I run an online Personal and Business Development Programme (Twelve Steps To Traction) which leads business owners through a 12 step process to align their activity so that they gain the traction they need in order to move forwards towards the business they actually want.
A big part of this process is being aware of how our behaviour impacts on the perception others have of us and therefore on our results. And STEP 7 specifically, focuses on ‘Reputation’ and how our own reputation affects the judgements people make about who we are, what we stand for and in effect the decisions they make about whether or not to buy into us (and that includes buying from us).
What I have observed is that this STEP in the process is often the greatest sticking point for people as they begin to look closely at the perception other people have of them and how that might differ from the reality, or from how they want to be perceived based on their future aspirations for themselves and for their business.
And that’s what inspired me to write this blog.
So, firstly, what is reputation?
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 personal beliefs, values and behaviours that distinguish our character and it’s our character that defines who we are and what we stand for. Our reputation however is something quite different. Our reputation is 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 the result of what other people think and say about what we say and do.
How important is it?
Reputation is a great time-saver as 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 your wider network, there will be some people who you identify with based mainly on their reputation. Some of them you will have positive impressions of and perhaps even feel comfortable recommending to others, even though you have never worked with them, used their services, or in some cases even met them. If you removed reputation from the equation, many of those 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 all the time based on what they perceive and those judgements are often then articulated to other people who then make judgements based on what they perceive and so it goes on. Ultimately, perception is reality and so very often reputation precedes reality. And that’s why it is so important – especially in business!
Of course, this can work in our favour and many successful entrepreneurs have used this very cleverly to create hype around them. It can also work detrimentally which is why I advocate spending some time identifying the reputation you have right now, deciding what kind of reputation you want based on your vision for your business and then addressing the gap as a matter of importance.
So, why does our reputation not always reflect our true character?
I often observe people around me behaving in a way that doesn’t truly reflect what they say they stand for. I also observe interactions between people where one walks away with an impression of the other which I know to be inaccurate based on my own experience of that person. Why does this happen?
Sometimes when we feel inadequate or threatened, our behaviour can reflect those feelings rather than our belief/value system. Just think about that for a moment. Can you recall a time when you responded to someone or reacted to a situation in a way that later when you reflected on it, you wished you’d hadn’t? I know I have, and whilst this is a perfectly natural behavioural response, the perception it might create could have a damaging affect on our reputation if the other person is vocal about their impression.
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 your vision. In other words, it is based on behaviour that is intentional and purposeful and it attracts desired people, circumstances and opportunities to you, resulting in admiration and following, opening doors and paving the way for success. When it’s not helpful, it can close doors.
So, what can you do to ensure that your reputation is ‘helpful’?
Now answer the following questions:
Put a star next to the things about your current reputation that you are happy with. Circle the one’s you’re not so happy with.
Now answer the following questions:
What are the gaps? In other words, what reputational qualities do you want to create? Write them down.
Ensuring that your behaviour reflects the things that are important to you will ensure that your reputation supports that, because it’s not enough to simply ‘be’ the character that you are – you need to be ‘seen’ to be that character too!