Are you really growing your reputation?

Should you worry about reputation? If yes, are you making mistakes?

Source: Olu Eletu via Unsplash

I have the feeling that reputation is by now considered an obsolete concern, or a shipping score. Often, the occasions that this concept is bring up are to defend positions or throw out chest, not to take decisions or plan actions. Notoriety or rating, for instance, seem much more effective (and measurable) substitutes. Or they speak of image and reputation as synonyms.

Why worry about reputation, in a fast world, with large number of loose (or virtual) contacts and short budget horizons? Why really worry about reputation if I (individual/company/etc.) already take care of my image and of my social relations?

Reputation is a social belief about our socially desirable behaviours. Sometimes, it travels along with other information about us. When it travels, it’s better they have something good to say.

Good reputation is usually built upon the persistence of the following main identity characteristics.

  • Honesty. No one wants to do business with the dishonest (if you are on the dark side of the Force, you can omit, of course).
  • Loyalty. People have to know that you respect the relationship with them, for example with discretion about confidentialities or avoiding to unfairly changing side.
  • Altruism. If you are selfish, the others will understand that the relationship with you is one way.
  • Image. A good image, both as first impression and over time, is appealing. At least, avoid repelling.
  • Coherence. If you say A today, say/do B tomorrow, and A and B cannot coexist in this universe, they know that your word is to be taken with lot of salt.
  • Keeping promises. That it’s arriving on time, doing what’s promised, or giving the advertised quality, you should act as stated. Promises go further than coherence, because directly affect the interest of others.
  • Self-confidence. People often search for security, and prefer to know there is someone to lean on.
  • Competence. It goes without saying.
  • Paying attention. Listening, being kind, remembering the needs of the others (at least their name) is always appreciated because anyone wants to be taken into consideration. Even if you cannot please them, they know you listened to their needs.
  • Being interesting. Having something to say, value to share, attractive mysteries and so on keeps people interested in further contacts.
  • Entertainment. If they enjoy the time with you, that’s often an added value. Laughter is not necessary, but positivity, pleasantness and sympathy help.
  • Originality. Having something out of the ordinary helps to be remembered. Better, if it’s coherent with the “core identity” and not negative.

Of course, it’s not necessary that you are Superman, and have all of the above, but the less “complete” is your reputation, the more it depends on your specific strengths.

Good reputation requires a lot of time, to be built. Years. And often spread out of your control. Reputation is in the minds and words of others, that’s why it’s so different from image (a business card that you can often directly and quickly control). It’s an asset. And it’s an asset out there.

And because it’s out there, is spread over time (beyond company budget or the next holidays) and has no immediate return, to a lot of other things are given more priority. We all take into consideration our future but when it comes to decisions — so money, effort or other valuable things are at stake — , the long-distance asset of reputation sometimes fade away. In the case of organizations, it often vanishes. Brand reputation is a good concept to show and talk about, but does not often join the meetings where decisions are made.

Misconceptions about reputation start with numbers. The association between reputation and numbers is not a proportional relation, nor a strong one. Good reputation helps having more customers, but it’s not the only thing that counts, nor it is necessary. Numbers help exploiting and spreading reputation, but do not necessarily imply good reputation.

The point is that you should not correlate reputation with numbers — whether they are money or followers — , but with goals and values, in general. Reputation is associated to your name and will follow you in the ups and down of your entire life. Sometimes you can hide it, sometimes you can’t. The success of today may not be that of tomorrow. And, above all, customers and followers are not the only persons in your life. A bad reputation, whether it is in your family or around the globe, is sufficient to let go the only person you care about, and no 5-star customer rating or 100k followers will protect you from this.

Reputation is a life choice. If you want friends, care about your family, rely on job opportunities, have ideals, want a wealthy company over years, wants your brand be a reference, you should take care of reputation. If you search for instant gain or lonely life, reputation is not necessary.

We said that reputation is out there. We influence it, but it is not ours. As we can do something for our reputation, others can too. Usually, we are the only ones directly concerned with building our reputation. If we have not enemies. Public or hidden. Others can work for our reputation (think, speak, write, …), and when they are strongly motivated in doing so, usually it’s not for good. Be careful that they have no reasons to do so, or be prepared. Being a Jedi is still a hard job, if Darth Sidious and Darth Vader want you to be cancelled.

Reputation is grown on a daily basis. Day by day decisions, at every level, forge reputation. Then, reputation has its own life, and can boost or block your impact in a serious way. Today it’s not visible. One day it will be.

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