Your reputation starts with you

I’ve been speaking to a lot of groups lately about building “reputation capital” in their business  – that is, actively working to build a positive reputation, rather than reacting after a problem has arisen.

This week I read a great article about how to be known as a standout employee within a business or organisation. It struck me that, whether you want an awesome reputation for your business or a strong personal reputation for yourself, the principles are similar.

We’re now operating in a reputation-driven economy, where people are more likely to form and pass on an opinion about you based on what they’ve heard from others, than on what you actually do.

We’re starting to hear a lot about the Reputation Economy at a business level; the Reputation Institute just released the results of its latest “RepTrak” survey, which identifies the world’s most reputable companies based on specific criteria. But what about our individual reputation within our business or organisation - that’s important too, right?

You’d better believe it! Every business needs a community of standout employees. Regular employees now carry lots of credibility when it comes to telling others about your business.  It’s the same thing we experience when we read reviews on sites like TripAdvisor before booking a holiday; most of us are heavily influenced by the views of “people like us”.

Everyone in your organisation is a potent reputation weapon. The reputation of the business is impacted – for better or worse - by what you say and do, every time you interact with someone outside the organisation. So, by taking steps to build your own reputation in your field, you’ll be having a positive effect on the overall reputation of your organisation.

And at a personal level, as industries shrink and the job market becomes more competitive, it’s even more important to grow your marketability as an employee. As I read in the article; “Standing out isn’t just a nice to have any more.” We need to establish our reputation as a standout in our area of expertise, even if we’re working for an employer.

It’s not rocket science; when it comes to choosing people for great projects and opportunities, handing out pay rises and bonuses, or keeping people in work when times get extra tough, an employer is going to focus on those staff members who have established themselves as standouts.

How can you do that within an organisation? Here are some ideas.

1.                   Be a “cause” person, not an “effect” employee. Standout people don’t wait to be asked; they’re proactive and jump into tasks and projects. Be the one making things happen, rather than the one reacting and responding. You can put this into practice, regardless of the type of job you do.

2.                   Do more of what you’re really good at. “Play to your strengths” might be a cliché, but there’s truth in it. What can you bring to work each day that will benefit your team and the wider organisation? Maybe you’re a great organiser and can sort out a workspace or an issue that’s been hanging around for a while. Perhaps you’re good at motivating others; make it your business to spread positive feelings in meetings and around the workplace.

3.                   Understand the “DNA” of your organisation. By that I mean, become aware of the one thing people most closely identify with the business – the actual value at its core. It might be safety, innovation, being the home of country music…who knows!

Be alert for any issues or problems that might relate to that core element. These are the types of issues that can easily spiral into serious headaches or even crises for the organisation. For example, if “trustworthiness” is central to your business, and you hear about some less than trustworthy behaviour going on, say something! Don’t wait until the problem escalates. Nipping an issue in the bud will save your employer a lot of reputational pain. Be the type of employee who “looks out” for the organisation, and cares about its precious reputation. After all, that reputation reflects on everyone in the business – including you.

We can learn a lot from the principles of issues management in organisations, and how they apply to our own personal reputations. By spending time building skills to make yourself a standout, you’ll be giving yourself a significant edge for your future.