Three Tips to Polish Your Professional Image
There are all kinds of leaders out there. Some are more reserved in their verbal communications. Others don’t hold back. Some listen well. Others tend to incessantly interrupt. Some leaders thrive off of constant learning and professional development. Many others think they know enough already or make excuses for why there’s no time to learn more.
At MAP, our consultants have coached all such leaders—and many others. What we’ve found is that when good leaders overlook the importance of certain habits that relate to how they’re perceived by others, their image is tarnished to some degree. Now there are a bunch of ways that leaders can improve their public persona—or the brand or image they reflect. But one thing is for certain, leaders come across as more polished and professional when they practice productive (and polite) verbal communications, listen actively to others, and take steps to expand their minds through various types of learning and awareness. If you adopt or improve upon these habits, you will be more likely to earn and maintain the respect of people within your organization and beyond. Over time, your image will come to reflect a leadership style that’s professional, motivating, and capable of making a real impact.
Here are three ways to polish your professional image today:
1. Speak sensibly.
When you choose words or an approach to language, always ask yourself: What’s the goal? Now you may have many goals, such as to influence, inform, inspire, etc., but you can’t do any of this without first connecting with people. So anything that hurts the connection should be avoided. In MAP’s new book, “The Disciplined Leader,” we talk about the dangers of chronic swearing and chronic negativity in the words and tone leaders use. Be sensible about what you say and to whom. Dropping F-bombs here and there and using inflammatory words to motivate your people are not professional or productive relative to your goal to connect. Neither is undermining your best intentions with verbal threats or insinuations that provoke needless worry. Think before you speak. Practice a communication style that reflects strong moral values and professionalism. And don’t say anything if you have doubts. Rethink your message, then go ahead and talk.
2. Be an active listener.
Listening more, talking less is a sign of emotional intelligence, which is an attribute of Disciplined Leaders. Early in my personal and professional life, I struggled with this, as many leaders do. At some point, I got a bit of powerful feedback around how I needed to improve my listening skills. Then after joining MAP, the real light bulb moment came after I noticed how proficient and purposeful our consultants are about practicing active listening by asking great questions, thereby allowing clients to answer more fully and honestly. A simple way to do this is to practice the 80/20 Rule at your next meeting or conversation. Commit to listen 80% of the time, asking questions, sharing examples, or talking only 20% of the time.
3. Be a student for life.
We all have daily opportunities to learn. As a leader, you probably uncover new and exciting things about your people and your organization all the time. Without a doubt, this level of being open to learning is vital in terms of your leadership image. But it’s equally important for you to push your comfort zone in terms of professional growth and potential through more “formal” kinds of education. Such learning could mean taking classes in a subject that will open your eyes as well as new doors of opportunity. Or it could mean enrolling in a seminar, workshop, or club—or even reading a book—that will expose you to something totally new or push you to improve upon a particular weakness. When leaders do the same old thing all the time and never push their comfort zones in terms of insights and education, they get stale and stuck in their ways. People don’t value these qualities in a leader. Part of maintaining a professional leadership image is keeping your brand fresh. You can do that by remaining open to what’s new, investing in your own learning, and using what you discover to capitalize on opportunities.
What’s also key to a polished, professional image?