Have you ever heard the phrase,” You are nothing like I expected,” or” You are nothing like I was told?” When you heard these questions, you probably received them with mixed emotions. They could indicate positive feelings about you or an underlying misconception or suspicion about your reputation. Why were they surprised?
If you’re like me, you try very hard to establish and protect your reputation. Your reputation is who you are, what you stand for and what you represent. Many times it goes before you and people say such things as,” Your reputation preceded you.” So it is critical that you do everything to keep your reputation pristine and positive.
Your reputation is like currency. It enables you to incur special favors and treatment, assignments, employment and business opportunities, the benefit of the doubt and information, power and influence. A poor reputation can also work against you and deprive you of many of the finer things in life. Reputation can affect what people think of you; a fine person they would like to work with or I wouldn’t work with them if they were the last person on Earth.
A Bad Reputation
A bad reputation, which could relate to a bad driving record, poor credit history or hard to work with, can haunt your work life. You may lose out on a job. Usually, losing out on a job may never be brought to your attention, but it does happen. Another tragedy is that there are times when a poor reputation, is not your fault. A director was asked to hire an assistant, who competed against her for her current job. She was initially reluctant. She had the usual concerns about this individual potentially sabotaging her agenda. But she was open to using the person’s skills to improve the overall department. She also felt that she could groom the individual to one day take her job or a similar assignment. She accepted it as a good a challenge.
Shortly after the person joined her department, she began hearing negative comments from members of the team about some of his remarks. He was undermining her authority. He secretly questioned her decisions and even went as far as to sabotage some of the marketing projects. Additionally, he was personally connected to other directors and began to influence their perceptions of her. He told them she was lazy, incompetent and ineffective, that she was in a job that was over her head. They believed him because he knew marketing and worked closely with her every day. He was eventually reassigned, but the damage had already been done to her reputation. He wanted her out of the job, so he could take her place. He could not beat her in the interview, but he was committed to poisoning her reputation.
Survey your people. Could any of them one day do your job? Assess their talent and interest and dedicate yourself to ensuring they will be ready for future promotions. The right person will be patient and welcoming your assistance and advocacy. The wrong person may try to sabotage your efforts, so do not be naïve. Prepare for any signs of betrayal, such as silent insidious insubordination, in word or deed. People will come to you in confidence. Take well meaning comments seriously, especially if they are warning you about passive aggressive behavior that is being used to discredit your reputation.
A positive reputation is crucial in validating who you are. It is a reflection of your life’s work and therefore should be guarded as you would your bank account or investment portfolio. The concept of acting above and beyond reproach is necessary to support your reputation. This should be done to establish a history of consistency. You must not cut corners where integrity is concerned. You don’t want anyone to doubt your character.
While you are working hard to protect your reputation, bear in mind, there may be individuals trying to give you a bad name. There are detractors or haters, determined to bring you down and remove you from competing with them for a current or future assignment.
A candidate was almost denied employment because his previous employer misrepresented his reputation during a reference check. The new company was so impressed with him in the interview that they allowed him an opportunity to address the malicious accusations lodged against him. He told his version of the story to address the example his employer had given, which were completely taken out of context. He also supplied the names of the zone manager and director of sales who spoke very highly of the candidate. They even went as far as to discredit his supervisor, which enabled him to get the job. This doesn’t usually happen, but the reputation of the candidate came through loudly and clearly in the interview and in the comments from the zone manager and the director of sales.
A manager was astonished to find out that an employee was interviewing his people, in an effort to gather negative information about him. She was planning to file a lawsuit against her manager. She wanted to prove that the organization tolerated bad behavior on the part of its managers. Since the manager’s reputation was beyond reproach, she failed in her efforts to link him to her lawsuit.
Failing to pay attention to integrity and your reputation is a very costly enterprise. A poor reputation may literally cost you thousands of dollars in lost promotions, salary increases, bonuses, key relationships and important clients. You must do everything in your power to keep your reputation positive and of the highest caliber. This involves monitoring and managing your personal and professional image. Just as there are agencies to monitor your credit and issue credit reports, you must find a way to monitor your reputation. You must set up a process, a mechanism or system to collect image data on yourself. There are a few simple techniques you should consider. You have heard them before and they should be repeated because repetition reinforces learning.
Select a few trusted advisors to give you feedback on your character, image, personal and professional leadership. These all add up to your reputation, as you know it. You should gather information the old fashioned way by asking questions in a questionnaire, on the telephone, in a meeting or over a meal. Consider using the following questions.
• Do you feel I am listening to you?
• Do you feel I am treating you and others fairly?
• Have you heard anything that should be brought to my attention?
• What are things I need to change to make things better for you?
• Is there any dissent that has surfaced among your team members?
• What can I do to make you feel a greater part of the team?
• Are my actions in line with my stated values and intentions and your expectations?
Ask different people about the word on the street about you. What are people saying? What have they heard about you? If your company conducts employee surveys, they may drill down to your level to give you feedback. If this is the case, reputation information will be provided to you. If your company provides customer surveys which allow the customer to give data on the company and its representatives, you may get reputation data in this manner. Customer surveys give the perception information which contributes to the corporate image, your personal image and reputation.
360° feedback instruments are available to alert managers to how they are perceived by their people. Climate studies can also be conducted to assess the environment within a team or organization. Personally, you should always be aware of your actions because they are registered somewhere in the hearts and minds of those around you. The collection of your actions will shape your reputation and place you in high esteem or doom you to suffer dire consequences.
• The old adage of “ your word is your bond” should have meaning in your life, as you follow through on your obligations
• Treat people the way you want to be treated
• Remember you are an employee of the company and are always on duty
• Always model the company’s values
• Do not do anything that you would not like to see as a headline in the media
• Cultivate a number of trusted individuals who will advise you on matters that may affect your career
• In personnel matters, preserve the individual’s self esteem
• Cultivate advocate who will defend your reputation and alert you to any assaults on your character
You can bolster your character, image and reputation by sticking to these cardinal principles.
Copyright © 2013 Orlando Ceaser