Everyone has a reputation. Through our actions and interactions over time, we build a reputation that defines and eventually precedes us; whether for good or for bad. Most people really don’t know what their own reputation is, and you may even doubt you have one. Let me assure you – you do!
Spend a minute going through your mental Rolodex and think of one relative, one friend, and one colleague. As you go through this exercise, jot down the first adjective that comes to mind that identifies their reputation. You may characterize some acquaintances as having some fairly common reputations; perfectionist, cynic, unreliable, or even a risk-taker. Many people have one defining reputation, and a few ancillary ones as well.
As easy as it probably was for you to quickly peg someone else’s reputation, you might find yourself equally stumped about your own. Perhaps you think you couldn’t possibly have a reputation. Think again. You have a reputation that precedes you in the workplace, and others can identify it just as easily as you did in the above exercise.
The nuts and bolts of a good business or career reputation are not too difficult to surmise; being on time or early for work, a positive attitude, a strategic thinker, problem solver, a good work ethic, being a team player, even having someone’s back, doing ‘whatever it takes’, etc. All the things that make us like others, or working with them, are qualities that build a good reputation. Take a few minutes to inventory your strengths, and since you aren’t broadcasting your answers, be real about your gifts. Are you a great public speaker, an analytical thinker, good deal maker, key negotiator, master task executer?
While that may have been easy, figuring out what blemishes may reside on your reputation is quite another endeavor. People usually fall into three categories during this exercise. Some people name their shortcomings with proficiency and ease, even adding disparaging qualities or inadequacies that are not merited. The second group of people have some idea of where they lack skill, knowledge or savvy. Then there is the group that thinks they are free and clear of any faults, blemishes or failings whatsoever.
A bad or blemished reputation is a mixture of actions, inactions and poorly reflecting behaviors. The tough part is coming to grips with the reality that you may need to do some damage control. So, what causes blemishes on a reputation? Below is a list to get you thinking:
Unmet promises. Examples include delivering an assignment late, not showing up for a meeting, poor contribution to a project, or consistently delivering low quality work.
Poor follow up. Are you non-responsive to emails, voice mails or meeting requests? Do you recap meetings or provide project updates with regularity and on time? After submitting a proposal, do you follow up with your client to clarify questions or cost? Follow up and follow through shows others that you can carry work through to a successful completion.
Lateness. Are you on time for meetings and work in the morning? Do you take a 1-hour lunch, or push the limit and take extra time more often than not? Being late tells others that you value your time over their time, agendas or activities.
Excuses and Whining. Shirking responsibility and pointing the finger will quickly degrade your reputation. Complaining about your job responsibilities to others wastes both your time and theirs, and is completely unproductive. It also labels you as high-maintenance and someone to stay away from. Results speak louder than words of blame and excuses.
Being overwhelmed/Dropping the ball. Are you consistently frazzled by your workload? Do you respond with emotion and drama to your ‘to-do’ list versus handling it in a professional manner? This type of behavior often leads to dropping the ball with responsibilities because so much effort is spent on swirl and reaction that it steals time from productivity. If you fall into this category, come to my June 18 Equilibrium in High-Heels Workshop. You will leave with a full toolbox of techniques to successfully balance work and life. (See details and register here: http://www.highheeledsuccess.com/events-20160618.html.)
Interrupting. Whether in meetings, on the phone, one-on-one, or butting in on someone’s conversation, this pet peeve can create a huge black mark on your reputation. Interrupting causes others to lose their train of thought, can convey a ‘know-it-all attitude’, and tells others that you are not listening.
Be a Leader, Not a Follower. Do you merely carry out the plans and projects assigned to you, or do you truly think about your work? The learning curve in a new role can be steep, and it’s perfectly acceptable to execute tasks as assigned during this period. As you grow in your position, however, stagnating or doing the bare minimum will negatively affect your reputation. Leaders truly thing about the work at hand, how it will impact other initiatives and the future of the business. Leaders also anticipate outcomes, consequences, and new opportunities by looking at the big picture. Acting on these types of leadership thoughts by crafting a plan or proposal for consideration is definitely thinking like a leader and will reflect positively on your reputation.
Social Media Errors. Last, but definitely not least are social media faux pas. Posting pictures or statuses about any of the following subjects should be done with the utmost discretion and prudence: alcohol, sex, religion, politics, dating, and opinions about your workplace. A picture enjoying a craft beer with a friend is fine. Posting pictures of heavy partying is not. Uploading a picture of you and your date at dinner is suitable. Posting about the private details of your dating life is not OK. Positive remarks about your company or one of its initiatives is fine, ranting about your boss is not. Hopefully, you get the idea.
Did some of these areas strike a chord with you, or create some self-awareness? If you think you need to do some damage control in any of these categories, it’s time to put a plan together. To uncover the truth about your own reputation, you’ll need to humbly enlist the help of others and be open to feedback and growth. Check out Kay’s Corner (in the May 2016 newsletter) for a three-step action plan to rebuild or repair your reputation.