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6 Tips for Building Profiles Through Positive Narration

Meeting colleagues for the first time should be an exciting moment…instead, your heart sinks further with each introduction.

For one thing, your name is Barry, not Larry, but worse follows. "Larry's got experience," Marvin reports. "15 years at Davis & Sons, but his whole department was laid off, and now he's with us." Marvin means well, but he's unknowingly painting an unflattering picture, leaving Barry with a tainted reputation before he's even started.

The stories we choose to tell about those around us significantly affect how people are perceived. In this article, we'll look at how you can use what organizational behaviorists Jane Dutton and JuliaLee call "narratives" to raise your team members' profiles and create a more positive image.

Why Raise Other People's Profiles?

People can be hard working and competent, but if they fly below the radar – mainly if they work remotely or are shy about promoting themselves – their efforts will go unnoticed. Their skills may be under-utilized, knowledge may be going untapped, and their expertise is likely being ignored.

However, raising a team member's profile can increase their value to your team and organization. For example, improved personal connections can boost team performance and information exchange, and these increased visibility can reduce the potential for misunderstandings between colleagues.

Also, your team member can use their greater prominence to take advantage of any opportunities that arise, enjoy a greater sense of worth, and likely have fewer self-sabotaging thoughts or concerns about social acceptance – all because of the positive narratives you've built about them. As a manager, you're showing people you're "on their side," which builds trust, loyalty, and commitment.

What Are Positive Narratives?

Whether you're recommending someone for a role, discussing how a colleague came across in a meeting or introducing a new starter to their team, how you "narrate" someone can considerably impact their reputation and visibility.

A positive narrative is a way to remind them – and the people around them – of who they are and how they contribute to the team. Positively narrating a team member to lift their profile is a good move in situations where you'd like to see them make a positive change. These might include times when you want them to:

  • Fit in with new colleagues

  • Realize their potential

  • Take on new responsibilities

  • Become more confident or resilient

6 Tips for Building Profiles Through Positive Narration

It takes particular skills (and an awareness of the impact of your words ) to narrate colleagues positively and appropriately. So, here are 6 tips for getting it right:

1. Creating Positive First Impressions

First impressions matter because they happen so fast and are hard to change. Researcher Julia Lee found that, managers of high-performing teams use their power to influence first impressions by creating positive narratives for people before they even join the group.

For example, consider what stories and information you might share with your team to present a newcomer in the most favorable light. What are their strengths? What did they accomplish and achieve in their previous role? Why might someone want to know them? What facts about their background and interests might pique other people's curiosity?

The answers to questions like these will help you paint a positive picture of them and help them to build a solid personal brand.

2. Knowing Your Facts

You want to make others aware of your team members' skills and competencies. Instead of building people up in a flattering way, though, do it in a robust, quantifiable way based on facts. Make sure that what you say is accurate. Otherwise, you could create false impressions. When creating positive narratives, a little fact-checking goes a long way!

3. Minding Your Language

Casual, thoughtless, or ill-judged remarks about someone can have a powerful negative impact on their reputation. By saying the wrong thing or sending inconsistent messages through your body language, you can damage the favorable profiles that you've worked hard to create. Thoughtless comments are difficult to take back once said, so be careful not to undo all the excellent work that you've done.

4. Recognizing the Power of Compliments

What might seem like a throwaway observation to you – for example, "She always manages to put difficult clients at ease" or, "He's a great negotiator" – can have an impact that spreads far more comprehensive than just the person you're talking to, and showcase someone's value to a broader audience.

Small but well-deserved compliments can make a big difference to someone's standing, whether you express them as a quiet word "in the right ear" or as an announcement to your team or organization.

5. Staying Credible

For positive narratives to deliver on their promises, your people must live up to them. So it's essential to keep them realistic and truthful.

Gushing over a team member's awesomeness or being dishonest by announcing how marvelous they are when you don't mean it, for example, will make you sound insincere and untrustworthy. Instead, single out specific actions and proven achievements to compliment.

6. Encouraging People to Act

You can do much to raise a team member's profile, but at some point, you'll need them to "step up" and live up to the picture you've painted, perhaps using a framework such as appreciative coaching to guide you. Some people will do this naturally. Others will require more prompting, and you'll likely need to provide high-profile tasks and other opportunities where they can demonstrate their strengths.

Also, encourage them to speak up for themselves, open up more to their colleagues, and volunteer for any opportunities to represent the team, perhaps in group projects or on staff committees.


As a manager, you have the power to help raise their profiles, and, as a result, they are more likely to flourish in their careers and fulfill their potential.

Your team is also more likely to succeed, which will reflect well on your standing.

To raise their profiles, you must "narrate" your team members positively. You can do this, for example, by sharing information and stories about them that convey the value they bring, by offering public compliments, and by encouraging people to take the initiative and live up to the narrative.

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