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Recently I sneaky-watched what I assume was a first date in a cafe. It was a man and a woman; both looked old enough to have adult children. And it wasn’t going well. Without going into detail, he left her to bus the table and insisted her goodbye handshake become an awkward hug.

I watched and cringed, and tweeted the jerk’s behavior. After all, he “deserved” it with his booming voice and arrogant comments. But did he?

While judgementally watching the play out I was pondering a lead for this post. Russ Laraway, Radical Candor co-host, recently said a throw-away comment, “don’t let perception become reputation”. The rest of the episode was excellent, but that one sentence stood out.

Perception Becomes Reputation

I turned my perception of this man into his reputation. If I encounter him in another situation, I am likely to judge and it won’t end well.

How does this relate to our professional lives? Everything. Think of meeting a new colleague. How much does your first impression impact your ongoing relationship? I’m guessing more than it should. Recall the man on the date. My perception of him became reputation, but he was on a first date. He was probably nervous and unsure. Two stresses that impact behavior. He may not be a self-centered jerk.

We often are that man or new colleague. We’re often in new situations or with new people. The good thing is that we can control that perception. In the Radical Candor episode, Russ said he avoid developing a poor reputation by accepting feedback. We can do the same and we don’t need it to be formal (also covered in this episode). Talk to your manager and initiate the feedback. Or a trusted colleague.

Another solution is to be conscious of your own behavior. How do people react to you? Is that the way you want to be perceived? Finally, you can see who around you is a great leader, or project manager, or account manager. Look to see what they do that makes them impressive and copy it.

We never want to be known as the colleague who’s secretly introduced as the difficult one. Instead, give a positive perception to have a great reputation.

Proofread by Grammarly.

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