What Is Your Legend?
I can think of certain people I've come across in my career that compose themselves and interact with others in such a way that everyone has the same impression of them.
When it comes to the business world, we work in a goal-driven culture. We do our annual performance reviews; establish corporate benchmarks and we set those five-year plans. We hope to earn a certain title or salary by a predetermined age. And we have our eyes on specific projects or products we’d like to own. Goals like these are great to set and strive for. In fact, tying personal goals1 to organizational ambitions is one of the best ways to ensure your team stays motivated. Yet I wonder if we've become too goal-oriented? I'm not suggesting we hand everyone a participation trophy, but I am interested in knowing more about what kind of legend my team wants to leave behind.
By legend, I mean what people say about you when you aren’t in the room. What kind of person would your peers, your reports and your managers assume them to be? Now that’s hard to set a benchmark for.
Meeting our goals typically requires a look back. I set out to do X and I accomplished it. Establishing your legend means looking forward. I want to be remembered for being X, so how do I accomplish that? What you do today will impact someone’s perception of you long after the employee review period is over. Will you be remembered as collaborative or combative? Were you considered tough yet fair, or did you play favorites? Are you someone people wanted on their team or were you – ahem – dead weight?
Myths are the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. Legends are the stories other people tell.
It turns out, we're pretty good are recognizing when we're liked. But when it comes to the negative opinions our coworkers have about us, we're not quite so observant. Something like a 360° review, where both your manager and your direct reports weigh in, isn't an easy exercise for anyone, but if you're interested in knowing what people really think about you (and where your own myths begin), it can be eye-opening. Your peers and direct reports are almost always going to be a reality gut-check, provided they have the chance to be honest. You might think you're organized, but the reality is your team considers you a micromanager. Or perhaps you consider yourself a great presenter, but your coworkers just see someone who always hogs the spotlight. The feedback is anonymous – but the truth (however harsh it may be) comes out. And part of building your legend is learning from that feedback and shattering the myths you’ve made up about yourself. That’s hard for anyone.
After all, myths are the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. Legends are the stories other people tell.
I think one of the best legends you can leave behind is being the person others know you to be. But creating that legend means listening to critique, especially when it’s not positive. The first step? Shatter how you think about yourself and instead realize how others see you.
1. Gallo, Amy. “Making Sure Your Employees Succeed.” Harvard Business Review, 2 Nov. 2016, hbr.org/2011/02/making-sure-your-employees-suc.
Topics: Employee Development
Brenda Dulger-Sheikin is a Senior Vice President within the Investor Services America division of State Street. Brenda spends much of her day listening to our customers who may be struggling with a problem as she finds those to be the times of greatest learning.