How to MORPH Your Leadership Brand

In my last post, What Corporate Logos and Digital Cameras Tell Us About Change, I described a dilemma you might face when striving to reverse negative perceptions about you.  That is, what if you’ve earnestly adopted new behaviors and approaches but your organization won’t allow you to change?  In other words, what if others are dead-stuck in their perceptions of you?  What if they have “emotional expectations” of – or are just plain invested in – your existing brand?

My recommendation is that you M-O-R-P-H to rewire their expectations.  Here’s a five-step formula:

1.  Enlist your Manager.  Explain what you’re doing and ask your boss to fly air cover.  It is foundational that this person visibly stands up for you to create the space for perception-change.  Understand, however, that you’re asking a lot.  This is the same boss who might have recently told her higher ups – and maybe even your peers – that you weren’t promotable.  Win her over.

2.  Oxygenate the problem areas.  A wildly successful marketer once advised me that when an offering has a shortcoming “if you can’t hide it, then feature it!”  Air it out.  Commission HR to provide you with a 360-degree assessment and feedback.  Strategically select respondents.  In addition to the standard complement of boss, peers and direct reports, invite key organizational influencers and opinion leaders.  Ask humbly for help and you will predispose a person to your emerging improvements.

3.  It’s now time to Reframe the perceptions.  Based on the feedback, commit to a development plan.  Vet it with your boss and ask for his input.  Distil it into talking points and meet with each individual that participated in the 360 as well as all others you see key.  Tell them what you learned and tell them what you’re doing about it.  This primes them to discard their newly obsolete emotional expectations of you.

4.  Now, Prove it!  Your parents always said that actions speak louder than words, didn’t they?  Undertake a project that showcases the new-and-improved you by demonstrating “disconfirming” behaviors and approaches.  Here are some examples.  (a) If you are reputed to drive results uncollaboratively, assemble a cross-functional, multi-level diagonal cut of the organization and identify a nagging organizational dysfunction.  Go against type and revel in methodically tackling it with every constituency represented. (b) If the rap on you is that you’re great with the numbers, but don’t inspire your team, plan an offsite to share your vision.  (c) If others believe you’re strategic at the expense of implementation, roll up your sleeves and try a deep dive.

5.  Finally, Honor those who’ve helped your turnaround.  Find a time and a way to thank every single person you can . . . whether they rooted for you or not.  Your boosters will enjoy the acknowledgement and recognize that their investment of political capital appreciated.  Detractors will find your confident magnanimity unnerving.  Sensing the shift in popular opinion, they will likely resign themselves to the reality of your successful re-branding.

Recognize that you didn’t build your current brand overnight.  Patiently and tenaciously MORPH expectations following these steps. It’s up to you.

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