Soul Food for Your (one) Reputation

Employed, self-employed or unemployed, in the world of work you have one reputation – one.

Just as Apple and Mini Cooper have a brand that represents them in the public eye, your reputation is your own personal brand. Depending on how you manage it, it can either open doors for you or potentially repel opportunities.

I’m not implying that you don’t already take care of your reputation, but humor me for a few seconds and think about what you would do differently if you would take it as seriously as Apple takes their brand image.

The good news is that it’s possible for you to look after and develop your reputation, while being yourself and not feeling like you’re walking on egg-shells.

The following tips are based on my own experience and some come from working with doctors – a group of professionals whose careers live and die by their reputations.

Tip #1 – Follow the ‘Golden Rule’: Do onto others as you would like done onto you. ‘Nough said. By parting from this point you’re acknowledging that others are as important as you are. When you respect others, the likelihood is that they’ll respect you in return.

Tip #2 – Work as if you matter: This isn’t about feeling cocky and giving your ego a boost. Rather, it’s about knowing that your skills are needed and that through your work you have the potential to make a difference in your company and the community at large. Not to idealize the medical profession, but most doctors know that their work can make a difference and feel proud of it. By believing that your work makes a difference you also have the potential to feel proud about your own contributions.

Tip #3 – Take responsibility: Take full responsibility for any mistakes you might make. Nobody is error free (that’s why there are erasers on pencils). Playing the blame game or getting caught in a lie can tarnish your reputation. Face your mistakes and other difficult situations head on. If you live by this, your co-workers will have much more respect for you.

Tip #4 – Work to be respected, not to be liked: Bill Cosby says it best: “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” Through your actions, you can influence whether you’re respected or not. But in reality, just as you can’t control whether a peer likes cocktails or beer, you can’t control whether you are liked by everybody or not.

Tip #5 – Be assertive: While trying to get your point across and influence others, don’t be aggressive but don’t be passive either. Sure, this has been stated almost ad-nauseum in self-development literature time and time again. However, that doesn’t change the fact that there’s a lot to be said about someone who can be firm yet nice at the same time. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind and ask for what you want but do so in a way that respects the personal boundaries of others. Trust me, I learned the hard way that being too aggressive and pushy can result in the opposite than what you’re looking for.

Tip # 6 – Build trust: Trust isn’t something that is given to you, you must earn it. And you’ll find, as I have, that it’s not that hard to earn, as long as you’re willing to make the necessary deposits in people’s emotional bank account. All it takes is a few baby steps. Make a small promise, one you are 110% sure that you can keep, and keep it. Through making promises and keeping them is how you pave the way and eventually earn others’ trust.

Tip # 7 – Follow-through relentlessly: If you’ve taken a tennis or golf lesson, you’ll understand that your stroke is only as good as your follow-through. This also applies to work follow through. By not responding to work related matters in a timely manner you’re projecting a message – whether intentionally or not – that certain issues don’t matter to you. If workload is what’s keeping you from responding, just a quick note to let people know that you received their communication and by when you plan to respond, will make a world of difference. To make sure that you follow-through, set rules for yourself. I personally believe in returning emails within 1 day of receiving them and phone calls the same day. Don’t wait until you need someone you met to get in touch with them. Use the follow through to create the bridge that you can walk on to get to them when you need them.

Tip # 8 – Deliver what you promise: Talk is cheap. Do what you promise that you will. Start by being honest with yourself about what you can deliver and then be honest with others, don’t over-promise. If you’ve fallen into the habit of talking up things, be it because you mean well and genuinely want to help or that’s just your style, practice under-promising. This is not about being mediocre or a slacker. It’s about learning to work within the bounds of your own reality.

Tip # 9 – Be on time: I learned that if you’re late you’re ‘dead’. While working as a baking & pastry apprentice in an industrial kitchen, I saw first-hand how tardiness messes up a whole day of production. In the office world, tardiness communicates: ‘I have more important things to do than to meet you!’ Think about it. In the absence of an emergency, we all know that we’re late because we decided to do something else on our way out the door. In other words, we did not make it our highest priority to respect the other person’s needs. Being on time is not rocket science. Simply work backwards from the time that you need to be somewhere and figure out by what time you need to leave. It will do wonders for your reputation because it makes others feel important and shows that you’re organized.

Tip # 10 – Mind your appearance: Yes, your image is part of the package of how people perceive you. This includes the way you dress and how you communicate when you speak and write.

Dressing: A simple rule regarding wardrobe is to dress according to the message you want to project. I tend to look at people I admire (in & out of work) and use them as a guide as how to dress. It’s not about stripping away your personality, it’s more about bringing it out where it really counts and makes a difference. And sure, in certain environments it’s the norm to make a statement with what you wear – I say, go for it!

Speaking: Just as well, how you say things is as important as what you say. When it comes to speaking in public, practice does make perfect. Recently I became a member of a Toastmasters club. I’m finding that  it’s a safe environment to practice skills that most certainly apply to work. I suggest that you check them out: (No I will not get any commission or brownie points if you join. I’m serious).

Writing: In writing, to get your point across aim to make your point early on, use simple language and be consistent in your use of verbs and terms. Make it a habit to proof read documents at least once – don’t just rely on spell check.

Now that I’ve shared with you my thoughts, I’d love to hear what you’re feeding your reputation.

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