It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.
~ Warren Buffet
I've been thinking a lot reputation recently and why it matters. We all have one. Some of our reputation is outside of our control, but there's a lot of what other people think about it that's worth considering and paying attention to more than we do. If perception is reality, what's really going on with what others think about you?
Several months ago, I exchanged a series of emails with a colleague who lives across the country. We don't talk very often but we were exchanging some ideas and I was asking for some help. In one exchange my friend said,
"Always so great to hear from you.
Seriously everyone who knows you, loves you."
Honestly, I was taken a back, incredibly encouraged, and felt exposed all at the same time. People talk about me? Of course they do. And what those people have said to me is a really great thing? Wow. Now, I'm under no false illusion that everyone I know loves me, but it has caused me to think deeply over these several months since that email about how reputation matters, especially in our technological world. We are all just a couple degrees of separation from each other. We are all connected.
I work with leaders across the country every day in coaching and staffing, and it never ceases to amaze me how the conversation will oftentimes find itself talking about their acquired reputation. One doesn't stumble into their reputation, it's built over time but also can be destroyed in an instant. Your reputation deeply impacts your ability to get (and keep!) a job, build trust in your important relationships, grow your influence, and simply be an integrity-filled person! Your reputation matters.
Here are 3 guiding questions that could help you build a reputation that's consistent and integrated to who you really are.
1. Have you burned any bridges?
I have not always done this perfectly, but in the last several years I've worked really hard not to burn bridges with anyone. I've been surprised time and again with how relationships ebb and flow and how often we circle back with one another. Romans 12:18 challenges me, "Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone." I disagree with folks all the time. But especially in our current cultural climate, the ability to respectfully disagree and do whatever you can to build peace is an increasingly important art.
There's also the reality that people change. We change our mind. We change our opinions, philosophies, and perspectives. I've changed quite a bit in the last 2 years. Those that hurt me a few years ago probably have to. So when the tendency is to give someone a piece of my mind, well...my mind may change in a couple years and now that relationship is broken. Restraint can be your best friend.
When you've burned bridges, go rebuild them (unless abuse is a part of that story). One young leader I'm currently coaching realized she's said some things that she wishes she said differently. So she wrote a letter to that person confessing her immaturity and sin against them and asked for their forgiveness. Her reputation is being rebuilt with that person because of her humility.
2. How do you talk about others?
My friend, Todd Clark, has said, "you never show me more about your character than when you're describing another". Whoa. How do you talk about people that you disagree with? People that hurt you? Those who've betrayed or harmed you? How do you speak about those who do things differently than you or have different values?
Our words matter and have weight. Your reputation is cultivated as you talk about another person behind their back. What is it that you actually want to say?
3. Do your actions and words match up with one another?
This is a core integrity question. Years ago Bill Hybels wrote a book entitled, Who You Are When No One is Looking. While the answer to that question is critical for everyone, it is imperative for leaders and those with public platforms. We don't need to search hard for lists of leaders who's words and behaviors have caused their demise. In fact, we tend to find it remarkable when a leader maintains the ability to live an integrated life. This should not be so.
Our reputation must reflect who we really are, not who we are faking to be. Time and truth walk hand in hand, friends. It's only a matter of time until your reputation matches who you really are.
My deep prayer is that my reputation always matches who I really am and who I am becoming. You too? May we be the kinds of people this year (and beyond) who are becoming who we've been created to be. And may that be reflected in our reputation to the world.
Peace and Love.