Ep #47 Not Perceived as an Executive Leader at Work? Here’s How to Change That
When it comes to your performance at work, does your boss’s perception of you not seem to match reality?
Maybe you’ve gotten some feedback that seemed…off.
Or perhaps they simply aren’t seeing your potential as a senior executive leader.
I get it. It’s frustrating.
But when it comes to climbing the corporate ladder, you need to understand this:
Perception is reality.
You can be an amazing leader who gets real results, but if your boss or the leadership team don’t perceive things that way, you’ll struggle to actually get the recognition you rightfully deserve.
But here’s the kicker:
You can create a new reality.
In this episode of Maximize Your Career with Stacy Mayer, I reveal four practical strategies you can use to shift the perception of you in the eyes of your boss, your CEO, your team, and your peers.
What You'll Learn:
- Why you need to over-communicate with your boss by Showing. Your. Work.
- How to manage your emotions after receiving negative feedback (so you can skip the stress and take action instead)
- Why you need to adopt the mindset that how your boss perceives you is the truth
- Actionable, step-by-step examples of how you can shift perception and create a new reality for yourself at work
- How to evaluate your progress along the way
Listen to the Full Episode:
Featured on the Show:
- Ep #37: How to Build Trust at Work Using ‘15-Minute Ally’ Meetings
- Apply for a free career strategy session at stacymayer.com/apply.
Welcome to another episode of Maximize Your Career. I'm your host, Stacy Mayer. Super excited, as always, to be here with you guys today.
We just had our time change over the weekend, and those of you who are parents know that Daylight Savings Time is really terrible for children because they seem to be on this internal clock that doesn't like to reset at any given time. So normally I record my podcast episodes in the evening, but last night I decided to get some extra sleep because my son has been waking up at random hours throughout the night that don't correspond with the actual clock. And I'm glad I did, because he woke up, sure enough, an hour early today and I was pretty tired, but I got a good night's rest. So I just sharing that with you guys that we're all sort of in this craziness together and we got to do what we got to do.
Before I get into today's episode, I want to celebrate. I actually had three very exciting client wins last Friday, d I want to celebrate all of them because they're so good. And I'm so proud of my clients and the work that they're doing. But I'm also want to share them with you, so that if this sounds like something that you want to do and have be my next success story, then you'll know what to expect, what kind of results you can expect, from working with me and learning how to become the Executive Ahead of Time.
So the first one is my client. She is an amazing senior manager. She works for a PR company in Silicon Valley, absolutely incredible woman. And she was telling me on our coaching conversation on Friday that she actually has people coming up to her in her organization and asking her about the change that they've seen in her, how she's been showing up more powerfully as a leader and she seems to have a stronger voice in the room and she seems to be more grounded.
And more importantly, they asked her: 'Wait, you're not a director yet. How are you not a director?'.
And she's like: 'I know, I know.'
So that's the next step to get her the title. So she's become the Executive Ahead of Time and now we need to get her the title to match.
And then I had another client who I was encouraging to have a 15-minute phone conversation with her CEO. So she had a relationship, a little bit, with her CEO before Covid and everything switched to remote and virtual working. And so she hasn't had an opportunity to really meet with him and sit down with him because of the virtual environment. And what I tell people is it's up to you. So your CEO doesn't have the opportunity to just "pop" into your office, so you're going to have to be more proactive and actually schedule these conversations with them. And you can go back and listen to me talking about that in a previous episode, about 15-Minute Ally Meetings. So I lay all of that out with you and I'll link to that episode in the show notes as well.
So she decided that she was going to schedule this meeting and then wouldn't you know it, her CEO wrote her back right away and said: 'Let's do it tomorrow.'.
So we hopped on a quick phone call and brainstormed about what she was going to do in that meeting. And one of the things that I always encourage clients and you as a listener to do is, any sort of meeting that you have with a a mentor or a sponsor or a member of the leadership team, something that's not just a status update, but something where you're brainstorming, you're talking about strategy, you want to talk more about your ideas. It's very important that at the end of the meeting that you actually schedule the second meeting. And this is so key because you have to plant that seed in your head beforehand, because what happens is you get going on the meeting and the meetings going really well and then you forget to schedule the next one. And so then you have to follow up with an executive assistant and then things get lost. And then before you know it, two months have passed and the ideas have passed and that momentum has passed.
