A good reputation is one of the most valuable assets we have. It takes years to build, but can be destroyed in just a few seconds.
As leaders, we're constantly being judged by superiors, peers and subordinates. We're not only being judged while on duty; our coworkers can even judge us on how we handle ourselves during off-duty activities and situations. All of this can affect our reputations—positively or negatively—throughout our careers.
Having a solid reputation within our organizations makes the job easier as leaders. Subordinates want to follow us and superiors and peers are more likely to listen. If we have a poor reputation, coworkers will be less likely to follow or listen to us; it will simply make our jobs as leaders more difficulty than it needs to be.
Leadership in its simplest form is having people follow and do so voluntarily. People base their decisions to follow us based simply on our reputations, which is why it's key to determine our reputations in our organizations and constantly keep an ear to the ground to help manage it.
Marcia Zidle, of Smart Moves Coach, has a five-step process to help manage and build the reputation you want.
Evaluate your reputation from your own perspective.
Use a personal SWOT analysis: What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats related to your reputation management?
- What personal characteristics describe your work habits? These are things people can see and form opinions on.
- How are your leadership skills? Do you keep up with the latest trends? Are you well informed and make judgments based on fact, not assumptions?
- What are the reputations of your profession, your colleagues and your organization? These will help shape your reputation; if you hang around motivated people, it's easier for you to become motivated.
Determine your true reputation within your organization.
- Simply ask for a true up-front assessment from your peers, boss and coworkers. In the fire service, the way rumor mills run, you usually have a pretty good idea of your reputation before you ask.
- Dig deep to understand which behaviors caused those you asked to feel the way they do about you, even if it is negative. Try to find out if this is based on rumors or on what they've directly observed.
Compare your assessments.
- What trends stand out?
- Is your SWOT analysis different from the feedback you received from others? If so, why?
- Did you determine that you may have more than one reputation out there, based on different groups within your organization?
- What positive elements tend to stand out? What negative aspects were noted?
Develop your desired reputation profile.
- Truly ask yourself what you want to be known for; take into consideration your work ethic and values.
- Take note of the characteristics of people in the fire service who enjoy good reputations and ask for advice; utilize the IAFC Company Officer Mentor Program.
- Identify what areas of your reputation need to be modified or enhanced.
Create a plan for developing and maintaining your desired reputation.
- Identify what's needed to develop or entirely change your reputation.
- Set goals that will move you in the right direction.
- Focus on the negative elements identified sooner rather than later.
By completing the five-step process above, you should have no problem establishing and controlling the reputation you want to be known for. And remember, when it comes to a reputation, actions truly speak louder than words.