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How does your reputation get made?

Updated: Jul 23, 2018

The global Reputation Institute defines reputation as: regularly living up to what you promise and builds from 3 different sources:

  • Others’ direct experience of you, what you do and how you do it

  • What other people say about you

  • What you say about yourself.

Taken together, all three make up your unique reputation. In practical ways a good reputation means people want to work with you, or they recommend you to others… your views and opinions will be sought out and acted on.

Your reputation creates another kind of important bond with others: an emotional one based on trust, esteem and admiration. As Henry Ford said, ‘You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do’. Reputations are built day by day, task by task, person to person as well as through the talk that goes on about you when you aren’t even present. A reputation is past and present based… but like a wave it can carry you into the future.

If the best way to gain a good reputation is to be what you desire to appear, consider what you would say about yourself in relation to the following 6 attributes which build the emotional bond of reputation. Are you:

  • Visible: Which means you communicate appropriately?

  • Distinctive: Which means the promise you make is different and appealing?

  • Consistent: Which means in your words and actions?

  • Transparent: Which means you say openly what you believe and don’t hoard information?

  • Authentic: Which means you are credible and sincere and appealing to work with?

  • Responsive: Which means you are open to suggestions, appeals and willing to be suitably influenced?

But there’s another ingredient in reputation - maybe less glamorous, less sexy than some of those above - but day by day essential to building a reputation. And it’s reliability. It’s hard to over-emphasise the role that reliability plays in building credibility: saying what you’ll do and then doing what you say. Think about the extra significance given to a meeting which the CEO attends. It’s not just about the status of the individual - it’s about what his or her presence says about their commitment to what’s under discussion. If they then take on actions as a result of that meeting AND deliver on them, they notch up reputational points. The opposite works the same way too.

You may not be the CEO of your organisation: but you are a significant figure to others because of your role. When you make commitments and deliver on them, you build your own credibility and attract, like a magnet, the reciprocal equal desire of others to commit to you. But what’s being committed to? Certainly other people, but just as importantly you’re committing to keeping things going - to keeping your part of the show on the road. The time you spend monitoring and watching the weekly, monthly and quarterly performance of your part of the organisation may be fascinating or tedious, but it’s also an expression of care: about protecting it from deviance from plans and conserving how it needs to work to deliver its mission.

Sound obvious? It may be, but give your own performance a commitment MOT and see how it comes out. The problem with commitment is that others remember so well when we didn’t deliver on what we said we’d do - especially if it’s important to them.

Go back over the last 4-6 weeks and check out how you did on resisting the ‘invitations’ to renege on your commitments - i.e. a change of plan or intention from one you had committed to others you would do. Did you do any of the following?

  • Respond to an unexpected request from someone more senior to attend a meeting they wanted you at

  • Miss an event because of over committed time

  • Apologise for not having completed an action you had agreed to

  • Use language like ‘I have no choice…’ or ‘I have to dip out…’

  • Asks for an extension to an agreed deadline

  • Let an unexpected commercial situation disrupt a plan

  • Let an unexpected personal situation disrupt a plan.

Nod to more than 50%? Think about how you’re prioritising what you do. Now go over the same time period and list all the times you did deliver on commitments you had made - especially the ones which felt like a stretch or for which you had to make extra efforts to deliver.


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