Control Your Narrative

A former colleague of mine, Anil Podduturi, used to exhort everyone that worked for him to “control your narrative.” My interpretation of his saying is that we all need to get pro-active about how we are perceived.

The hard truth is that people make judgements. They will make judgements about you as an individual or an entire group you lead. If your work impacts theirs in any way, or they think your work should impact theirs in any way, they will have an opinion about you. Are you great (or not)? Are you providing impact (or not)? Are you barely registering?

If you don’t control your own narrative, people will make assumptions.

They will get frustrated that it took 3 weeks to finish something basic because they don’t know that you have 7 other urgent things on your plate. Or they will get frustrated simply because no one has ever explained what your job function is really about, and they think you are here to do something different. Too often, they’ll say things to others rather than directly to you. (it takes a really strong corporate culture to overcome that unfortunate part of human nature)

It’s on you to communicate. The key is to externalize.

DO: Make sure that everyone relevant to your world understands your function, your goals, your challenges and your impact. Give key people a chance to collaborate with you and get their questions answered.

DO: be thoughtful about what you share, including how you share, when, how often and how much. (this will probably vary by company culture)

DON’T: overwhelm people with minutia and small tactics. This isn’t about telling people how busy you are or how many hours you work. That’s a sure-fire way to get people to tune you out.

DON’T: be inauthentic or put out a bunch of spin. That’s a good way to lose all credibility.
I’ve always found Anil’s advice here to be sound. Control your narrative. Put active thought into it, and don’t be a black box.

p.s. one of the ways we externalize as teams at my current company is through Jotto, a private blog / writing platform that I helped build.

photo credit: Matt Botsford