What's your reputation saying about you?
It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently Warren Buffett
What is reputation?
Reputation is the estimation or opinion in which a person, a company or a product is commonly held, by others.
From a human perspective, as we progress through life, we develop personal values, beliefs and behaviours that distinguish our character and it’s our character that defines who we are and what we stand for. Our reputation however is driven by other people’s perception of who we are. It is the by-product of the behaviour that we demonstrate repeatedly over time. It is the result not only of what we say and do, but of what others say about us.
How important is it?
It’s often said that our reputation precedes us and for this reason it is incredibly important, especially in business and networking.
If you look around you now at your wider network, there will be some people who you identify with based mainly on their reputation. Some of them you will have positive impressions of and perhaps even feel comfortable recommending to other contacts, even though you have never worked with them or in some cases not even met. If you removed reputation from the equation, many of those people would simply be strangers with whom you have little way of relating.
Reputation is a great time-saver as it means that we don’t have to develop relationships with each and every person, company or product in order to make an assessment.
Also, we are all being evaluated every day by our peers, our clients and our friends both individually, and based on our associations with other people and groups.
I observe people around me whose behaviour doesn’t truly reflect what they say they stand for, and, I observe interactions between people where one walks away with an impression of the other which I know to be inaccurate based on my own perception oof that person.
Why does this happen? Often when people feel inadequate or threatened their behaviour reflects those feelings rather than their value system and whilst it is a natural human reaction, the perception it creates can have a damaging affect on their reputation if the other person is vocal about their impression.
So, you see, reputation is incredibly powerful: When it’s helpful, it can result in admiration and following and it can open doors and pave the way for success. When it’s not helpful, it can close doors.
How do you ensure that your reputation is helpful?
Ultimately, perception is reality and so very often reputation precedes reality.
Of course, this can work in our favour and many successful entrepreneurs have used this very cleverly to create hype around them. It can also work detrimentally and this is where Warren’s quote is worth noting.
Ensuring that your own reputation is helpful means deciding whether you want your reputation to reflect who you really are, or to portray the type of person you aspire to be.
For me, authenticity features high on the ‘vital attributes’ list. I respect and connect with people who are true to themselves. In other words, I respect Integrity.
Many people think of integrity as being about honesty and adherence to moral and ethical principles. Actually, integrity is the condition of ‘wholeness’, where our thoughts, language and behaviour are consistent with the type of person we present ourselves to be.
I’ve had bosses in the past who talked about empowering people but behaved like a control-freak. I’ve known colleagues who claimed that they were results driven but who failed to deliver. I’ve had friends who professed to support me but who were absent the minute I needed support and I’ve had clients who banged on about the importance of being respectful but who failed to behave respectfully to others.
Whilst in the main, the intentions of these people were spot on, their behaviour was not conducive to their intentions and subsequently their reputation was damaged significantly.
So, think for a minute about who you are and what you stand for. Now think about how you are behaving currently in your business, in your network and in your social interactions.
Does your behaviour back-up who you present yourself to be? And, more importantly, are you comfortable that other people’s perception of you is in line with that?
If not, then your reputation may be at risk and you need to do things differently!