Although it’s tempting to think that we control our own reputation, the reality is that we only define one aspect of it. It’s not just who we are or what we do; it’s what people think of us. While good reputation takes a lifetime to build, it could be destroyed within a matter of seconds. This is equally true for both people and companies. For this article, I would like to focus on the personal aspect, and how your reputation could help you grow in your professional career.
People with good reputation are usually considered to be honest and with high integrity. This means that they are likely to be trustworthy and deliver on their promises, which makes them a good choice for an employee or a business partner. Imagine a situation where somebody you’ve worked with in the past applies for a job at your company. If this person has previously proven his positive qualities, chances are you will be happy to work with him again. However, in case his reputation was damaged by an unprofessional behavior you’ve seen while you were colleagues, it’s quite possible that you won’t like your company to hire him.
Keeping good reputation requires perseverance. It’s also achieved by setting up some basic principles that you will stick with in your day-to-day work. They will help you keep your honesty and integrity in check. Below are the main five that I’ve set for myself.
Reply to emails and instant messages from colleagues
When you receive an email or an instant message from a colleague, it’s expected of you to reply in a timely manner. This is usually within a day for emails, and from a few minutes to a couple of hours for instant messages. If you don’t respond, it’s possible that this person’s opinion of you will be damaged. This doesn’t mean that you should immediately drop your current task and reply. Email is a powerful tool when used wisely, but it can easily become a huge time waster if not properly put to practice. Here are a few easy rules that should help you manage the incoming flow of email and instant messages.
- Set a schedule for reading emails
I do it three times a day, spending between 15 and 30 mins, depending on the number I have to deal with. I start the day by reading what I’ve missed during the night (I am based in Europe and regularly communicate with North American colleagues and partners). I have another window right after lunch break, and I conclude before I leave for the day. This doesn’t mean that I won’t reply to emails that come during the day, especially when they are urgent. The purpose is to have focused time on email, rather than constantly checking your inbox.
- Don’t respond to email and instant messages during meetings
I know that most people are tempted to multitask during meetings, specifically when they are not the host. In theory, this can help you tick off other tasks, but it often leads to awkward situations where you miss a question sent your way during the conversation, that requires the person to ask it once more. It shows lack of respect and dedication.
- Make it clear when the sender should expect your reply
There are cases where you won’t be able to provide an immediate answer, no matter how quickly you read the email or the instant message. In that case it’s wise to let the other person know what’s blocking you and by when you think you’ll be in a position to reply.
Confirm meeting attendance
Meetings can take significant amount of your time during the day, depending on your role and type of work. There are a few important factors that can help you manage your calendar, as well as keep your reputation in check in front of the meeting requestor.
- Confirm attendance as soon as possible
Meeting requests are not much different than emails. The sender expects you to respond as soon as possible, preferably by accepting the invite. Therefore it’s important to send your reply within the day of receiving the request.
- Always decline with explanation
In case you can’t attend, it’s even more important to decline right away. Don’t forget to always include a meaningful reason for your rejection, as otherwise the sender may think that you are rude.
- Use tentative acceptance wisely
Although replying with tentative acceptance is an option, I don’t recommend it, as it creates unclear expectations. If the meeting is a few days away, and you are unsure as to whether you can attend, you have the option of sending a tentative reply with a comment that you will further accept or decline in the next couple of days.
Stay true to your commitments
When you say that you will do something, you must deliver. This is a great example of how you put your reputation on the line. It’s crucial that you don’t make promises that you can’t keep. If you’re in doubt, let the person know as soon as possible, explaining what’s changed and how you plan to tackle the challenge. Failing to do so will surely have a negative impact on your reputation.
To illustrate this better, I will share a personal experience I’ve had with Paysafe’ Chief Operating Officer Danny Chazonoff. This happened a few years ago, during one of my regular business trips to Montreal. Every time I go there, Danny and I have some one on one time. He always finds a slot for me, no matter how hectic his schedule is.
My meeting was scheduled for Tuesday morning, but his secretary got in touch with me to reschedule twice due to other commitments, and then she cancelled it on Wednesday afternoon. As I was looking forward to the chat, I was disappointed, but I understood how important Danny’s time was. On Thursday morning I ran into Danny in the elevator, and he asked me when we are meeting. I told him that the meeting had been cancelled, but he insisted that we will meet before I leave. Fifteen minutes later, I got an invite from his secretary for a meeting at 4:30 PM on the same day. Not only that we had our chat in the afternoon, but Danny also shared a great breakfast recommendation for my upcoming trip to New York during the weekend. It was his last meeting for the day, and he said that he will send me the coordinates before I leave the office. Guess what! Fifteen minutes later, his secretary sent me the details.
The above shows that no matter how senior or busy you are, you must stay true to your commitments. This is how you build and maintain your reputation.
Be positive and friendly
It’s important to remain calm and positive at work, no matter how difficult the obstacles you’re facing are. Remember that no one owes you anything. Life isn’t fair and complaining about it will only make things worse for you and those around you. Negativity won’t help you build a good reputation either, as people will tend to avoid you. The sooner you realize that how things happen is mainly up to you, the better.
To illustrate the above with an easy everyday example, when engaging in a conversation, don’t immediately start with the topic at hand. Ask the other person how he’s been, especially if you haven’t talked in a while. This can be a bit tricky, as it can easily become annoying, so just stick to one or two generic questions. The purpose is to show that you care.
Тry to help others where you can
Closely related to the previous principle, this one builds upon it. Happiness and positivity run in circular motion. When you assist somebody, there are immediate and a long-term gains. Studies have shown that by helping others, you feel better and that prompts you to do it again. Thus, practicing good will make you a better person by the day. Your reputation among your colleagues will also improve, as word will spread that you are someone they can rely on.
Having good reputation is key for career success. Although It’s unrealistic to expect that everyone will like you, this doesn’t mean that they can’t respect you. Be positive, stay true to your commitments, and your reputation will start working for you.