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Reputation is perception. How we are perceived by other people seals our reputation, it may be a true reflection of us, it may be based on a misunderstanding but how other people understand us but their opinion of our choices and what they expect from us, defines our reputation.
Reputation is a power. It can open doors, build loyalty, and increase speediness of action. It is not only a personal virtue but a strategic asset. An asset that is always being updated, as new stories and experiences of us are shared. When these stories are positive our reputation improves, when the stories are negative our reputation can deteriorate. When the stories are similar our reputation is stronger, more concentrated. When the stories people tell about us are disperse, our reputation is mild, weaker.
The phrase ‘your reputation precedes you’ sums up the power of reputation. It is often the first information that people will have of us, sometimes with decisions being made before we can make a first impression, or before a new customer will try our product. At its heart reputation answers the question “Should I trust this person/organisation?”. A good reputation increases the likelihood of people trusting your opinions, contributions, and advice creating a virtuous cycle that enhances overall success and ability to influence.
Reputation Building: Authenticity, Reliability, Candor.
Authenticity - In the quest for a positive reputation, authenticity is non-negotiable. Be true to your values, admit mistakes, and showcase you and your organisation's human side. Authenticity builds a genuine connection that goes beyond surface-level perceptions.
Reliability - Consistency in delivering promises and this builds reliability. Consistently meeting or exceeding expectations earns trust. It's not just about what we say, but how consistently we deliver promises.
Candor - Transparent communication is the cornerstone of trust. Keeping people informed, especially during challenges, demonstrates a commitment to openness. Establishing open lines of communication builds trust internally and externally.
A positive reputation is undoubtedly desirable, but it's equally important to manage the focus that we place on a positive reputation. Overly fixating on reputation can lead to attempting to control perception rather than facts. Allowing terrible things to take place because we do not want to risk damaging our reputation.
This fixation on protecting our reputation over anything else is a poison that can seep into the roots of an individual's life or organisation’s culture. There are ample stories of organisations that cover up terrible actions in the hope of protecting their reputation; Countess of Chester Hospital and Fujitsu, to name a few.
Reputation warning signs: Superficiality, Fragility, Disconnection.
Overemphasis on reputation may lead to superficial gestures aimed solely at positive perception. Authentic trust is sacrificed when actions are driven more by optics than genuine commitment.
A reputation built on a facade is inherently fragile. It can crumble in the face of a crisis, revealing the gap between perceived image and reality. Trust, on the other hand, acts as a cushion during challenging times.
An obsession with reputation can create a disconnect between our external image and our internal reality. When there's a misalignment, people can sense the lack of authenticity and will have an unease about us or our organisation.
We must also be humble enough to acknowledge when something has gone wrong rather than try to hide it away both personally and organisationally. Organisations that foster healthy cultures catch mistakes earlier, increase creativity to solve problems, and outperform competitors.
We do not need to shout about our mistakes but do need to take responsibility and commit to learning before a mistake becomes a crisis. Scandals grow when they are not dealt with and protecting reputation over being authentic, reliable and transparent is a recipe for us to cause more damage. Damage to our team, our customers, and our society.
Striking a balance between harnessing the power of reputation and guarding against its poison requires an approach that holds reputation as a result not an objective in itself. Consistent performance, continuous learning, and sharing success stories builds a robust reputation and avoids the trap of building a house of cards.
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