All Articles Leadership Management What do executives say about you behind closed doors? Learn to become a positively perceived leader

What do executives say about you behind closed doors? Learn to become a positively perceived leader

Do you know your in-house reputation? Here's what you can do to help yourself.

4 min read



Brandon Holmes/Unsplash

Do you have a good sense about what is said about you behind closed doors? When your boss, your boss’s boss and other key executives in the organization are sitting down and discussing you, what is the consensus? Is it positive? Is it negative? Are you credible? Confident? Respected? Reliable? If you look around the table, how many are blank faces? Blank faces are people who don’t know you and wouldn’t know what to expect if you were given an opportunity.

It’s important to know how you are perceived by others in your organization. In my presentation, “The Importance of Having Positively Perceived Leaders,” I explain how to build and develop your perception, and how to cultivate and maintain a positive outlook on your skillset.

By actively influencing how others perceive you, you can enhance your access to new opportunities. If you’re looking to manage how you and your accomplishments are viewed, start by following my steps below, and plan how you will change what is being said when you’re not in the room.

1. Seek out advocates

Think about who in your organization already knows you and can speak to your work and your reputation. Will they speak up when you are being discussed? The most obvious candidate may be your boss, who has a more detailed knowledge of the work you have done and the success you’ve had in your current role. Be sure your advocates speak highly about your work, but also know your aspirations. When opportunities arise, they can put your name forward.

Your boss is key, but don’t forget others you have worked with, both within and outside your business group. Be sure to maintain those relationships on both a casual and professional level, as those other players too may be your advocates.

2. Get to know more people

Imagine there are 10 people sitting in a room at your organization. How many know you and your work? One? Three? Five? The more people know you, the more voices there are to speak up or weigh in on your behalf. Others who aren’t sure might not speak or could actively advocate for another candidate rather than back you and your unknown reputation. Make the effort to be seen and heard by more than just the small circle of your team or group – stand up, speak up, be heard and be remembered.

You do great work, so don’t be afraid to make sure others know how well you’ve done and what you’re capable of achieving. 

3. Don’t forget the organization as a whole

When you’re getting to know people, and making sure they know you and your accomplishments, don’t only focus on senior managers and the executive. There are many people in your organization who those other leaders will look to for opinions — who will they consult with about you and your reputation? Make the effort to foster and maintain that positive perception of your work with your colleagues, your employees and all the influencers and decision makers with whom you come in contact.

How you are talked about outside those closed-door meetings is important, too – if someone doesn’t know you well, they may take the advice and opinion of someone they trust who does. Cast your net wide when managing your perception, because it all may matter.

When you’re ready for that next step in your career, and you’re looking for a new opportunity in leadership, don’t forget that perception is a critical part of managing your success along the path. Don’t become a hidden leader whose potential remains untapped and overlooked just because your talents weren’t known. It’s up to you to make sure that when people sit down to discuss you, there are no blank faces at the table, and as many as possible will speak up on your behalf.


Joel Garfinkle provides corporate training, webinars and keynotes. He is recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the U.S., and the author of 7 books, including “Getting Ahead.” He was recently hired by a multinational corporation seeking ways to cultivate leaders that might be overlooked, from within. He trained over 200 employees, helping them shift from untapped talent to truly shine as fully-engaged and utilized employees. Subscribe to his Fulfillment at Work Newsletter and receive the FREE e-book, “41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!”

If you enjoyed this article, sign up for SmartBrief’s free e-mail on leadership and career development, among SmartBrief’s more than 200 industry-focused newsletters.