As a psychology major, a corporate executive, a coach and a Director Consultant for BNI I’ve gotten tons of training on building relationships and managing my reputation. I don’t always do it perfectly but I’m constantly learning and integrating this learning into my life and my business.
Because of this training I’m also really good at identifying when others are doing things that hurt relationships and hurt their reputation. What also catches my attention is when they do these things oblivious to the consequences. I see it all the time and I know it’s hurting those people’s opportunities to grow in their career or grow their business.
People want to do business with people they know, like and trust. The same is true within organizations. Managers want to promote those they know, like and trust. Treat trust like a valuable business asset, and protect it at all costs.
Delayed Response Time on Messages
We’re all busy, right? Shouldn’t there be some slack granted? Sure, but then you end up in the category of busy people who are cracking under the pressure and I don’t think that’s what you want. Rather than being seen as successfully busy you’re seen as someone who has too much on their plate and should not take on more.
Now you’re thinking, “But wait, I don’t want to be taking on more. I don’t need more busy work.” Right! You DO NOT want more needless busy work.
However, this “more” also takes you out of the running for some really great opportunities: juicy projects, promotions and clients. I know many business owners whose prospective clients were referred to their competition because the perception was the busy business owner was too busy to take on any more clients.
In regards to response time on messages there’s a magic number. It’s 24. After 24 business hours the person who sent or left the message starts to wonder. They are wondering if you got the message, they are wondering if you understood the message, they are wondering if you decided it wasn’t important, they are wondering if you are going to get back to them. They are wondering if they are going to have to take more time out of their busy day to reach out to you again.
As human beings when we don’t have information we make stuff up and we tend to lean toward the negative. It’s the survivalist part of our brain that wants to protect us and is preparing for negative outcomes.
Here’s a quick solution: send a quick note or voice message back letting them know you got their message and will be working on it in the next couple of days. This resets the expectation clock and reaffirms that you are responsible and professional. Now the sender is no longer left wondering…and making stuff up.
You Allow Yourself to Get Distracted
We live in a world of bright shiny objects. Many things are pulling at our attention. But if you are not all in and focused on what is going on right now and the person right in front of you, you convey that something else is more important. This can manifest itself as starting a side conversation during a meeting when someone else is speaking, looking over someone’s shoulder while talking to them, checking your phone, or spending too much time taking breaks when works needs to get done, etc.
And when people feel that they are not important or what you are doing for them is not important, they don’t trust you to take good care of them and all their “things.” I’ve had a business owner go on to me about how attentive they are to their clients and that listening was what people wanted. In our next conversation this person’s eyes kept darting over my shoulder to what was going on behind me.
When I was in corporate I had someone on my team that wanted to be developed to be in management someday. Usually this is a great thing. Having someone who wants to prove they are ready for more responsibility makes work more engaging and life a little easier. However, this person felt their current tasks were beneath them and so did their tasks too quickly, without care, and mistakes were being made. They were so eager to move on they were proving themselves to be unreliable. Here’s my advice: be where you are right now. If you’re working your way up the ladder do your absolute best to prove that, even when a task is tedious, you can be relied upon to produce good work.
If you cannot be where you are right now, literally or figuratively, make your apologies and go. But if you’re in, be in. And yes, there will be plenty to demand your attention after this conversation or this meeting or this project but give what you are doing now 100% of your attention.
You Share Mistakes You’ve Made without Highlighting the Lesson Learned
We are in a new era of business where we should be sharing ourselves more with our co-workers and clients, to build stronger teams and solidify relationships. Sharing our failures can create stronger bonds than sharing our successes. The compassion and empathy we feel when someone talks about their struggles adds emotion to the equation forming closer ties. The caveat is if you don’t finish the story with what you learned or what you’ve put in place to make sure it never happens again, you leave people with the impression that you’re failure did not lead to learning.
There’s no sense that you’ve taken any responsibility for what happened or that you know how to prevent it in the future. You may have in fact put a system in place to correct the problem but if you don’t mention it, the other party is left to assume the problem could happen again. Here’s how to do it right: always finish your story by highlighting what you’ve learned from your mistake, what systems and safety nets you have put in place to make sure it will never happen again.
For me, that builds trust. When I hear the solution they have come up with I know this person has made mistakes but has become stronger and wiser from them.
You Share Stories of Other People’s Mistakes for Entertainment
I know you are a good person. I know you mean no harm. I get it. We’ve all done this and it feels great in the moment. It lightens the mood. But at the end of it all you’ve just earned yourself the reputation of a gossip. If you’re lucky the other person will never find out what you’ve done but they often do…days, weeks, months or even years later. Oftentimes we do this when tension has built and we need to let off some steam. A comical story seems the way to go. When we gossip we give unconscious permission to those listening to gossip about us.
We teach people how to treat us. Remember the golden rule? Treat others as you want to be treated. This rule exists because it's true, what you give is what you get. Also, no one will want to work closely (or refer those they know) to work closely with someone who would use their mistakes for the amusement of others. Remember, this also pertains to listening to gossip. By listening and laughing along, you will become guilty by association. It won’t matter that you were not the one actually gossiping.
