Every leader has a gap between who they think they are and who others think they are.
The larger your gap, the less your influence.
I tell myself a story every day when I look in the mirror: I’m likable, charismatic, and committed. I drive to work thinking I’m a good manager, in control, and on the right path. And yet, each person I come in contact with may have a very different story about me. And guess what? Perception is reality, so what they perceive is true for them, regardless of what I think about myself.
The longer I allow that gap to persist, the less I’m able to lead people effectively.
- If I think I’m bold but others see me as stubborn they won’t easily follow.
- If I think I’m innovative but others see me as easily distracted they won’t be as committed.
- If I think I’m a good communicator but others think I’m terrible at communicating they won’t respond.
You have two options for shrinking the gap:
1. Self-discovery. As you reflect on who you are and how you may come across you will gain insight that will shrink your blind spot and improve your social awareness.
Try this: Immediately following your next meeting, take 3 minutes to consider 1) how you think you came across and 2) your non-verbals and what they may have communicated. Strive for objectivity. If you were observing yourself in a meeting, what would you see?
2. Observation and feedback. Nothing can take the place of someone else’s unfiltered, honest feedback. As they reflect back to you how you may come across you can gain clarity on areas to improve and close the gap.
Try this: Email three people you are close to and ask them to send you three adjectives to describe you. Then analyze the three words to determine 1) if they align with who you think you are and 2) if you like them. In other words, are you ok being identified in that way? If yes, then move on. If no, then figure out what you need to do to close the gap.
The gap won’t shrink on its own. Gap-shrinking takes diligent work. But the payoff is increased influence and results.
By the way, the larger the gap between who you are and what you do in your career, the less satisfaction you will experience. Fight the gap!