Why You Should Give A Damn About Your Reputation
Who doesn’t love a little bit of Joan Jet? Not only is she a rock god, she knows how to rock leather! One thing she is very wrong about, however, is reputation. The fact that she doesn’t give a damn about her bad reputation is concerning. It’s one of the main assets a person, company, and brand should put a lot of emphasis on. Donna Summer was absolutely correct in saying ‘your reputation follows you’.
When it comes to a person, there is an interesting dichotomy between the critical importance and trivial nature of reputation. At a base level, a person’s reputation is how others see them and talk about them to other people. So if a person has a suitable level of self-confidence then they won’t care about how others view them. However, if a person with personal or career goals, wants to have a solid social network, and values both personal and professional relationships, then how people view them is of utmost importance.
The thing is though, reputation isn’t something you create overnight. It is something you earn.
Not too long ago I was involved in reviewing applications to hire for a Digital Communications role and a number of the applications that were received had phrases such as ‘digital maverick’ (I am vehemently opposed to that statement), ‘social media expert’, and ‘digital guru’. In my research of these applicants, I noticed that some of them hadn’t tweeted in months, didn’t follow best practice on Instagram, and didn’t have updated accounts. It made me wonder, was it fabricated or earned reputation? If you have to fabricate your reputation does that not in turn give you a bad reputation for making up the truth? I have an issue with that.
My older brother and I have a running joke where we say we never want to be known as “that person”. You know, the person that ran for the bus but missed it and then people talk about “that person” who ran and missed the bus. No thank you. But when it comes to reputation you should always aim to be “that person”. “That person” who gets results. “That person” who is reliable. “That person” who always looks presentable. “That person” who people talk about in a positive sense. Is it how you create a good reputation or the result of good reputation?
When it comes to a company there is often a misconception that a company’s reputation is based purely on your experience in dealing with them at a face value and how well they deliver a product or service. This is entirely untrue, your reputation is so much more than that. It involves internal culture, management style and structure, workplace design, technology capabilities, and external employee representation. Everybody within a company is responsible for reputation, and everybody’s reputation within a company has a direct impact on the reputation of that company. If your leaders or managers are notorious for hostility towards annual leave requests, for example, and staff talk about this externally, you create a negative reputation. It doesn’t matter if you are the number one distributor of a product, or the best creative agency in the world, or even a Fortune 500 company… you will have a reputation for bad internal culture.
Whether it is personal, professional, or company reputation, here are a few things to remember:
1. Do what you say you’d do and do it when you said you would.
This is step one and should be top of the list. Easiest and simplest way to grow reputation and maintain it. At the end of the day, if you can’t or won’t do something then people will find someone else who can, and will. Take every moment as an opportunity to highlight your skills and your reliability.
2. Success and humility should go hand in hand
Never let ego get in your way. Nobody likes an overly puffed chest, it belittles you and people don’t like being made to feel less than they are. This doesn’t mean you can’t have passion and ambition and drive, just don’t be that person who thinks they are better than everyone else. Remember the quote that somebody at some point said – “If you think you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room”.
3. Own your mistakes, don’t point the finger at someone else, then solve them.
Accountability shows that you are prepared to fix a problem and as a result ensure it doesn’t happen again. Nobody is perfect and admitting that you are not will ground you.
4. Eliminate misunderstandings through transparency.
If you are open, it means you have nothing to hide and if you have nothing to hide then people know exactly where they stand with you. This can be risky and there are many case studies where transparency has come back to bite many people and organisations. In the long run though, not being transparent can be even riskier.
5. Go out of your way to help / mentor / reduce workload of / offer advice to others.
This develops relationships and highlights your integrity, not to mention that fact that you will feel good about yourself as you pass your knowledge onto someone else. Some of the most successful people in the world regularly speak about their mentors and mentees and how they have helped shape them to become who they are. If you don’t have time for this it means that your priorities aren’t right and it’s time to re-evaluate your schedule. So any excuse about not having time won’t fly here, make the time.
6. Help make others look good.
Not only will this give you’re a warm, fuzzy feeling, but it actually in turn makes you look good. Now this might sound like point five, but it’s not. I was once asked to describe what I do for a living(in the world of PR and Communications) and after some thought, my response was ‘I make people look good. If they have made a mistake, I help them look good again. I make sure people hear about it. If they haven’t done anything, I help them find opportunities to look good.’ This is all about allowing other people their time in the spotlight or supporting other causes. From an individual perspective, this could be as simple as volunteering for a charity or pointing out someone else’s success, and from a business perspective, it can be as simple a well-executed CSR plan or strong, honest internal culture.
7. Present yourself appropriately
It’s the age-old axiom – ‘If you want to be professional, you need to look professional’. This refers back to my point regarding calling yourself a ‘Social Media Expert’ when your social media accounts tell a different story. I am a big believer in personal presentation whether that be the way you dress, the way you talk, the way you act in the lunch area etc. It is all about presentation. Would you trust a real estate agent who was in a shabby suit and with unkempt hair? Would you trust your architects if they didn’t have a nicely presented office with models and drawings around the place?
There are many things in life and work that you can’t control, but your reputation is something you can absolutely be in control of. When all else fails it is worth remembering the wise words of Warren Buffet – “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you remember that, you’ll do things differently”.