By Eboni Elise
You’re smart, you contribute creative solutions, you work your butt off to produce great results but you just can’t seem to get ahead at work. So, what’s the problem?
I think I’ve found the answer to this question that’s helped me grow as a leader. Most successful people at work are not the smartest or the most competent, it’s all in how others perceive them.
Some time ago I interviewed for a position at work. I had the support of my peers and senior management helped me prepare. I practiced and gave myself pep talks. I felt ready to conquer the interview! But…I fell short in the end and didn’t the position.
A colleague gave me some very honest feedback that led me to becoming more aware of myself and how others perceived me. It brought on an epiphany, along with a flood of tears (which I’ll share in an upcoming blog post).
One thing that used to be an issue for me was speaking up in meetings when executive staff was present. If I couldn’t articulate it eloquently in my head or thought it wasn’t insightful, I just wouldn’t say anything to avoid looking dumb. Then was upset with myself when someone else would say exactly what I was thinking. Ugh!
So when I didn’t get the promotion, it wasn’t that I couldn’t perform well, it was because I wasn’t perceived as a leader by those who were making the hiring decisions. It makes sense now but wasn’t clear to me then. If I never speak up or give input, how could I be seen as someone who could lead a team, provide direction, or make sound decisions? Ding, ding, ding! Without that honest feedback. I may not have realized this.
Be mindful of how you are perceived by others.
Not getting that position motivated me to step up my game. There was no doubt that my work spoke for itself but I no longer wanted others to think twice about my ability to lead. So I made a few changes and as a result, a better position came along. And I didn’t fall short in the interview. Whoop whoop!
Here are 4 things you can do to step up your game and change your perception into a positive one:
1- Leverage Your Voice! Speak up at every meeting. Sit up straight and be attentive. Find something to say even if it’s just to ask a question or summarize what others have said. Don’t be afraid to give your perspective even if you think others will disagree. Let people get used to hearing your voice.
2- Check Yo’ Self Before You Wreck Yo’ Self. How are you perceived if every time your boss says something you don’t like, you give an eye roll or negative comment? Don’t allow your facial expressions or body language to show it. Even if a co-worker tries to throw you under the bus and you want to meet them in the back at 5 o’clock to open a can of whoop ass - Practice self-control! Address it at a more appropriate time in a professional, tactful way..
3- What’s Your Work Wardrobe Looking Like? Half of a person’s perception of you is based on how you look. I’ve known people who were great at their jobs but weren’t taken seriously because of how they dressed. Think to yourself “Would an executive want to take me along to a business lunch looking unkempt, wearing 6-inch heels or bejeweled nails? Save those for after work hours. Think of what position you want to aspire to and look at how the person in that position dresses. No need to break the bank to wear what they wear, simply start to dress in a similar way. Be perceived as someone who is in a higher position even if you aren’t there yet. When you go for that promotion, it’ll look like it’s a natural fit for you!
4- Don’t Always Hang With the Clique. Sitting with your work buddies at staff meetings or lunch may be cool but switch it up a bit. Sit next to someone from a different department and start a conversation. Have lunch with another team and learn about what they do. Take it a step further and find opportunities to collaborate on a project. You’ll be more visible to others at work and be perceived as someone who is cooperative and works well with all levels of leadership.
What are your thoughts about perception in the workplace? Leave your comments below!