Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” And reputation in business is not immune to this wisdom. What gets lost sometimes in the day-to-day, give-and-take of work is the loss of focus that the one bad deed that Mr. Franklin was referring to might have just taken place.
When you think about your reputation as an individual or as a company, are you thinking about what you want your reputation to be; or what it really is? Remember that reputation is what others think about you, not what you say they think about you.
For an organization, the reputation is what the organization’s culture looks like from the outside. If the culture nourishes a passion for excellence in performance and continually searching for ways to serve clients, the employees will be driven to perform in that way and their efforts will perceived by clients, but with one caveat. They need to be capable, supported and trained for delivering the level of quality and service on which the organization’s reputation is supposedly based.
From a management perspective, this is much harder than it sounds. Unless you have the kinds of margins, volume and consistency to invest continually, year after year, in the recruitment, training and development of personnel, you need to find creative ways and resources to ensure that your team is not only capable of delivering on “it”, but also knows what “it” is they are empowered to deliver. Getting to the point where the entire organization is able to operate at the highest levels of performance that you want your reputation to reflect is a daunting challenge.
I am continually impressed at how reasonable people can be when you level with them. One of my greatest mentors would refer to it as using “The ol’ truth scam”. If you tell the truth, as painful and embarrassing as it might be, you don’t have to worry about the real truth being discovered.
The essence of what The Truth Scam does for the “scammer” is that it admits his or her own imperfections and allows for the effort to correct the results of the imperfections. Without the admission, there is nothing to correct. When there is nothing to correct, there is nothing to get credit for when corrected. At best, you got away with a lie.
In the end, it is about integrity, honor and values. Business is often thought of as a cutthroat world, where morals and ethics take a back seat to profit. While there will always be some of that, I think the majority of people in business are not in it just to maximize profits. Study after study of reasons why people leave companies indicates it is not for the money. In a sense, they leave the company for a place that gives them a chance to enjoy what they do more than the place they left. For business leaders, I think there is a parallel path.
There is more to this work than making money. It’s about employing people who are good at what they do and allowing them to become better at it, serving clients better each day, and in the end, making a profit so people can continue to labor at a chosen profession while supporting their families. And, at the end of the day, in the quietest moments, you can look at yourself in the mirror and not question the integrity of who you are looking at.
“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”
“With integrity, you have nothing to fear, since you have nothing to hide. With integrity, you will do the right thing, so you will have no guilt.”
“If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.”
Alan K. Simpson