So I encouraged her to schedule the next meeting. So in her head, she was thinking maybe once a month that she could have these conversations with her CEO. And the celebration is that he said, no, that's not frequent enough. We should meet every two weeks. So she sent me a note. She was like: 'Oh, my gosh, Stacy. First of all, the meeting went so well. And second of all, I suggested once a month, he said that wasn't frequent enough. So now I'm on his calendar for every two weeks.'.
This is huge, people. Could you imagine if you had the ear of an executive every two weeks? You might be thinking: 'Oh, my Gosh. What would I even talk about?'
No, that is the easy part. We can figure out what you need to talk about and keep listening to this podcast. It's going to keep you in that inspiration mode so that you do know what to talk about. But more importantly, it's like: 'How do we get on these people's calendars?' And sometimes it just involves asking. So super proud of her, very, very excited about that.
And then the third celebration, and this is more of just a humorous story, is that I was talking to a client and he said to me that he was actually at the one of the executives beautiful homes in San Francisco. So San Francisco obviously has a lot of gorgeous mansions in the hills of San Francisco. You can imagine what one of those looks like. And he was doing some work at one of the executives, setting the executive up for a remote meeting. And he laughed and made a joke, and he said: Yeah, I'm becoming the Executive Ahead of Time.'.
And I thought that was so fantastic because he's putting himself into the environment of the executive and he can see what it feels like to be there and to actually become the Executive Ahead of Time. So that's a little bit of a joke. But I wanted to share that with you because it's also true. That's what we're literally wanting to do, is walk in their shoes. We're wanting to see what it feels like to be that executive and make choices of our every day from that place, from that place of strength. And that is what is going to teach the leadership team that you are ready to get promoted into that higher level executive position.
So thank you for listening. Thank you for celebrating with me these three amazing stories. And like I said, the next one could be you. I would absolutely love to make that happen. And if you have been listening to this podcast for a while, I would also encourage you to share it with your friends, to subscribe, to write a review. I love getting reviews. And this not only helps me and helps me feel my heart and know that this podcast is supporting you, but it also helps others find us. It helps with the algorithm. It helps me move up on on iTunes. So definitely go to StacyMayer.com/iTunes and leave me a review on this podcast. I would absolutely love it. Let me know your wins. Let me know what is working for you and how you are becoming the Executive Ahead of Time as well.
So in today's episode, I'm going to be talking about perception equaling reality. And what do I mean by that? Perception is reality. You have probably heard this before. You've thought about it before. But the reason that I'm bringing it up is a lot of the tips and the and the ideas that I give you to help you get promoted into senior executive leadership are meant to shift perception.
Now they're shifting perception in two ways. They're shifting the way that you see yourself. So you start seeing yourself as a senior executive. You start seeing yourself as a person who has ideas that makes an impact to your organization, that has value to add to the conversation. You start showing up differently. So it's the way that you see yourself. And then it's also the way that other people see you.
So perception is reality. I've always used this concept, but two things happen to me in recent coaching sessions, and they both had the same perception. And so I thought: 'You know what, I really need to address this on my podcast and talk about it here for you guys today.'
So what happened in both of these scenarios... So many people who are struggling to get promoted into senior executive leadership positions are because they're really good at their job. And so this sounds a little bit opposite, but what's happening is: you're known as the subject matter expert, you're really great at your job. So what do you do? You rely on the details. You rely on being good at your job. And you work really, really hard. You put in long hours and you're very good and you're very meticulous about what you do.
So both of these clients, two people in the same week had the same challenge. They received feedback that they were too slow. That something that would take most people 20 minutes takes them four hours. That they take too long on projects. That they don't speak up soon enough. And you might be listening to this and you could think either, you know, one of two things. One could be like:' Oh, that's bad. They're too slow.' Well, here's the thing. They always deliver by their deadline. So they deliver. They're really good at their job. They're not actually too slow in the delivery. What this feedback points to is that they're too slow in their process.
So here's the advice that I gave both of them the same advice. The goal here is not to change your process. Your process works for you. You're very detail oriented, you want to make sure that you get everything right and that allows you to deliver on time. There is nothing wrong with this process. The feedback that you're receiving is simply the perception from other people, from your boss. Her perception is that you take "too long". Now, she would never say 'drop the ball' or 'don't have attention to detail'. Of course not. What she's saying is you are too slow.
