How to Improve Your Team’s Reputation in Your Organization

This article originally appeared on Microlearning, our bite-sized online solution for leaders and individual contributors.

Whether you realize it or not, your team has a reputation in your organization. Decision-makers either trust you and your team’s expertise, know they can count on you, and want to include your team in important initiatives — or they don’t.

When you take strategic steps to improve your team’s reputation, you can score a triple win as a leader: You create more value for your colleagues and your company, your direct reports feel like valued members of a winning team, and you build your own reputation as an influential leader whose team gets important things done.


 1. With your team, choose what you want to be known for in your organization.

Your team could build a good reputation by simply doing their work and meeting their goals — consistently getting the job done is one of the cornerstones of credibility. But proactively identifying the kind of team you’d like to be could turn your team’s reputation from “solid” to “stellar.”

What does your team want to be known as — innovative? efficient? customer-focused? something else entirely? Determining the reputation you want to build gives you a chance at actually becoming that team — and having a goal reputation can guide your decisions and give your direct reports a shared vision to work toward.

To focus your team’s thinking on a goal reputation, prompt them with questions like:

  • What does our team do really well? They will probably be more excited to work toward something they’re good at, and it’ll be easier to build a reputation in an area where they already have a track record of competence. If your team can’t easily name one or two of their strengths, ask them follow-up questions like “What do we tend to get recognition for? What words do others use when they give feedback on our style or performance? Do any patterns emerge?” You may want to ask others outside your team for their thoughts. They’ll have a different perspective than you do and may give you a sense of what your team’s current reputation is.
  • How can our team make a unique or high-value contribution to our organization? Start by considering current important initiatives in your company or department. For example, if your company wants to increase customer loyalty, can your customer-focused team share your insights and tactics with other teams? You might also look at areas in the organization that need improvement. For example, if your boss gets annoyed with your department’s cumbersome processes, could your efficiency-minded team take the lead to simplify them? If you’re not sure where you might best contribute, ask your manager or peers about what they see as the biggest needs and opportunities.

Ultimately, you’ll want to strive for just one goal reputation — the one that best balances what your organization needs and what your team is best at and most excited about.


2. Help your direct reports determine the actions they can take to contribute to your team’s goal reputation.

Give your team a clear picture of the part they play in building your goal reputation by translating it into specific, day-to-day actions they can take.

In a team meeting, in 1-on-1s, or both, ask each person to identify:

  • Behaviors they already do that they should continue: For example, maybe your direct reports have a habit of trying new approaches to monthly special offers and tracking how successful they are, which supports a reputation for being innovative.
  • New behaviors that would be helpful to adopt: Which other aspects of your team’s work could use more innovation? It could be a one-time project (e.g., automating a manual process for updating a spreadsheet) or a new process they start (e.g., weekly reviewing customer feedback for opportunities to improve service).
  • Ways they might spread what they’re doing beyond your team: For example, your direct reports could volunteer for a department innovation task force, offer to help another team with their innovative project, share insights with other teams in regular updates, or other efforts.

Follow up in subsequent meetings to be sure that your direct reports are doing the behaviors they identified, to gauge whether they’re yielding the desired results, and to identify any adjustments that might help cement your team’s goal reputation. Are there additional or more frequent behaviors to do, ones to do with people on other teams, or ones that should be dropped?


3. Incorporate your team’s goal reputation into your regular communications within and beyond your team.

Do the messages you send to your team and to others about your team reiterate and align with your team’s goal reputation? Creating a consistent drumbeat in your daily interactions helps everyone understand your team’s priorities and solidifies how they think of your group.

Good opportunities include when you:

  • Coach and give feedback to team members. For example, to reinforce the theme of innovation, you might say, “I appreciate how you’re trying new approaches in this project because it will help us innovate and also be seen as innovators,” or “How could we experiment to find a better way?”
  • Talk with colleagues who might be unfamiliar with what your team does. “Because of our close contact with customers, we think of ourselves as a hub of innovation. Let us know if you want to try a small experiment or hear about what we’ve learned about customer needs.”
  • Share updates outside of your team. Explain how your team’s work impacts higher-level goals that people care about. For example, “Our new process has reduced customer response times by 40 percent. We are already seeing a 5 percent increase in customer satisfaction, and we’re excited about how this process innovation contributes to our company goal of building customer loyalty.”
  • Praise your direct reports’ work to other leaders: “It was the team’s innovative approach that let us exceed our goal by so much.”
  • Advocate for your team to take on certain assignments: “If you’re looking for new approaches, our team could bring the voice of the customer to your project, given our frontline customer experience.”

Finally, encourage your direct reports to similarly refer to your team’s goal reputation in their day-to-day conversations and updates outside the team so you have a chorus of voices reinforcing it.


4. Regularly seek feedback about what others think of your team — and act on it.

Remember that your reputation lives in the minds of other people. The only way to know if your team is actually establishing your goal reputation is to invite colleagues, higher-ups, and your customers to share their views. Then, listen to their feedback and work to improve.

To understand how your team is seen, ask open-ended questions like:

  • “What would you say my team is known for or good at? And what’s one thing you wish we did better?”

To get a more focused appraisal of how your specific reputation-building efforts are going, you might ask:

  • “What could our team be doing to better support you in X?” or “What could our team do to help the company become more X?”
  • “What’s one thing we could do to build a reputation of being X?”

Based on what you hear, take action. If the reputation-building behaviors you outlined with your team aren’t getting the results you want, figure out why. Do you need to change how you communicate your results? Do the behaviors need to change?

Once you make the changes with your team, go back to your feedback-givers to let them know what you changed and why. Then check in periodically to be sure that the changes you’ve made are working.

Keep in mind that the feedback you get could reveal barriers to building your goal reputation that seem unrelated to what you’re focused on. You may learn that your team is concentrating on building their reputation so much that they’re perceived as uncollaborative by other parts of the organization. Or that the reputation-building work your team is doing is causing them to miss deadlines that affect other teams. These kinds of issues can derail team credibility, regardless of how strong your team is in your desired goal reputation area.

Finally, your team’s reputation goal may need to change over time as your team members’ skills and interests change and as your company’s circumstances or priorities shift.