How well do you know what your reputation is with your co-workers or customers? If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would it be – not many words, just one. Write it down. I know it is hard. We do not like to think of ourselves as one-dimensional.

Why is it so important?

So Much Depends On Reputation – Guard It with Your Life

Reputation is the cornerstone of power. Through reputation alone you can intimidate and win, once it slips, however, you are venerable, and will be attacked on all sides. Make your reputation unassailable. Always be alert to potential attacks and thwart them before they happen. Meanwhile, learn to destroy your enemies by opening holes in their own reputations. Then stand aside and let public opinion hang them.

Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

Greene illustrates in his book how an established reputation can carry you through turbulent times. If it is not intact, then you have nothing to leverage if someone tries to discredit you – intentionally or not.

Knowing your reputation in the marketplace and your network is essential. So, let us get back to the exercise and see how it fits in. Think about that word and write it down if you have not done it yet.

Once you have written down your one word, pick the answer that best describes you based on the following definitions:

My occupation – what you do for a living – i.e. engineer, lawyer, accountant, administrative assistance, CEO, waiter, sales clerk, manager, etc.
An outside activity or interest – i.e. athlete, musician, philanthropist, artist, gym rat, dancer, computer geek, etc.
Positive behavior traits – i.e. truthful, trusting, open, giving, kind, honest, generous, industrious, innovative, etc.
Challenging behavior traits – i.e. arrogance, ego-driven, selfish, demanding, critical, indecisive, rigid, etc.

What were your results? Did you pick something that describes your occupation such as a scientist, accountant, consultant, or teacher or what you like to do in your spare time? If so, think about what you do and how it is special or unique. Is it an area of expertise that no one else has or do you get it done in way that no else can, which might fit better into one of the other behavioral definitions?

Are you alarmed that your trait is one of the challenging ones? Are you content that you fit into the positive trait category? Each of these traits – positive and challenging – does not necessarily mean they are good or bad. At face value, they can benefit your reputation and taken to excess may be harmful.

For example, if you are too trusting, someone may take advantage of you, causing harm. Consider the person who is demanding – they often execute flawlessly and reach their goals.

If your friends, family, co-workers and customers took this poll, would they pick the same word or category? It might be an interesting experiment to do.

Sometimes, our reputation changes and we do not realize it. It can happen when we take jobs that do not fit our past roles. We can all relate to the teacher who takes a sales position.

There are pressures, often financial which override what we would like to do – I get that. Does that mean you settle in and go with the flow? Probably not, you will soon lose the reputation you have built quickly. The last thing you have done is usually what people remember.

The quandary comes when we are known for something that is not our passion or how we want to be perceived. I will give you a personal example.

About 10 years ago when I decided to go independent, I went out and met with many of my old colleagues and mentors. The purpose was to see what they thought about when Lynn Dessert what came to mind. My challenge was that in my corporate career, I was both a generalist and a specialist in several areas. Great experience, though it could translate into a confusing message.

Resoundingly, the projects they would tap me for was not the area that I wanted to work in. The confirmation was when my first consulting opportunity was in compensation. Could I do it? Yes, though I wanted to do something different. I had some work to do to change that perception.

You can change your reputation and it will take time. One effective method is to align yourself with someone who has the kind of reputation you desire. The other way is to take a calculated path of building your reputation over time by demonstrating your talents through self-promotion and exceptional results with your clients. There are many other ways and I welcome your thoughts.