The last in an exclusive series of three articles for Training Journal, Elva Ainsworth, will features an extract from her new book, ‘Reboot Your Reputation’.
Are you tired of working hard while people around you are not impressed? You may have tried different things. You may have tried doing things differently. You may be wondering whether it is something to do with the fact that you are too female, too short or, perhaps, too young?
Facts you can do nothing about! Or maybe they simply won’t change their minds – they have put you in a box and that’s that! Well, this third series of strategies might give you some hope as you don’t need to change at all – all you need to do is change the context for other people and their opinions will start to evolve in a better direction.
Strategy ten – Give them a really good reason why things may be different
In general, humans love their opinions. However open-minded you are, any judgements you have come to about other people will be considered precious and well-formed. So it is no surprise that it is therefore difficult to change their minds.
Working in a prejudiced environment is perniciously disempowering when you are not favoured. It can be a huge relief to find yourself in a more enlightened and supportive organisation.
You need to give them a really good reason. It needs to be clear that their opinions were indeed correct but, in the light of changed circumstances or evidence of a new you, of course a new opinion is entirely justified.
Here are three different ways you can provide a new context:
- Change your circumstances. Take on some new responsibility, a new job or a new project, find new support, restructure your life or have a totally new experience. Let’s imagine you worked with someone you considered to be highly task-focused and driven, overly determined and not at all empathic.
You do not trust them to understand you or your feelings. He takes a six-month sabbatical and when he comes back you hear that he has been working full-time in a local food bank and is now revisiting his career goals. You might now be prepared to change your mind about him?
This might seem a little dramatic but you can change your circumstances in many different and lesser ways. Just look out for opportunities to surprise, to be bigger and braver than you have been before. Take a step into a new horizon, make sure it is visible and then follow up by sharing with the people who are important to your future.
- Learn from a big insight. Use some recent feedback or a challenging experience as a true learning opportunity and share this experience with your important people. 360-degree feedback can be useful in this regard but simple contribution from your peers or your customers can do the job too.
By sharing the breakthrough, others will get to see and feel that things are now different. This only works if you talk about it and if you take full responsibility for how you have been and what you can do differently.
- Try a new intention. First look at the truth about what your intentions have really been in the past. You may have been trying to impress, aiming for a good appraisal grade or simply to do your job well the way you think it should be done.
Have a look at whether this intention has come good and if it has worked for you overall. Consider that there may be other ways to approach things that might work better. How would things be if your intention shifted from a desire to achieve to a desire to learn?
Or from wanting to impress to wanting to support instead? Try these on and see how it feels and where it takes you.
Usually a shift in intention, however small, will have profound effects on your behaviour and your relationships. Other people may not be aware of what has changed but the new dynamic will be there anyway. Look to empower you and others around you and you can guarantee things will move positively in the future.
Strategy eleven – Start afresh!
If you want to be known differently then a legitimate strategy is to start again in a totally fresh environment. This is clearly the most dramatic and life-changing option but it is particularly appropriate when you have a badly fractured relationship with a key member of your community and also when you have decided you would prefer to be within a different culture.
360-degree feedback can sometimes show you that there is a broken relationship but usually it is pretty obvious to you and to everyone around you. There may have been a big disappointment or even a betrayal – a chasm that will require a big bridge to mend it and, even with the bridge built, will not necessarily mean relations go back to how they once were.
You can always continue working with this relationship as it is, intending to mend it and make the best of it but an alternative is to choose to put some significant space between you for a while. Accepting that the relationship is as it is and knowing that it is ok is critical for this to really work as a strategy.
Otherwise, you are running away from something that is broken rather than moving towards a fresh and inspiring new direction.
It may not be a particular relationship issue but instead a realisation that the culture of your firm or community does not suit you. You might wish your current culture would change but, just like with your broken relationship, this can be a near impossible job for one person to achieve.
If not impossible, it will certainly not be a short-term task. Choosing a culture that would have you thrive in and be comfortable can be a huge relief. Working in a prejudiced environment is perniciously disempowering when you are not favoured. It can be a huge relief to find yourself in a more enlightened and supportive organisation.
Sometimes the real shift comes in the acceptance and willingness to move away. But whether you move away to pastures new or not, you need to be happy with this idea. Give yourself some space, talk with your partner or other key people in your life.
Consider the best question to ask yourself. Is it ‘what do I really want to be doing in a year’s time?’, ‘where do I really want to be next?’ or is it ‘who do I want to be working with in my next job?’ Agree the question and brainstorm the options and possibilities.
See and feel which excite you the most. Notice those that feel ‘duty-bound’ or heavy. Make note of those that feel ‘impossible.’ Put them all down and sleep on them. See if you can choose which to progress. It may be a simple matter of researching possibilities or checking practicalities out or having conversations with certain people.
Set yourself a date when you will choose which to go for (or, alternatively, choose not to do anything). Give yourself time and space to recreate.
The culture you find yourself in may not be helping you. You do not have to put up with it. Tricky relationships may be getting in your way. Again, you do not have to tolerate this any longer. Take all that you have learnt and your clarity about what you really want and choose where you want to be next.
In a fresh place and with new people, you can do things differently and more consciously than before. These steps are simple yet dramatic and life-changing but you really can generate the reputation you want.