Better Than Gold and Silver

Glass, china and reputation are easily cracked, 
and never well mended.
Benjamin Franklin

A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. –Bible, Proverbs 22:1

At Epcot, I had a new executive assigned as my marketing person.  I had never met him, and so I asked a few people about his reputation.  Several people said, "He will set up meetings with you and never show up."  I responded in disbelief and was told, "Just wait and see."  My assistant set up our first introductory meeting.  About an hour before he was supposed to meet me in my office, he called my assistant and said he had to reschedule because "something had come up."  I remembered what I had been told about his reputation, but gave him the benefit of the doubt.  Then, the same thing happened at our next scheduled time.  After that, my assistant and I had a running contest to guess when he would cancel our meetings—a week out, day out, hour, or even sometimes after the meeting was supposed to start.  That was his "reputation"—and not a good one.

All of us have reputations.  People may describe you in positive terms--smart, ethical, creative, hard working—or negative ones, such as unintelligent, arrogant or irresponsible.  Other terms might also be used, like a politician, a networker, a hothead or a team player.  Having a favorable reputation is critical to business and personal success. Whenever I have seriously considered hiring someone for a job, I first ask others about their reputation.  I know others have asked about my reputation before hiring me. Why is a good reputation more valuable than money?  If you have a great deal of money and a bad reputation, you won't be able to get a job after the money runs out.  If you have little money but a great reputation, you have the opportunity to make more money and build your fortune.

You build your reputation by following positive character traits, like perseverance, honesty, generosity, farsightedness and wise choices.  You should always go beyond the minimum, striving to live a life above reproach.  You probably have a good idea of potential weaknesses where you can be tempted to fall, such as alcohol, fraternization/sex, or money.  For your particular problem areas, set up safeguards and accountability to protect yourself and others. Create a firm line with limits ("I will not drink any alcohol, under any circumstances.") and write it down, so you can refer to it when tempted.  Envision the pain you can cause yourself and your family if you fall, and bring that vision to mind when you have to make a decision.  If you do fall, admit it immediately and honestly.

Sadly, the smartest people are also the best in rationalizing poor choices ("one drink won't hurt," "everyone cheats on their taxes," "we'll just have a fun evening together—I deserve that, don't I?").  Once things start to go wrong, the smart person tries to "figure a way out" rather than just confessing, accepting the consequences and moving on. He or she often gets deeper and deeper in trouble until they take themselves down, as well as those around them.  It is much better to "face the music" immediately then attempt to rationalize and deceive.

You must guard and defend your reputation when attacked.  I always had good friends in the organizations where I worked who would tell me if someone had raised an issue regarding my character or reputation.  It is sad that this is necessary, but the higher you rise in an organization, the more likely someone will attack your reputation.  This is particularly true if, as in the biblical case of Daniel, they have nothing else to criticize.

In defending your reputation, you should first confront your accuser one-on-one.  Relate what you have heard, and the accusations that have been made against you.  If the person denies making the allegation, you should ask if they have made any other statements that could have been construed in this way.  If they affirm their remarks, tell them to come to you directly in the future if they have an issue, rather than going to others.  Then pursue the issue with them to see if there might be any truth to their assertion, rather than rejecting it outright.  Oftentimes we have blind spots when we look at our own behavior and there can be a "grain of truth" in an accusation.  If, after honest appraisal, you believe you have still been unjustifiably challenged, you should explain why to your accuser.  If the accuser cannot be convinced, you should set up another meeting and bring a second person with you who can listen and intercede on your behalf.  Usually this will take care of the issue; however, you can always have more join you to bolster your argument.

It takes effort and discipline to create a great reputation, and consistent vigilance to preserve it.  A great reputation leads to a surpassing life.

Action Points
·   Ask a person who will be honest with you about your reputation
·   Know your weaknesses and put in safeguards to protect yourself
·   Envision what failure looks like and establish firm boundaries in advance to keep you            from temptation
·    Don't rationalize poor choices
·    Defend your reputation, confronting challenges in the right way

Payoff
A spotless reputation, greater opportunities, prevention of much heartache

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