How are you projecting your image?

Something I have always enjoyed doing is to observe the actions of how people interact with one another. Particularly in professional and team scenarios. My fascination stems from seeing things that when people are interacting with others, that I’m sure they are not aware of how they are being perceived. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticizing the way they are acting, simply noticing and considering how they could be doing something differently. More to their advantage.

In the coaching work I do, I have the opportunity and honor of professionally evaluating and critiquing how both leaders, as well as team members interact with one another. The next step in this observation process is to convey back to the leader and their team what I am seeing. The majority of the time, the leader is the one asking me to conduct this work, and their team is generally unaware that I am watching how they engage with one another.

Of course, it’s much better when people are not aware of when someone is observing them, as they will more naturally act how they ordinarily would. Observing sports teams is much easier to evaluate than work teams, as you get to see the team members interacting in a concentrated scenario when they are playing or practicing their sport. However, it is possible to observe work teams, it just takes longer to do, as you need to see them in a variety of settings within their environment to accomplish this.

I remember the first time I was asked to evaluate a work team and the leader of it. The leader initiated this process, as he admitted he was not fully aware of why he was having challenges with interacting with his team, and his management peers. He also wanted to better understand what was going on. This was a brave and bold move on his behalf, as it can be intimidating to have someone knowingly observe how you are engaging with others. However, the benefits of having me conduct this work for this leader and his team far outweighed any feelings of his awkwardness. 

The results of what I observed were quite revealing, especially with one example which was the body language I was observing this leader display. One of the main body language expressions he was routinely doing, was to immediately cross his arms when he began an interaction with another person. This particular body language expression signals that you are closed off and not fully open to hearing what the other person is saying. It also conveys a form of being defensive. Neither of these body language expressions were what this leader intended to convey. In fact, just the opposite. However, he was unaware that he was doing this, as he didn’t have a mirror or video capturing him doing this during every one of his interactions with others.

Upon being made aware of this one simple action, then having awareness of this happening, and course correcting on this behavior, made an incredible difference in the engagements this leader then had with his team and leadership peers. This one simple example is something that many people do, yet are not aware of this occurring. So, you too can take notice of whether this is something you are also routinely doing.

The first sports teams I had the privilege of observing was initiated by the head coach. He had been coaching for decades, yet admittedly had no idea how his coaching style and his coaching behaviors were impacting his team. He wasn’t sure if how he was being perceived was positive, negative or perhaps neutral. However, he wanted to know which category he fit into, and more importantly, if it was in the “negative” category, that he could course correct on this.

After observing the coach for several games, it became obvious there we some things he was doing as a coach that he was unaware of. One of these observations was that he wasn’t listening to his players when they were attempting to engage with him on the sidelines. He was unaware that he was being dismissive of their attempts to talk to him. When I shared this observation with him, he was completely surprised by this. In fact, he was upset that this was happening, as he prided himself and perceived himself to be very open to communicating with others.  

By adjusting the coach’s awareness of how he was interacting with his players in a way that was contrary to how he thought he was interacting, was a “game changer” for his team going forward. Why? Because the team members and the coach were now able to actually communicate openly with one another. The results of this coach’s team performance also demonstrated the positive impact from this one small change in behavior too.

So, what can you do to see the type of image you are projecting? Here are some suggestions to “test drive”.

  • You will first need to commit to being open to having someone provide you with constructive feedback, and not consider it to be criticism and feel like you are being attacked.
  • Find someone you implicitly trust to evaluate you, and who has experience successfully leading others.
  • The image we project may or may not be something we are intentionally coordinating with our actions, and if possible, if you can observe yourself on video, this is ideal. However, you still will want someone who can neutrally provide you with feedback about what they are also seeing in person and via the video, as you still might not see what they are seeing.
  • Although you might think you don’t have a great deal of control over the image you are projecting, you actually do. In fact, the image you are projecting is multi-faceted, and involves how you speak (e.g., the tone of your voice, how fast or slow you speak, how you enunciate your words), how you stand or sit in front of others (e.g., standing up tall, versus slumping your shoulders) and what you choose to wear (e.g., generally in professional situations, always select clothing which presents the best impression of who you are, and yet doesn’t distract from your actions or how you will be communicating). This applies to both women and men.
  • Think about what type of image you want to project. When you intentionally consider this, it will be easier to accomplish it.
  • After thinking about the image you want to project, look the part of how you want to project yourself in your organization, versus not giving this factor any or enough consideration.
  • Ask someone who’s image you admire, for suggestions on how they have developed their image. I guarantee you they evolved to the image they are projecting, and you will benefit from knowing how they accomplished this.

Projecting the image you want to requires a conscientious effort to do so, and can take years to perfect. Your image can also be fluid, and evolve over time. What you want to master or become comfortable with, is that your awareness of your image matches the reality of how others perceive it.

TAGS: #Perception #Image #HowDoYouProjectYourImage #HowAreYouPerceived #Business #Management #Teams #Leadership #Leaders #SportsTeams #Coaching #TeamCoaching

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