Help! I’ve been pigeon-holed

Posted July 9, 2013 in Career Management, Latest News & Insights

This year, we were trying to convince my 9 year-old to switch from her current school to a school closer to our home.  My selling point was “you can reinvent yourself at a new school!”.  Sadly, she’s pretty happy with her “rep” at her current school, so that pitch fell flat.  But there is a lot of truth to the fact that, when you switch to a new job, you leave behind any baggage from your previous employer that may be dogging you.  If you’re feeling like you’re getting trapped in a pigeon-hole at work, here’s a process to help you bust out:

The first thing to do is define “what is the part of my personal brand that I want to change?”  You need to clearly label the behaviour that has created the reputation you want to shift.  Here are some common “pigeon-holes” I see people getting stuck in:

  • Too tactical, not strategic enough
  • Not a good listener
  • Too hot headed
  • Indecisive
  • Overly emotional
  • Too empathetic
  • Nice guy… doesn’t drive results

You probably get the picture.  Once you’ve identified the behaviour, follow these steps:

  1. Identify people who you need to influence/change perception of your behaviour.  This is key… you need to start proactively getting people to see you in a different light.
  2. Set up a 1:1 meeting with each person and explain to them that you want to work on this behaviour.  Ask them for some specific suggestions on what you can do differently to demonstrate what they’re looking for.  It might look like this:  “Hi Bob… I’ve realized that I’m a bit of a hot head at the office.  This is something I’d really like to change.  What is your best suggestion for me on how I can demonstrate keeping my cool.”
  3. Listen to their ideas.  Write them down and thank them for their input.  Don’t argue or debate them!
  4. Repeat this process until you’ve met with each stakeholder.  Congratulations… now you have action list of things you need to start saying and doing that will demonstrate the new behaviour that you want to be known for (thus minimizing the derailing behaviour that you want to shake).
  5. Put your plan into action at every opportunity.  Be specific and purposeful about trying your new behaviours.  Check in with your stakeholders to get their feedback about how you’re doing.
  6. Continue executing your plan until these new behaviours are no longer “new” but simply feel like part of your overall leadership repertoire.  Check in with stakeholders to see how your new brand is evolving.

The challenge for anyone who’s been with a company for any length of time is that we can labeled in ways that may or may not be accurate.  By enlisting others to support your development efforts, you’ll be changing their perceptions without having to change jobs.

Happy leading!

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