“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently,” says the reputable business guru, Warren Buffet. Mentor and personal development coach Tamsen Garrie tell us about the importance of reputation in business.
Reputation is the estimation or opinion in which a person, a company or a product is commonly held, by others. As we progress through life, we develop beliefs, values and behaviours that distinguish our character and it’s our character that defines who we are and what we stand for.
However, our reputation is something quite different. It’s driven by other people’s perception of our character and it is the by-product of the behaviour that we demonstrate repeatedly over time. It is the result not so much of what we say and do, but of what other people think and say about what we say and do.
It’s often said that our reputation precedes us and for this reason it is incredibly important, especially in business. It is a great time-saver because it means that we don’t have to develop relationships with each and every person, company or product in order to make an assessment. If you look around you now at both your immediate and wider network, there will be some people with whom you identify based mainly, if not solely, on their reputation. Some of them you will have positive impressions of and perhaps even feel comfortable recommending to others, even though you haven’t had any direct contact with them. If you removed reputation from the equation, many of these people would simply be strangers with whom you have little way of relating.
Similarly, we are being evaluated every day by our peers, our clients and our friends both individually, and based on our associations with other people and groups. People are making judgements about us all the time based on their perception of who we are and what we stand for, and those judgements are often articulated to other people who then make judgements based on what they perceive and so it goes on. Perception is reality and so often reputation precedes reality, and that’s why it is so important.
A ‘helpful’ reputation is one that is consistent regardless of the social group (work, social, family etc.) and which is formed through repeated, consistent behaviour over time. When your reputation is helpful it supports you, and when it is not, it closes doors.
What can you do to ensure that your reputation is ‘helpful’?
Think about who you are and what you stand for and write those things down. Now think about what you want to achieve in your life, business and/or career and write those things down. Then think about how your current behaviour represents who you are and supports your goals: in your life, in your business, in your career, in your network and in your social interactions. Does your behaviour back-up who you present yourself to be?
Now answer the following questions:
- What do you think other people think of you?
- What things do you know other people say about you?
- What things have been written about you, or relayed back to you?
- What do you know you are you ‘known’ for?
- How would you describe your reputation?
Once you have answered these questions, put a star next to the things about your current reputation that you are happy with, and circle the ones you’re not.
Now answer the following questions:
- What do you want people to think of you?
- What do you want people to say about you?
- What do you want people to read and hear about you?
- What do you want to be ‘known’ for?
What are the gaps? What reputational qualities do you want to create? Write them down. And then write down the behaviour changes you need to make to make that happen. Ensuring that your behaviour reflects the things that are important to you, both in terms of how you are perceived and also in terms of what you need to ‘do’ to achieve your goals, will ensure that your reputation supports you in doing so.
It’s not enough to simply BE that person. You need to be SEEN to be that person too.