Upgrading How the World Sees You

Upgrading How the World Sees You

As the summer begins, I am reminded of the adjustment it always was to come home from college for the summer.  On the one hand, it was always great to be home and unplug from the pressures of school in the safety and comfort of the family cocoon.  Yet in those 8 months away from home, I also changed and grew a great deal, and I wanted them to see me in a new way.

The unfortunate reality was that my family’s perception of me did not seem to change.  What made it worse is that their ways of relating to me often pulled me into ways of being that I had thought I left behind.  Loving being home was sometimes tainted by the frustration and self doubt from being related to based on past, deeply rooted interpretations.

A simple example of this phenomenon is that I was pretty clumsy as a young child until they figured out the problem was I could not see very well.  Yet the perception (and label) that I was a klutz stuck and for years the moment I was with my family I seemed to do clumsy things like drop stuff that I no longer did in my every day life.

In a conversation with a client I realized that leaders face a similar challenge as they change and grow over time.

When leaders change, the perceptions of them don’t always follow… at least not quickly.

Who you were when you took on that new project or position, started your company, or even faced a personal crisis head-on is not the same as who you will become in the process.

Yet often the people who are with you from the beginning have a hard time perceiving who you have become, because they are so comfortable knowing who you were. It is also possible that your weaknesses and vulnerabilities may have been the source of their safety and may even have given them the chance to shine.

So as you continue to grow as a leader, here are 3 steps you can take to consciously help others expand their perceptions of you along the way:

1.   Distinguish the changes you have made and the ways in which you have grown that make you feel proud.

Until you can claim your own growth it is unlikely others will recognize how much you have grown. This is not for the purpose of shouting it out to the world. It is about internalizing and celebrating your accomplishment, so you can claim your growth rather than waiting for others to validate you.

2.  Get clear about how you want to be known now in the world.

This is part claiming who you have become and part declaring who you want to become. By taking the time to get clear about how you want to be known, you will be able to go to work on realizing that aspiration both in your own belief in yourself and in the perception of others. Consider the important shifts you have made and will want to make in terms of FROM what TO what.

3.  Notice when the perception of other returns you to a past version of yourself and choose instead to be who you are now.

Consider that if other’s perceptions of and ways of being with you provoke old behavior, it is likely that the perception of you which probably still needs some work is your own. Those who knew you before will likely not recognize the new you until you have fully embraced who you have become. Also remember that they probably liked you just the way you were, so there may not be much motivation for them to alter their perceptions. With awareness each time you slip back into old patterns you will be able to quickly correct course.

Changing the perception others have of you begins with recognizing how you have changed and clarifying how you want to show up in the world from this moment forward.

Learn to use your reactions to others as the litmus test for whether you have fully integrated the transformation from who you have been to how you now want to be known. You may even discover that some of the people most important to you have actually been waiting for your perception of yourself to catch up to their already high regard for you.

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Photo Credit: skeeze


Enter A Comment

Carl   |   28 May 2015   |   Reply

Susan, great post – as you point out, one of the greatest deterrents to substantial change for us personally and/or professionally is our environment.

Very appreciative of your work,

Susan Mazza   |   29 May 2015   |   Reply

Thanks so much Carl. I appreciate you and am grateful for your continued support!

Chery Gegelman (@GianaConsulting)   |   29 May 2015   |   Reply

Susan this is really powerful…

“Until you can claim your own growth it is unlikely others will recognize how much you have grown. This is not for the purpose of shouting it out to the world. It is about internalizing and celebrating your accomplishment, so you can claim your growth rather than waiting for others to validate you.”

And I read it as two distinct things. 1. Claim the growth, own it, feel it, ooze it. 2. Don’t speak it!

Great advice!

Susan Mazza   |   29 May 2015   |   Reply

Thanks Chery! You highlighting this notion of claiming your growth vs speaking it (in hopes of others validation) brought to mind memories of how many times I said as a child and heard as a mom “look mom!”. Learning to gain our confidence and self worth from what we see “when we look in the mirror” so to speak rather than only through the eyes of others is an essential transformation in claiming our power.

Rich Largman   |   29 May 2015   |   Reply

So true Susan! Some people still relate to me as “the environmentalist.” While I don’t mind that, that is who I was 20 years ago. While that is still part of my fiber, I have grown beyond that now.

This is definitely something I need to make present for the CEO and leadership team of one of my clients.

Susan Mazza   |   29 May 2015   |   Reply

Thank Rich! We certainly all face this, but it isn’t always easy to see unless someone like you points it out.

faulkner olawale   |   30 May 2015   |   Reply

Thank you so much Carl. How we are and what we have become are two different things but opening up this box of personality and attributing all that we have achieved to the very state is traceable to what we have been and becoming. Its good to have a global perspective and brand in goals and pursuit. Thanks