‘Advertising’ YOU

by Jim Richardson on July 23, 2011

Want to ensure people “see” the changes you’ve made and “take note” of your efforts to change leadership style and approach?

Communicate—Communicate—Communicate—tell everyone that you want to get better.

It’s harder to change people’s perception of your behavior than it is to change your behavior.  In fact, it has been calculated that you have to get 100% better in order to get 10% credit for improving your behavior from your coworkers.

Experts tell us, we tend to view people in a manner that is consistent with our previous existing stereotypes, whether it is positive or negative.  If I think you’re an arrogant jerk, everything you do will be filtered through that perception.  If you do something wonderful and saintly, I will tend to regard it as the “exception to the rule”—because you’re still and arrogant jerk.  Within that framework, it’s almost impossible for me to perceive you as improving (changing), no matter how hard you try.

 You can’t rely on other people to read your mind or take note of your changed behavior without advertising it.

 However, these same experts tell us that your odds improve considerably when you “tell” everyone how hard you are trying, and repeat the message week after week.

It’s for this same reason that politicians, in a hard election campaign, run the same ads over and over again.  Repeating their message relentlessly … over and over.

Your odds improve even more if you “ask” everyone for ideas to help you get better, (360 Feedback).  Now your coworkers become invested in you; they pay attention to see if you’re paying attention to their suggestions.

Eventually the message sinks in and people start to accept the possibility of a “new and improved you”.  It’s a little like when a tree falls in the forest.  If no one hears it go thud, does it make a sound? Telling people that you are trying to change is your way of pointing everyone in the direction of the tree.

Any good marketing person knows that there’s no point to creating a great new product if you don’t get the message out to the buying public.  You have to tell the world, “Hey, I’m over here!”  This is the same rationale you must use as you undertake a serious personal improvement initiative.  You’re working hard to create a new “You”.  Do you think people will buy without a good advertising campaign?

It takes a lot more than a few weeks of behavioral modification for people to notice the new you.

It’s not enough to merely let people know what you’re doing.  You’re not running a “one day sale” here.  You’re trying to create a lasting change.  To do this you have to advertise relentlessly as if it’s a long-term campaign.  You can’t assume people hear you the first time or the second time or even the third time.  You have to pound the message into your colleagues’ heads through repetition that’s as steady as a metronome—because people are not paying as close attention to your developmental goals as you are.  They have other things on their minds; they have their own goals and challenges to deal with.

You can’t rely on other people to read your mind or take note of the changed behavior that you are displaying without you advertising it.  It takes a lot more than a few weeks of behavioral modification for people to notice the new you.

It’s very important that you proactively control the message of what you are trying to accomplish.  The following are some suggestions on how to start acting like your own press secretary:

  1. Treat everyday as if it was a press conference during which your colleagues are judging you, waiting to see your trip up.  That mindset, where you know people are closely watching you, will boost your self-awareness just enough to remind you to stay on high alert to your behaviors and actions.
  2. Behave as if everyday is an opportunity to hit home your message—to
    remind people that you’re trying really hard.  Every day that you fail to do so is a day you lose a step or two.  You’re backsliding on your promise to “change”.
  3. Treat everyday as a chance to take on all challengers.  There will be people who, privately or overtly, don’t want you to succeed.  So shed the naiveté and be a little paranoid.  If you’re alert to those who want to see you fail, you’ll know how to handle them.
  4. Think of this process as an election campaign.  After all, you don’t elect yourself to the position of “new improved you”.  Your colleagues do.  They’re your constituency.  Without their votes, you can never establish that you’ve changed.
  5. Think of this process in terms of weeks and months, not just day to day.

No matter what happens day-to-day, your long-term goal is to be perceived as improving your style and approach; your leadership effectiveness.

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