How Do Others See You?

When was the last time you really took a good look at yourself?  Not recently?  This is not only common, but also something many executives and managers avoid thinking about.  Even more frightening is actually finding out the real way others perceive you. 

Is this really necessary?  Yes, yes, yes!  The risk of not being open to understanding how others see you is very dangerous!  For example, if your best workers were angry about their inadequate equipment, and knew you were very uncomfortable with spending money at a time when the business was struggling, what would they do?  They might see you, accurately or not, as too frightening to approach and not ask for safer machinery.  What would an injury or loss of an important worker mean to your business? 

Are you seen as angry?  Are you perceived as compassionate? It makes a very big difference when your employees decide how they must live with you.  Your business is the home for many individuals.  Many survive only because they have this job.  They often put more hours of time and energy into you, and your organization’s needs than they put into their families, friends or themselves.

For a self-assessment, ask yourself the following questions. Although self- assessments are not always accurate, try to be honest as you ask yourself…

1.   Do you really care what others think of you?  (Most of us do, even more than we admit.)
2.   How do you know what they think of you?
3.   When have you asked the employees how you could change?
4.   When have you received honest comments regarding your managing style?
5.   Have your workers ever told you that your style of operating is unfair to many workers?
6.   Have you ever been told that you favor certain individuals, and others resent this?
7.   Have you ever watched other’s reactions to what you say?  (Do they ever roll their eyes or show disgust?)
8.   Do you know much (or instruct the managers to learn) about the employees on a  more personal basis?  (e.g. your best producer has just experienced a death in the family, or financial crisis)  Do you really believe that this will not affect your       business?
9.   Are the employees comfortable talking openly with you?  Even if they disagree?  What is your response when they challenge your decisions?  Do they feel put  down, demeaned, or really listened to about their input?  Remember, don’t ask  for feedback or input unless you are going to “prove” to others that you will   take reasonable suggestions and make accommodating changes.
10. Do you want employees to act like respected adults or children who need to be  told what to do?
11. Are you comfortable sharing meaningful information freely with others, or do you worry about what they will do with the information?
12. When someone makes a mistake (especially if it costs you money) what do your words and behaviors communicate to them?

Clearly not all workers can be treated the same way, nor can we avoid making poor decisions, or mistakes in the way we manage.  We will frequently realize (mostly after the fact) that we may have overreacted to something.  This is expected and seldom communicates more than a normal human blunder.  However, when the behavior persists over time, and illustrates a pattern to your employees, they will take note and learn how to respond to you.  Whether it is constructive or not, will depend on what they observe and, consequently think about you.

Does all this matter to you, or your business?  What happens when employees perceive someone as dictatorial, money hungry, never satisfied, impossible to get a compliment from, impulsive, uncaring, over-reactive, inconsistent, arrogant or consistently angry? 

  1. You will miss out on the helpful suggestions that could save you money or improve the safety of the working conditions.
  2. You will discourage cooperation. (Each person will try to win your approval in their own way)
  3. You will decrease productivity and increase dissatisfaction.
  4. You will have greater turnover.
  5. Loyalty to you or your company will be absent.
  6. Your reputation in your community may be negatively affected because of what they say to others.
  7. You will notice that when you need something extra from them, they will remember the extra you gave (or did not give) them, giving you back what they feel you deserve. 
  8. You can get some workers to behave as if they are cooperating with you but may steal, stab you in the back, sabotage your projects or communicate to others in the community that working with you is frustrating (or worse).  This could mean the loss of excellent future employees.

One executive recently took the challenge and interviewed several managers and laborers working for him.  He, though hearing a few things that were surprising to him, found that almost all the employees liked him and his leadership style.  This, of course, pleased him immensely.  Thinking that he now had the endorsement of the employees, he continued to manage his business in the same manner as he had in the past. 

Unfortunately he probably found out very little about how others actually saw him.  Why?  Because it would be rare that employees, whose jobs and promotions depended upon a favorable opinion of this executive, would provide a completely honest answer to his questions about his personality or managing style.

How can you find out what your employees really think of you? 

It is not always the case that everyone will be dishonest in their responses to you, especially if some have proven to be loyal employees over a long time.  But you can’t assume you know much unless you also ask the less conforming employees too.  Nevertheless, you may only get the truth if you do one of the following.

  1. Take a pre-designed valid and reliable inventory about your management style.  Then distribute the inventory to a random number (or all) of the employees.  Evaluate where your self-perception is different from the perceptions of your workers.  Now, communicate the results, and detail specifically what you will do to change some of things that the inventory suggests needs attention.  Also, pay close attention to the positive perceptions, so you continue or increase  doing things that could improve your managing style.  It is important to understand that any personal growth you make will be a positive influence on many workers, and  will tell them you care about what they think, need, and do. (Bringing in an executive/managerial coach could help you stay focused and set measurable goals with achievable timelines.)  All responses need to be designed to convince the employees that they will not be personally identified, or they will tell you  what they believe you want to hear.

  2. Invite a qualified professional to assist you in gathering the information in a manner that protects the confidentiality of the workers, and gives you specific details about your personality and operating style.  Let them guide you through the results and set  a developmental plan for constructive changes.

If you are not open to changes don’t do this exercise.  But be sure to ask yourself WHY?  To ignore other’s perceptions of you, and your managing tendencies, is very risky.  What would it hurt to personally demonstrate the same professional, or personal, growth that you would expect of your employees

This is good for you and your company. 

Try it in a modified way, to understand how your family perceives you. 

WOW! How risky would that be?


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