new strategy.
Most of us don’t think about our reputation. There are a couple of reasons for this. We rely on authority or influence through direct relationships to get things done. This works well up to a certain extent, but it doesn’t scale. Sooner or later in our leadership journey we arrive at a point where someone will, or will not do something based on our reputation, and we don’t have a direct relationship with them. Most people cannot have a direct meaningful relationship with more than a couple of hundred people, even in this hyper-connected age of social media. So how else will you influence beyond these people, except to consciously build and manage your reputation?
Let’s look at three components that make up a reputation and some of the ways to develop and manage these more consciously. Towards the end we will also discuss a 3-step approach to rebuilding a damaged reputation.
If people are not aware of you, you don’t have a reputation. So the first step is to find ways to create awareness about yourself as a leader. When I became a manager at Accenture, as part of new manager training we were taught to develop one or two things that, over time, we would be known for. This can be “Very good at data analysis,” or “Great at developing people,” or simply “Rock solid reliable in getting things done.” It applies even in a family situation. Think about a girl that married your cousin and has a reputation for being tough to get along with, or the aunt who will go all out to help everyone.
Strategies to spread awareness include:
Highlight what you want to be known about yourself in a natural and subtle way in conversations. Keep in mind that being very explicit or overt with this doesn’t work and will come across as inauthentic.
Seek feedback when you make a presentation on some topic or express an opinion about what to do in a situation etc. People ‘think over’ more when asked for feedback.
Remember the word reputation comes from ‘think over’.
Publish blog posts, articles or white papers in whatever forums you can access.
Expressing your opinions in a structured manner is a great way to spread awareness.
What values do you embody on a day-to-day basis, and how do you express them? For example, if one of your key values is respect for everyone, do you visibly treat people that report to you the same way you treat your boss? The old recommendation of treat the janitor like your CEO is very true. Many times, how you treat people that you perceive as lower in socio-economic status is noticed by others consciously or subconsciously and forms an impression in them about you.
Strategies to managing this:
Find words and ways to express the values that you stand for, e.g. respect, honesty, truth, integrity, courage, or any others.
Keep in mind that you cannot fake this, so if you are unsure of your values then you will have to first do the inner work to find them within yourself, and then apply approaches to project and express them. For most people, fortunately, they have the values, and just haven’t figured out how to project them.
What are your areas of expertise that are relevant to the context of your workplace, family or circle of friends? Do your friends know you as a financial wizard and hence connect you with someone who needs advice on retirement planning? Do people in your organization recognize you as a big thinker and come to you for new product ideas? Does your extended family believe you are a great ‘fixer’ of relationship problems and bring you in to counsel the couple that are working through challenges?
Strategies to manage this:
Pick only one or two things that you are really good at, and start finding opportunities to showcase them. Let the word spread organically and naturally. You cannot explicitly advertise your skills to build a reputation.
Find ways to use your expertise to help others, especially when you don’t have to do this. People always talk about unexpected help or out of the way help that they received.
In most cases we are not starting from scratch. We have a reputation that unfortunately may be tarnished. We may have changed, but people still perceive us based on past behavior. The way to rebuild a reputation is through a three-step process: Acknowledge, Act and Reinforce.
For example, let’s say that you are a manager in building construction with a reputation of not being transparent when things are going wrong, and telling people with little notice that deadlines will be missed. Over the years, you have suffered because of this reputation and haven’t progressed through your organization as well as you could have. You have recently made changes and are starting to tell people early if things are getting delayed, but they still have the perception of the old you. Your steps for rebuilding would be:
First of all acknowledge that in the past you have not been transparent with delays and have made changes to correct the way you operate.
Let the actions speak for themselves. Make sure you provide information early and often regarding delays.
Articulate the changes made to ensure that perceptions change. Find opportunities to create a summary of how you have changed your approach. Great opportunities are ‘Project reviews’, ‘Executive summary meetings’, ‘Transition meetings’ etc. Make sure you highlight the fact that based on past feedback you made a change, and here are the results.
Rebuilding reputations can take a long time but following this 3-step process will help you make a big difference fairly quickly.
In subsequent articles we’ll look at trust & relationships, behaviors and inner state (of our hearts and minds). We’ll then work inside out to create the right state, behavior, trust & relationships and bring this together with reputation to create influence and great leadership outcomes.
Article by RAVI VENKATESAN