This summer my wife and I had grand plans of getting the garden in shape and I found myself standing in the sweltering heat of a greenhouse in the local garden center. It was a busy day and there were lots of people wandering by outside checking out the fruit trees but unable to help themselves taking a little look in to see what I was up to. It dawned on me that this is exactly what it’s like working in a professional office environment…we go through our professional lives living in our own personal greenhouse. We’re on the inside looking out and everyone else is on the outside looking in!
This is important to recognise because every action you do, or don’t do…everything you say or don’t say…is, at some level, being judged by others. It runs deep in our psychological make up to make judgements about other people. Whether we’re conscious of it or not we’re constantly processing information about the actions of others and how they rate against our own schemas (personal values, beliefs, standards) and they’re doing the same to us. Unfortunately the higher you go in an organisation the more central your greenhouse becomes. Now those reporting to you, as well as those you report to, are outside your greenhouse “just” checking out the fruit trees.
A good reputation is more valuable than money ~ Publilius Syrus
So what’s the answer? Surely being self-conscious of everything you do can be quite stressful and what happened to just being yourself? You’re right, life is stressful enough as it is and you should be yourself. So how can we work in a professional environment without being self-conscious and by being true to who we are. The answer is simple. Become the type of person who lives to high professional standards…your own high professional standards. How many people do you know who sit down and think about “how” they will be versus what they will be? I’m guessing very few. What’s important to remember is that it shouldn’t be just a show…that’s a facade that will quickly fade when under pressure…it has to be real and genuine.
If you’re new to the workforce and you’re not sure what behaviour is acceptable and what’s not check out the more senior members in your organisation and then see if they align with with your own personal schema of how a professional should act. If you’re comfortable with these standards then become conscious of them and how your behaviour reflects these because ultimately our behaviours are the only true reflection of our values. Practicing these on a daily basis will eventually become habit and you’ll out in place a strong foundation for your own professional brand.
Let’s look at this from another angle now. If you’re in a leadership position you pretty much set the standard for acceptable behaviour. If you rant and rave at a meeting it quickly shows that this is an acceptable way of communicating so don’t be surprised if others follow your lead. Your reputation is your brand, it can take years to develop but only minutes to destroy! So protect your brand by understanding your professional values (your organisational values are a good place to start) and demonstrating these through your behaviours, your thoughts and by everything you say.
It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently ~ Warren Buffett
This isn’t something we can get away from so get out a cloth and window cleaner and get to work. If you live your professional values you’ll have nothing to hide and you can be relaxed and confident that you’re being true to yourself and creating a strong professional brand…brand You!
If you’d like to know more about how to build a professional reputation, or if you’d like to explore how coaching can help you become a better leader (of others or yourself!), or even if you’re just generally curious about what professional coaching can offer you, please contact us at any time for a free consultation.