Managing Smart: Mind Your Reputation

By Chris Komisarjevsky

If you ask people you admire if reputation is an important component of their careers, the answer undoubtedly will be “yes.” Ask them how they built their reputations, and the response likely will include the time it took and how it needs to be guarded, recognizing that a good reputation can be shattered in moments.

Everyone has a reputation, whether they know what it is or agree with it. Other people talk about your reputation, judge you by it, or try to assess whether it is good or bad. Actively building a good reputation will help you be a better manager and boost your career.

“When I interview someone or review their performance, I look for a strong work ethic, intellectual curiosity and the courage to stand up for what they believe in,” says Celia Berk, chief talent officer for Young & Rubicam Group, a New York-based marketing and communications firm. “I look for ambition, but not carried out at the expense of others.”

Good reputations can’t be built by following a formula. And, while there are no specific steps to take in every situation, there are guidelines.

Qualities That Count

Reputation is built up or torn down on character, communication and trust. Conduct yourself accordingly: Be introspective and honest with yourself. As hard as it might be at times, think through what you did and why you did it. Do your own review after every meeting and assignment.

  • Be sincere with others. No one likes or admires someone who is constantly trying to “spin” events. Give it to them straight.
  • Do what you say. If you commit to it, then do it. No excuses. You will be judged by your values, and you will be trusted only if you follow through.
  • Be authentic in your professional relationships. Foster a culture of openness.
  • Remember social media. Digital devices are today’s water cooler and people communicate the good and the bad at lightning speed.
  • Listen first, talk second. Ask for the views of others.
  • Accept responsibility. If you are wrong, you must apologize.
  • Be personal. Reach out to understand and value the experiences of others. Be interested. Care about your team.
  • Share authority, responsibility and credit. Don’t be afraid of giving power to others. They will live up to the challenge.

Protect Your Reputation

It’s not enough to build a good reputation; you also have to protect it and maintain it. Check in with yourself and ask if you are consistently acting in a way that promotes a good reputation. How do your employees feel about working for you? Are they engaged? Empowered? Do they come to you freely with problems, ideas and solutions? Do they feel safe enough to admit their mistakes? If so, they will go to the ends of the earth for you. And, you have a reputation that will boost your career, not break it.

Chris Komisarjevsky retired as worldwide chief executive officer of global public relations firm Burson-Marsteller in 2005. He is author of The Power of Reputation: Strengthen the Asset That Will Make or Break Your Career (AMACOM, 2012).

Reprinted with permission of the Society for Human Resource Management, ©SHRM. No other republication or external use is allowed without permission of SHRM. The information is not intended to serve as a substitute for legal advice.

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