A fundamental factor in any manager’s success is their personal image. Ray Grose outlines the essentials.
A manager’s image is the picture that other people hold of them, made up from the quality of thousands of interpersonal interactions. In a sense, it is simply the organisation’s collective evaluation.
A manager’s image is crucial because decisions about their place and advancement in an organisation are made with input from other executives, some of who may not have had experience of working directly with them. Instead, they make their evaluations based on the image they have as communicated via the rest of the organisation.
Organisational members form an image of the manager by the way the manager communicates with them and by observing the manager’s behaviour.
Managers on the way up realise that every time they communicate with others they have the opportunity of projecting a good image, or of detracting from it.
The most important quality in one-to-one communication is respect. A good image requires that the successful manager be respected by other organisational members. Managers gain the respect of others by demonstrating their respect for them; it is a reciprocal phenomenon. Respected managers are punctual, well-prepared, and ready to make constructive inputs. They are always well-mannered, shun coarse language and show personal interest in those they talk to.
Successful managers pay attention to developing skills for communicating with groups. Excellent presentation skills are essential because they are a wonderful opportunity to broadcast your image. In presentations, managers may impress others not only with their technical knowledge but their commitment to the organisation and their positive attitude.
They also understand that no one advances to executive status without being a polished public speaker. Fortunately both presentation and public-speaking skills can be learned and perfected, even by the most retiring personality.
Ambitious managers understand that they are always on show and so they behave in a way that supports a good image of them.
Organisations need members who can contribute and cooperate. Managers, obviously, should show they are doing a good job. And they should demonstrate energy and enthusiasm for their work. Their commitment is admired because it confirms to others that they are all working in a dedicated organisation, which gives meaning and enjoyment to work. Managers should also be more than cooperative; they should help others when it won’t detract from their own contribution.
Managers on the way up show they have potential and capacity to contribute more. They project themselves as ongoing learners and they have meaningful outside interests that can be interpreted as developmental to their personalities.
Ambitious managers should look like future leaders. They always have a positive attitude. They welcome challenge and are seen to be imaginative about how the organisation can improve and develop.
Successful managers are aware that different levels in their organisation have different requirements on them and, therefore, different expectations of their behaviour. Understanding what are the needs of people in these different levels, and then satisfying them, strongly boosts the manager’s image in their eyes.
A good image is easily damaged and difficult to repair. Certain behaviour is to be studiously avoided, like complaining, losing your temper, or gossiping. Such negative behaviour indicates a lack of respect for other organisation members. Actual disrespect is demonstrated when the manager discusses third parties critically or corrects team members publicly or makes politically incorrect jokes.
Every organisation, even in the same industry, has a different way of doing things, different unwritten rules; a different culture. An organisation’s culture, perhaps because it is not written down, is never explained during the induction process, but it exists just the same.
Managers must learn by careful observation what behaviour constitutes a good image for their particular organisation and then apply this knowledge to managing their own behaviour and constructing their own, appropriate image.
The successful manager also realises that each organisational culture has its particular informal organisations. These are loose associations of people who have a common interest outside the daily concerns of the business, for example, sporting, religious or cultural interests. These groups can often overlap and have common members or ‘nodes’. Through these nodal members, information, particularly gossip, can be exchanged and spread quickly throughout the organisation.
It is vital to identify these nodal members. Some of them will be members of several informal groups. Because of their importance to the flow of informal information, these people are often significant centres of influence. They can have a large amount of informal power and their sway can be far-reaching across and vertically within the organisation.
Any manager aspiring to executive status needs to do much more than work hard. They must project a good image, one designed for their organisation’s culture.
This image is their most important asset because, to a large extent, their advancement will be based on it. They are the ones in a position to design, enhance and protect their image.