How to avoid being associated with those who engage in gossipy mean girl behavior? For starters, do not share stories that put other people in a bad light. Furthermore, when gossip starts, find an excuse to leave the conversation or change the subject. Oddly enough, intolerance for gossip solidifies your reputation for being kind, professional and a person of integrity. It may annoying in the short-term to those who would like to initiate it, but they will come to respect your stance, because they will trust that you won’t gossip about them.
If you want to get promoted, if you want to grow your business, guard your reputation as a person who has compassion and can keep confidentiality, no matter how funny or juicy the information that crosses your path may be. When the urge to share information about a coworker comes up let it pass and then pat yourself on the back. You are building the confidentiality muscle. This is priceless!
Instead of sharing gossip, make the conversation about the people in the room and leave the people out of the room, out of the room. Your offer of support will also pay off in the long run.
You Let the Fact That You Know Better Leak Out
You have worked hard to be where you are and your level of earned expertise shows you where others are making mistakes. Your natural reflex is to offer suggestions. Helping peers identify and correct their mistakes will likely make a significant improvement in their health, wealth and happiness. However, somewhere between identifying the problem and the other person executing that perfect resolution something happens in the communication. Something that turns good intentions into preachiness.
Rather than considering you an expert, your audience perceives you as one or more of the following: an interloper, a critic, a know-it-all, the judge, a complainer, the do-right, the fun police, the Kool-Aid drinker, a dictator, the hall monitor, or just “that annoying person.” What you don’t realize (and what I didn’t at the time) is what you are “leaking” is your attitude. “I know better than you” comes out in your facial expression, your tone of voice, and the words you choose in your communication. It's a delicate science to give criticism without coming off this way.
No one likes to be considered less than. No one appreciates having flaws pointed out, so even with the best of intentions, you’re left with a bad reputation. Before you speak, check and re-calibrate your attitude. Remind yourself why you are trying to help the other person. Come from a place of compassion, offering up your insights as merely one solution, as a gift without strings attached, and leave it up to the other person to agree or not agree.
Personally, I am over the top excited that we are on the cusp of turning the page on not only a new year but also on a new 10-year window of opportunities and possibilities!
You may be thinking, whoa…I am just embracing the fall season…yikes… it is tough to think about a new decade!
Yet it is this groundwork, this forward thought that you put in place TODAY that will propel you and lead you into greatness in 2020 and beyond. Designing a new decade rests in your ability to vision, in your willingness to be curious, in your awareness of where you are now and what you most want to curate. Essentially, curating what's next is about tapping into today with confidence, conviction, and decision. Leading YOU starts now. This is your new next. It is your choice.
Sometimes to get to that 'next', you need to take a step back to reflect. Please pardon my asking you to spend time in yesterday. Those who know me personally, know that I created and continue to grow my business based on enabling the present moment as a springboard for living your legacy. So, indulge me here! True, I am asking you to peek into the past, yet it is only in order for you to bring the essence of that past forward into this moment called NOW.
One of the best ways to tap into what's next is to clarify what drives you. To design a new decade, ask yourself this question about the past ten years:
What worked? What were my successes?
Make a list of your achievements big and small. Don't type them, but rather use ink and paper and sit with and savor them. Move your thoughts and your successes from your head, to your heart, to your pen, to the paper. Remember that on the flip side of goals not attained and New Year's resolutions abandoned, there was more than likely some traction and action that moved you forward, even if the end result was not what you expected. Once you have a full list of a decade's worth of personal and professional accomplishments, think about how this makes you feel. Do you remember celebrating all of them? My guess is no. So, celebrate them now. Give them new life by validating them. Circle the successes that resonate with you most right now. Where can you lean into those accomplishments as you power into the decade ahead?
Now comes a tougher question, one that I used myself in my own mid-life reinvention and a question I adore because in a moment's time it provides you with a quick reconnect to your unique inner voice.
If it were 10 years ago and nothing were standing in your way, no fear or excuses to contend with…what would you do?
Don't overthink it. The brilliance of this question is that it refocuses purpose. Whatever first came to mind when you answered this for yourself is at its core a powerful insight into defining and redefining the FUTURE decade. Bring your answer into the light of today and what small piece of it is actionable NOW? Where is this resonating and aligning with a 2019 version of yourself?
Then, based on your success list and your answer to the above question, what is your 2020 vision for your business and for the business of YOU?
Designing a new decade begins as a collection of 3,650 opportunities. 3,650 blank slates of new days ahead in which to pivot and propel yourself forward. Every single one of those days is a window into your legacy. An invitation to be, create, explore, and chip away at this thing we call life. One 24-hour segment at a time.
While you have a decade ahead to work on design improvements, you have the ability to begin manifesting this project of YOU Version 2020 right NOW. Based on exploring the exercises in this post, begin executing your vision. Ask questions. Be present. Let go of 2019 and the past 10 years so that you can embrace the next 10. Position acceptance and self-trust at the forefront of how you lead you. One choice at a time.
Don't get bogged down in the concept of the next 10 years. Instead position clarity and intention into each new day, starting today. Then chase every one of those intentions with an in-the-moment commitment and solution toward living a legendary life!