“Poker Face” and Other Idiosyncrasies…Detractor or Enhancer?

“Yes, Tom has that reputation – that’s just how he is…”

“Well that is good to know, I thought I tanked my first presentation with his division!”

“You’ll see it’s just one of his idiosyncrasies and that’s why we’ve nicknamed him ‘poker-face’. Tom never reacts or responds to suggestions on the spot which means you really don’t know what he actually thinks in the moment. The good thing is he takes every proposal into serious consideration by taking 24 hours to reflect on it. You can count on him to always loop back to you in a one-on-one to give you very candid and thoughtful feedback – he just has his own way of doing things.”

Perhaps you haven’t had this exact conversation but chances are you’ve either had one very similar about a boss or colleague or have been at the center of one of these conversations by your direct reports or colleagues. Either way, these conversations tend to follow an interaction where observation and understanding (or lack thereof), of a person’s idiosyncrasies are used to interpret an interaction. As a leader, what is most significant about this fact is that over time the interpretation and impact of our idiosyncrasies (our unique approaches, quirks and styles), on those around us mold our reputation in their eyes. Which bares the very important question, do these idiosyncrasies serve us by enhancing our reputation as a strong and positive leader or do they function as a detractor?

Let’s look back at Tom and his “Poker Face” reputation:

A Leadership Reputation Detractor – if Tom didn’t realize or hadn’t sought feedback that his lack or reaction was leaving people feeling shut-down then this idiosyncrasy would continuously contribute to a reputation as someone who didn’t make people feel valued, didn’t let people know where they stood with him or in the organization, and as someone who didn’t care – all clear detractors of his leadership abilities.

So how does Tom move this from a detractor to an enhancer?

A Leadership Reputation Enhancer – by Tom letting people know that this is one of his idiosyncrasies upfront and by taking ownership of the potential effect of his initial “Poker Face” reaction, he helps manage the impact by decreasing the unknown and uncertainty for people. However, the real shift occurs only if Tom follows up 24 hours later for his one-on-one as he committed to doing. Now he must approach the conversation in a way that helps people feel connected to him, he needs to ensure people feel valued with specific and clear feedback of their work (both the positive and the negative). If he does this consistently and effectively, this potential detractor shifts to an enhancer of his Leadership Reputation.

All too often people feel that they must be a certain way and emulate a specific person in order to be a good leader. However, even with the most positive intentions, most of us have learned the hard way that trying to be a different person isn’t possible, at least not in a consistent and sustainable way. When under pressure, which leaders find themselves needing to function in regularly, it is very difficult to keep up that façade.

As a leader you must ask yourself, what are my idiosyncrasies? Do they help me achieve my goals and if acted on consistently do they contribute to a positive perception of both my character and capabilities? Recognizing and taking ownership of your idiosyncrasies to ensure they serve as an enhancer (for both yourself and others), becomes the things that people respect and expect from you. As a leader, this is essential.

Have you seen or experienced an idiosyncrasy that could have been a detractor to one’s leadership or management abilities, but instead they built on them to serve as an enhancer of their Leadership Reputation? We’d love to hear your stories!