Executive coaches are frequently asked whether people can change. I mean, truly change. I, for one, haven’t seen evidence that a core personality is all that malleable.
That said, I’ve seen countless examples of leaders rewiring new behaviors in order to become more effective. While their essence doesn’t change, their strategies, approaches and interactions do. This is a foundational premise of executive coaching.
The Harder Question:
The harder question I observe play out in organizations is whether that, on its own, will be enough? In truth, I have seen high-achieving VP’s commit and successfully cultivate new behaviors – say, after receiving a tough performance review – and later garner minimal if any outward recognition for it. In fact, I had a client once, where perceptions of him were so stuck, he picked up and left for another company to start fresh.
So, here’s the dilemma. What if you’ve earnestly adopted new behaviors and approaches but your organization won’t allow you to change? In other words, what if others are dead-stuck or just plain invested in their outdated perceptions of you? Does that mean your path to a C-Suite role is irrevocably blocked?
The short answer is, “no.”
That said, it is going to take some work to rebuild your profile and regain promotability. Specifically, you will need to deftly navigate your organization and build relational capital to get your boss and some key influencers acknowledging of your changed behaviors and onboard with your executive readiness.
How to get started? I recommend you “MORPH” to rewire their perceptions.
Here’s the five-step MORPH formula:
1. Enlist your MANAGER. Explain what you’re doing and ask your boss to visibly stand up for you to create the space for perception-change. Understand, however, that you’re asking a lot. This is the same boss who might have recently told her own higher ups – and maybe even your peers – that you weren’t promotable. Win her over.
2. OXYGENATE the problem areas. A wildly successful marketer once advised me that when an offering has a shortcoming, “if you can’t hide it, then feature it!” Air it out. Commission HR to provide you with a 360-degree assessment and feedback. Strategically select respondents. In addition to the standard complement of boss, peers and direct reports, invite key organizational influencers and opinion leaders. Ask humbly for help and you will predispose a person to your emerging improvements.
3. It’s now time to REFRAME the perceptions. Based on the feedback, identify key themes and commit to a development plan. Vet it with your boss and ask for his input and offer genuine thanks. This will prime him to discard the now-obsolete box in which he’d pictured you.
4. Now, PROVE it! Your parents always said that actions speak louder than words, didn’t they? Showcase the new-and-improved you by demonstrating “disconfirming” behaviors and approaches. Here are some examples. (a) If you are reputed to drive results uncollaboratively, identify a nagging organizational dysfunction and assemble a cross-functional, diagonal cut of the organization to methodically tackle it together. (b) If the rap on you is that you’re great with the numbers but don’t inspire your team, plan an offsite to share your vision. (c) If others believe you’re strategic at the expense of implementation, roll up your sleeves and dig in.
5. Finally, HONOR those who’ve helped your turnaround. Find a time and a way to thank every single person you can . . . whether they rooted for you or not. Your boosters will enjoy the acknowledgement and recognize that their investment of political capital appreciated. Detractors will find your confident magnanimity unnerving. When they sense the shift in popular opinion, they’re prone to adjust to the reality of your upward momentum.
Recognize that you didn’t create the current perceptions overnight. Patiently and tenaciously MORPH expectations following these steps. It’s up to you.
So what I want to know is, in light of what you’ve read here, what are you going to do to recast negative
perceptions of you? Leave me a comment.
I hope you found this piece useful. If you like it, share it with your colleagues or someone else you believe might benefit.
If you want to learn more, take our “C-Suite Roadblock Audit,” which will help you identify mistakes you might be making right now that could be hurting your C-Suite prospects. You can also download our “Team Optimizer Checklist” to help get your directs aligned. Alternatively, if you’d like to have a brief complimentary call with me feel free to reach out for a 15-minute Strategy Session.
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Source: Ephraim Schachter