Maximising your personal impact in a hybrid workplace and preparing for the next career step may require a new strategy that focuses on core areas like soft skill gaps such as how we come across and building new relationships.
Interdependency to achieve what we want
It may sound obvious when you consider it, but we don’t work in isolation. Every day we need to interact with multiple people, many of us externally as well as internally and via different communication mechanisms – video call, in person, phone, on email, via LinkedIn – passively and directly.
We need professional relationships to get work progressed internally, whether from another department, delegation, or escalation. We need professional relationships to have clients to serve and other business contacts to help us where we need it and/or to refer business.
How we come across matters – how we communicate ourselves and how we engage with others. Whether we like it or not, when we first meet someone, they form a perception of us in seconds that we can’t wholly control but to some degree we can – we can consider what we are projecting through our attire, body language and the tone of our voice – naturally which of those makes a difference and to what degree depends on how we are engaging with someone. A phone call is vastly different to an in-person meeting as we only have our voice.
Beyond that initial impact, what we are saying about ourselves to build that all important likeability and trust with people matters. We want to make sure that we come across as competent and credible for the job title we hold but also, and importantly, that we come across as friendly and trustworthy.
When we build trust with others and positive professional relationships, day-to-day working is much easier. People are keener to help us and work with us, more willing to collaborate, share ideas and problem solve. The difficult conversations usually happen more easily and more positively. From a client perspective, it makes them more loyal even when there is a fee increase, more willing to give you more work and more likely to refer you.
How we come across is a key part of career success too. In his PIE theory from the 1990s, Coleman found that exposure, so building your visibility at work was key to success. After all, if nobody knows who you are, especially at a senior level, how can they know about the great work you do? Assuming they know your name then the next thought is what they think of you, what Image do they have of you? How do they perceive you? Performance matters but especially beyond junior levels, people assume you are performing to a good enough level.
What makes the difference
Returning to the elements that make a difference to how we are perceived, they do require conscious thought and adaptation to different situations whilst at the same time making sure we have a clear personal brand. To summarise what that really means – which adjectives would someone who knew you use to describe you to someone who didn’t? So not a job title, not a list of your skills – a few words which describe your personal qualities, what you are like to work with. Words which hopefully get beyond honest and reliable which many people would hope to be seen as!
Once you have considered how you want to be perceived, you need to consider how you bring this to life?
- Appearance – how does this need to reinforce your personal brand? What does this need to be for what lies ahead in your day? This aspect used to be simpler but there is now more of a judgement call about what is appropriate for what you are doing, who you are meeting and in what context. It’s about how you want to be perceived, as well as what makes you feel confident.
- Body language – how you can use this to create the interactions you want to. The right posture to convey you are focused and engaged. Owning your space so you look confident and open to others. Being aware of your expressions and what they might give away. Engaging people through smiling and eye contact. In person, the majority of the communication is through body language so it’s really helpful for reading others too.
- Voice – how you use this so people can hear you, follow what you are saying and be engaged. People will only ask you to repeat something once, twice at most, so you want to make sure you are speaking at the right volume, not too fast and saying your words clearly. Your intonation is key to keeping people involved with what you are saying.
Supporting all of these is how you behave every time you engage with another person to hopefully be consistent and build the relationship further.
Where to start
If you haven’t typically given your personal impact much thought, now is the time. Do you think your current personal impact could be holding you back? Which scenarios do you need to give most thought to? Which of the aspects above need most work? Self-reflection is helpful but if you can, ask a trusted colleague or professional contact – how are you perceived, how do you come across? You may be surprised! We all have blind spots so getting external input to build your self-awareness is key to make a plan of what you need to work on. Many like to think personal impact doesn’t and shouldn’t matter but it does, it’s a natural human response. So what will you do about yours?
About the author
Joanna Gaudoin, Inside Out Image specialises in helping ambitious professionals and their organisations improve performance and achieve their goals.
She does this by helping them master and strategically use the business skills of Personal Impact and Relationship Management. These skills are required for professional success.
Before establishing Inside Out Image, Joanna worked in marketing and consultancy in large corporates. She understands the business world and its challenges. She now helps organisations and individuals understand how to succeed in it.
Joanna spoke at a Lockton Solicitors event on 26th May at the In and Out Club in St. James's Square. During the event, Joanna spoke extensively on hybrid working, along with the challenges and opportunities the new work model brings. To find out more about future Lockton Solicitors events, please contact the team.
If you’d like to read more about personal impact and the other skills needed for career success, you can request the short email series and eBooklet here.