How you will be able to work with your boss and whether working together will be a constructive relationship is not only influenced by what you do, it is also influenced-for good or ill – by how you are seen. In some senses this may be unfair. But the world-and the world of work too – is apt to be unfair and this must be taken as read.
Perception Is Reality
How you come over to other people matters, and your boss is no exception. It was Oscar Wilde who said in his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, “It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances“, and you would be wise to take note of the principle implied by this.
Are you a force to be reckoned with? If you say / think we should do X, does your manager and other senior people listen and take on board what you have to say? Or do they just say to themselves, What would they know?, make nice noises but actually take little or no notice? If you are to be a power in the land as it were, you do need to be positive about yourself-and you need to cultivate a “professional” exterior image too.
That sounds fine. We all like to think we are professional. But what exactly does “being professional” mean? It is, like beauty, largely in the eye of the beholder. If you are to appear professional in the eyes of your boss, you need to think about what that means to them. How does your own manager and others view, rate, and judge other people? You need to think about this and adapt accordingly.
If you hesitate to spend some time and thought on this area, thinking perhaps that it is unnecessary and that your good work alone should be sufficient to categorize you as a key player, remember this old maxim-if you look like a doormat, then in all likelihood people will walk all over you.
It is worthwhile to assess the impression you give and, if necessary, work on enhancing it.
There is one particular reason to worry about your profile. Your power to influence is directly affected by how you are seen, and how well you influence affects everyone else. Your manner, appearance, way of working, and how you conduct yourself all contribute to how you are seen.
You therefore have some key objectives, including being seen as:
Other factors are important too-being seen as “professional” may mean you need to be seen as experienced, knowledgeable, creative, thorough, one who gives attention to detail, is honest (about everything from opinions to deadlines), up to date, reliable, well-organized, and has qualities ranging from being a good listener to having empathy for other people-but perhaps those three highlighted above are especially important for influencing a boss. You need to decide just how to interpret every such characteristic given your own situation. You may have such qualities in abundance, but are they sufficiently apparent?
For example, you may be a well-organized person, there is nothing essentially wrong with your productivity, and you do your work well. However, if your desk always looks as if it has been hit by a tornado, or if you are always the last to arrive at meetings, and do so clutching an untidy heap of files and papers, then at the very least this will dilute the extent to which others see you as well organized. Adjusting this situation will boost one aspect of your profile. If there is a series of areas needing this kind of attention, then if you address each of them in a similar way, each will contribute more to the overall impression that you want to give. It makes sense and it may prove surprisingly easy to make adjustments that have this kind of effect.