Breaking Down Bad Advice, Pt 1: Your Reputation is None of Your Business
I have a love/hate relationship with social media, for many reasons.
I love connecting with like-minded people, building my brand, and being able to consume tidbits of information that motivate and inspire. I hate that we often only see curated lives and very select/posed pictures, and at times, it can be hard to know who's truly real and authentic. Plus, let's be honest: it's information overload and it's way too easy to get sucked down a time-wasting rabbit hole.
I also recognize that, on social media, everyone can be an expert.
This, too, can be good or bad. The bad of it is that I tend to see a lot of poor advice and misleading suggestions. They’re often in the form of quotes and pictures without much empirical evidence or explanation to back them up.
In scrolling through a newsfeed, it’s hard to know who or what to pay attention to. Often, we may trust influencers who have thousands of followers, or inspiring people/accounts that we look up to for a variety of reasons. Regardless of who we follow, we should seek to critically evaluate the advice that’s so easily given out.
In my coaching practice, I support my clients by providing targeted suggestions based on their current circumstances, organizational culture, strengths and weaknesses, and longer-term goals. In fact, I rarely provide direct advice, but rather I seek to lead them to the solution that will work best.
When I do provide advice or suggestions, it is NOT one-size fits all; rather, it’s tailored to help each person act on their specific development plan and realize their potential.
To help us all sift through the social media noise, I’m going to start identifying and breaking down uniformly bad advice that I see. I’ll also provide a more focused, evidence-based alternative. You may or may not agree with my evaluation (and I’d love to hear from you either way — let’s get some constructive dialogue going).
Let’s start with: Your reputation is none of your business.
I see tons of supposedly inspirational quotes where people encourage you to forget what other people think. “Your reputation is none of your business” is splattered in glittery letters OR “you do you, forget what others think.”
In theory, it would be great to be able to completely ignore our reputation as well as others' perception of us. Skirting through life without caring about our impact on the people around us? That would certainly decrease some stress and anxiety.
Reality check: you have to care about your reputation.
You don’t have to live your life on others’ terms, but self-awareness and recognizing our impact on others is critical to our ongoing development and success.
Let me tell you a story to illustrate...
Person A was nominated for a 360 assessment and as part of the process, I interviewed many of his peers, direct reports, and his boss.
By and large, I learned that he was showing up as overly aggressive, selfish, and hard to please. He had deep technical knowledge and expertise that his colleagues valued and wanted to learn from, but they often avoided using him as a resource because of his interpersonal style.
When I presented his feedback (confidential themes I pulled from the interview data), he was defensive, frustrated, and felt the feedback was unfair.
“Why should I care what people think,” he said. “Others don’t define who I am.”
True and false, I told him. “You do have some control over how you make others feel and you should, as a leader, try to operate in a way that positively impacts those around you. Not caring dilutes your influence and your impact, especially if your colleagues avoid you for fear of how you might respond to them.”
Is that easy? Absolutely not. Is it worth it? Yes.
Eventually, through several coaching conversations, he started to recognize why his reputation was so important. There were several great ideas he had that he simply couldn’t get buy-in for because he couldn’t influence his colleagues. He realized that, in order to have an impact and reach HIS goals, he needed to start being mindful of how he showed up and interacted with others.
Over time, through targeted behavioral change, he started to shift his approach. He maintained his ability to be assertive, but led with more questions, provided space for others to speak and share their opinions, and learned to compromise and pick his battles.
A key to his success was recognizing the importance of caring what those around him thought about him. His reputation mattered. It can be a hard pill to swallow, especially for those of us who thrive on our independence and autonomy.
But, we don’t live or operate in a bubble and our relationships and how we make others feel may trump our work and results.
What’s the takeaway from this story? And importantly, what should you do?
Don’t let others' opinions of you guide all of your behavior and decisions, but ask good questions, seek out feedback, and demonstrate curiosity about how people perceive you and your impact. In essence, take your reputation seriously.
Get really clear on whose opinions of you matter. If you care about what everyone thinks, then you’ll struggle to excel because you’ll be too busy self-monitoring and trying to please everyone (the “disease to please”). So take some time to reflect on these questions:
Whose opinions do you value, and why?
Whose opinion do you fear/avoid?
Who supports and challenges you and has your best interests at heart?
Who would tell you if you had food in your teeth? <-- honesty and candor is key!
Based on your responses to the questions above, choose 3-5 people that will make up your personal panel of advisors. Solicit their opinions and feedback often, and make it mutually beneficial by doing the same for them.
And lastly, Brene Brown says, “reject the cheap seat criticism” — or the criticism that’s not coming from a well-intentioned place.
What bad advice do you see on social media?
Who's on your personal panel of advisors?