"It takes 20 years to build a great reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.
If you think about that, you'll do things differently."
- Warren Buffett
Every company has a brand. Apple has a brand. Disney has a brand. L.L. Bean has a brand. Successful companies intentionally build and protect their brand.
You have a brand too. A personal brand. You are the CEO of the company titled, 'You, Inc'. And your brand is your reputation. And your reputation is the most valuable thing you bring to the marketplace.
As you seek to build a great reputation, think of three levels.
1. The top level is Professional. This is your interactions on a business level. They include the quality of your work, your knowledge, your trustworthiness, your responsiveness, your poise, and your eagerness to serve.
2. The second level is Informal. In this area, you are more relaxed and transparent. You build rapport with others, you make a personal connection, you discuss interests outside work. This is healthy. Strong relationships build a sense of belonging, community, and connection.
3. The third level is Unfiltered. This is the area you want to avoid. It includes gossip, inappropriate comments, off-color jokes, speaking poorly of others, breaking confidences, and getting into unnecessary and divisive political discussions. This is the area where you lose your influence and your reputation.
I'm not suggesting that you be 'fake' or 'plastic'. But it doesn't serve you well to 'let it all hang out'. There needs to be a filter between what goes on in your head and what comes out in what you say or do.
Do we not see someone absolutely ruin their reputation over something stupid almost every day? I know someone who lost a high-level position because he passed on an inappropriate picture someone sent him on the internet.
I had a boss years ago who would tell his direct reports, "never do or say anything that you wouldn't want to read about in the local newspaper the next day." That's a high standard, but an appropriate one.
With today's social media, that principle is even more important. You should consider everything you post on social media to be permanent and public.
"Be more concerned with your character than your reputation.
Because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are."
- John Wooden
Actually, the best way to build a great reputation is to work on your character. If you develop great character, you don't even have to worry about enhancing your reputation. Character is an inside job while reputation is an outside job.
Just like great companies seek to build their brand, make it your goal to build a great personal brand. Companies with great reputations have more market value. This is true for individuals as well. Take this seriously. Go out and make a great name for yourself.
After all, you are the CEO of your own company.