Reputation Matters: Think no one is looking? That’s a mistake.

A

prominent executive serves on the board of an environmental protection organization. Imagine his colleagues’ shock (and disappointment) when they see him walk past litter in his path, or worse, toss trash from his car window. Think nobody’s looking?

Reputation is one of the most valuable tools a leader possesses. Built slowly over time and guarded closely, reputation is how people outside your immediate network describe and identify you, and often, your organization.

While reputation is the public projection of the person you really are, it is one’s character that truly defines us. Reputation can be constructed, shaped, improved and often repaired (but not always) if necessary. But it’s a façade that can be debunked if you don’t have the character to back it up.

What do you do when you think no one is looking? That’s character:  a more intimate and authentic reflection of your values and belief system. It’s the experience other have in real time, and carry forth into the world, thereby building up or chipping away at your public reputation. If reputation and character don’t align, it can be at best disappointing to the people we meet. At worst, this mismatch breeds distrust.

So how do you know if your character and reputation are in synch? Consider the following three steps:

  1. Collect data: Who are you really?

This isn’t about the latest personality test that tells you how you react under pressure. For an honest appraisal, you need to hear from the people who see you most often in true our form. Enlist mentors, family, friends, supervisors, and peers, all whom you have known for at least a year, and plead for honesty. Ask questions such as:

What is your first reaction when you learn I’m in charge of something?

What are three words you think others would use to describe me?

Do I honor my obligations or am I over-committed?

Do you feel I am present when we speak or am I often multi-tasking?

Am I there when you need me all the time?

Do I ask for your opinion?

Do I ask for help and do I offer help?

Once you have this info, hold it for later and move on to step two.

  1. Online review: What’s your reputation?

Now it’s time to scour your online presence, because almost anyone you meet in a professional setting will look you up here before you even meet. Start with your LinkedIn profile. What is your digital first impression? What does it say about you? What do you say about yourself in your profile?

Then, Google yourself. Are you written into media articles and how are you quoted? Are the search returns generally positive, negative or neutral? Are you competing for search results with someone of the same name? Do they overshadow you or tarnish your good name? Or do you have very little presence?

Repeat this exercise with any online platform you use regularly. Once you’ve completed this online expedition, it’s time to analyze it all.

  1. Gut check: Where does all this align, or not?

You’ve collected some important data, so now it’s time to ask yourself: Does what I heard match what I thought about myself before this exercise? Be honest; you are the only one benefitting here. Which words keep popping up and what is their connotation? Is there a particular area of discrepancy? For example, are you considered a servant leader at work, but your family doesn’t have the benefit of seeing that wonderful attribute in action? Or do you have meaningful and positive one-on-one dialogues in your personal life, but have no outlet for excellent communication skills in your professional realm?

Managing character and reputation as a leader requires reflection. With some introspection and planning, placing your character and reputation into alignment will allow both to work for you in a harmonious cycle. The benefits can be seen in your professional and personal life.

In the next article of our “Reputation Matters” series, we will discuss strategies for tapping into your best character traits to build a stronger professional reputation. For a career branding consult, contact me at (404) 388-7047 or lisa@fulltiltconsulting.com.

This is the first article in a blog series from #FullTiltExec on executive reputation management. You may find us at FullTiltConsulting.com.

Reputation is one of the most valuable tools a leader possesses. Built slowly over time and guarded closely, reputation is how people outside your immediate network describe and identify you, and often, your organization.