What is the narrative that you wish your colleagues to share about you? In many of our organizations it is common for colleagues to share pieces of information or experiences about each other. Frequently, these comments are presented as fact, without corresponding evidence: “She has trouble with complexity”; “He could be more engaging”; or “She is trying at times.”

These kinds of comments are laden with ambiguity and judgment about the person and their performance. Generally, these comments are shared while waiting at the elevator, or while waiting for the door to open to go into a meeting, or at the water cooler… with no time for seeking clarity or accuracy. Does this sound familiar?

Over time these pieces of information become constructed into narratives that describe how individuals contribute in their teams and how they lead. More often than not it is difficult to tell if these descriptions are fact or fiction yet they impact the opinions and beliefs of others. Unfortunately, this results in important decisions, and even career moves, being made with a significant lack of evidence.

The key point here is that it is important to be conscious that individual and collective story lines are being formed around us all the time. Words and actions contribute to the building of narratives that have a significant positive or negative impact on how we are viewed in the workplace.

While we may recognize that this may be a (misguided) norm in our organization, we can take an active role in creating a different dynamic that creates a positive and powerful perception for ourselves and others. Here are a few tried and true steps to get you started:

  1. Create a vision of your own desired narrative. What do you say and do? How do others feel when working with you? What do others say about you?
  2. Be fully present and intentional about how you portray yourself in your encounters with others.
  3. Communicate and act consistently in ways that make it clear and easy for others to understand how you lead and work.
  4. Be publicly generous and frequent in your acknowledgment of others contribution. Make it your mission that colleagues leave meetings and conversations feeling encouraged and valued.
  5. Be courageous and ask for feedback from trusted colleagues about how you are coming across as a leader. Listen to their impressions and feelings. Take action if you need to change your approach.

Know that you have the power, influence, and ability to commit to changing the course of organizational internal dialogue – every day. Invest in actions and behaviours to positively influence the perception colleagues have of you. Act as a change agent through contributing to healthy and positive narratives about others. Your professional reputation will benefit and you contribute to an organizational culture that alters conversations for the advancement of all. Sounds like a win win situation and a worthy commitment.