So the first thing I wanted my clients to realize is tone actually change your technical behavior as in your attention to detail. I want you to keep that. What we're going to do is we're going to shift the perception that you're too slow.
Now, here's how this works. You are going to give regular updates to your boss about your progress. You are going to tell your boss exactly where you are and give them updates. Now, these aren't going to go into the weeds. This is going to be more of a high level: 'I got this,' or 'Thank you. This is what I heard. These are the three things I'm working on this week.' You're not going to go into all the details about exactly what you're working on, but what you're going to do is you're going to give more frequent updates. And when I mention this to both of these clients, they said: 'Oh, yeah. I never send my boss updates.' So the problem is not that they're too slow, it's that they're leaving their boss guessing.
Ok, they're leaving their boss, guessing along the way, wondering when this project is going to get done and then when it does, even though it still gets done by the deadline, they have spent time wondering if somebody is working on it or not, if it's actually going to get the deadline because it is your boss's job on the line. You have to realize that it's their job to make sure that you get this done. And they don't want to micromanage you. They don't want to watch you every step of the way. But what they do want is they want to make sure it gets done. So when they feel like it's going to slow, they worry that you're not going to meet your deadline.
So you see where I'm going here. So both of them agreed to give more frequent updates to their boss about their status along the way. And I called this concept 'Showing Your Work.' So you've heard about this in grade school that we all need to show our work. That's what our teacher requires. And then somehow, once we get into the corporate world, once we get into working life, we forget to show our work. And there's a lot of legitimate reasons for this. Right. Well, first of all, we don't think it's necessary because it seems obvious. Of course, trust me, I always meet my deadlines, trust me. And so we don't think it's necessary to give these updates along the way.
And then the second thing is, is that we don't want to show that we're struggling. Right. Because in the process of this being too slow, we're trying to figure something out. We don't have the answers yet. And that's OK. You don't have to have the answers yet. You just have to communicate something like I'm working on it. Something like that. Like, I'm on it. This is what I'm thinking. I should have it to you by Tuesday. So you just want to overcommunicate a little bit and then we'll figure out how to trim back later.
But the first step is to overcommunicate, and then you're going to notice that your boss starts to see you as no longer too slow. So you're going to start to get that feedback of like, wow, they're really on top of things. That is the feedback that you want to be receiving. So this is what I'm talking about here in this perception equals reality. It is the perception that other people have of you and that, in truth, is actually reality. So their perception, which is that you're too slow in a lot of ways, that is how they feel, you are too slow. And so we want to fix the problem, which is being too slow. But instead of doing that, I want you to think about why do they think I'm too slow? VS I'm just too slow. So that is the shift that we're starting to make.
So now I'm going to give you three ways, three additional ways. So this was a really great start. Just apply this so far, what I've taught you today, to your life and your situations, whenever you're given any sort of feedback. And I'm going to give you some things to think about along the way.
The first thing that I want you to think about is how do I feel when I receive this feedback? How does that make me feel? And generally, it makes you feel really, really bad. So my clients. If they're told that they're too slow, it instantly triggers them because they care about their work and they're worried if they speed it up, then their work will suffer. And so they don't want to do that. So they feel like kind of defensive.
And so then the way that a lot of people will attack this type of feedback is they will say: 'No, I'm not too slow. I'm getting it done. See.' And they'll kind of argue about the perception.
Another example of this is if you are a really great subject matter expert and your boss gives you feedback like you can't get promoted because we haven't seen you lead a large team. But yet you know that you could lead a large team. You know that you could do that. But the perception is that we've never seen you lead a large team. And so this can feel super, super frustrating and very defeating. It can make you feel really small. And so your solution might be, how do I lead a large team? How do I actually fix the problem that they're speaking about?
No, the actual solution is how do I shift their perception that I can lead a large team. And now you can get to work. And you see how this is less frustrating, right?
So the first thing is check in with your emotions. How am I feeling? Do I feel super frustrated? Do I feel defeated? Do I feel like this is a catch 22? Do I feel like I can't do anything about it? And if that's how you feel, stop. And realize that it doesn't have to be that way, you don't have to change the literal thing that's happening. You don't have to lead a large team. But what you do need to do is shift the perception. And when you shift that perception for your boss, for the leadership team, for your CEO, for your team, for your peers, however they see you when you start to shift their perception, guess what? That actually becomes your reality.
So all it takes is a simple shift. It simply says: 'Oh, I see. The perception is that I'm not capable of leading a large team, so I have to show them that I'm capable.'
The next thing I want you to do is also understand that this is true. This is their belief. There is nothing wrong with their perception of you. And so when we're thinking about being frustrated and trying to take action from that place of frustration and feeling defeated, it's going to be nearly impossible to break out of it. So you just want to accept it as truth. That is there a perception that is fine, it's fine that they think that I can't lead a large team, it's simply their perception. It doesn't actually mean I cannot lead a large team. Do you see what I'm saying here? It doesn't mean that you're not capable of being a senior vice president or a CFO. Just because they don't see you that way does not mean that you're not capable of it. But you need to take their perception as truth. Their perception is their reality. So you trying to fight their perception head on just by arguing with them? Of course I can be CFO. What do you mean? No, you have to show them. You have to show them that, of course, you can be CFO.
The next thing I want you to do is just make adjustments along the way. You're just going to shift. You're just going to shift your behaviors. You're going to see: 'OK, did that shift the perception at all?' And what you're going to do is you're going to start asking. You're going to get feedback from your boss. You're going to find ways to figure out if your perception is shifting.
Now, here's the kicker. And this is so, so, so, so, so hard. Not everybody is going to see all of the actions that you're taking. So you're shifting this perception with your boss. But let's say the other half of the leadership team has not seen this. They still have that old perception of you that you're the subject matter expert, that you're not capable of higher executive leadership roles. And so they're still believing that. And it gets really hard when, two years into this work, you start to say: 'Oh, somebody else just came up to me yesterday and was like, oh, I'm surprised. I'm surprised. You now have a big team.' And they don't mean any harm. They're just literally surprised. Because they didn't see you as a leader. They always saw you as a subject matter expert.
So just be very careful that as you're doing this work and as you're shifting this behavior and shifting people's perception, know that there's always going to be somebody who didn't get on the train. That didn't follow the boat. And so you're just going to have to evaluate your progress along the way. Does it feel like I am moving closer towards my goal of being in a senior executive leadership role? And if you don't know how to evaluate that, then ask.
First of all, ask those people, get feedback, figure out what's actually happening along the way and also get outside feedback. So from a coach, from a mentor, make sure that you're communicating with other people, your peers. So get feedback along the way about what is actually changing and shifting so that you can know and adjust your path. You can adjust and make different choices as you go along so that you don't do this work that I'm talking about, and then two years later, nothing has changed. And then you're like: 'Well, I tried. I guess it didn't work.' No, you have to continuously adjust and measure your progress all along the way.
So if you do all of these things that I'm talking about today, you will begin to shift the perception at your organization about anything. About if you're somebody who's difficult to work with, if you're somebody who is is not capable of an executive leadership role, somebody who is too slow, somebody who has a poor emotional intelligence, somebody who doesn't speak up enough, whatever it is that you're trying to work on, you'll be able to shift that perception, which allows those executives to speak up on advocate on your behalf, which is ultimately what we want. We want other people to say: 'You know what, Elizabeth is ready. Let's promote her this promotion cycle. We need her in a higher executive level role.'.
You know that you're ready to be in a higher level executive role. I know that you're ready to be in a higher executive role. Now, you just have to shift perception and let them know that you're ready to be in a higher executive leadership role.
Thank you so much for listening, and I'll see you next week.
About Your Host
Hi! I'm Stacy Mayer, a Certified Executive Coach and Promotion Strategist on a mission to bring more diversity to the leadership table by getting 1000 underrepresented corporate managers promoted into senior executive positions each year worldwide.
I help undervalued executives scale to the C-Suite using repositioning strategies that build your confidence and visibility, so you can earn the recognition and support you need from key stakeholders while embodying your unique leadership style.
My podcast “Women Changing Leadership with Stacy Mayer” tackles topics like executive communication, getting more respect in the workplace from challenging bosses and team members, and avoiding the common mistakes that sabotage career advancement.