Last week the President announced that he planned to nominate Janet Yellen to Chair the Federal Reserve Bank. If approved, she’ll be the first woman to ever hold that post. Wow! There’s a lot being said and written about Ms. Yellen’s political and economic views, but what strikes me is that pretty much every—positive or negative—article I’ve read about her makes mention of her reputation as a smart, hard working, consensus builder. I like that Janet Yellen is a woman breaking new barriers in her field, I love that she’s doing so based on such a fine reputation.
Recently I was talking with some business friends about how incredibly valuable it is to have a good professional reputation. Your actions can’t always guarantee that others will always think (or speak) well of you, but a good reputation is nevertheless worth striving for. Proverbs 22:1 advises that a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.
Better than silver and gold? That sounds nice, doesn’t it? So how do you get one?
This is usually the part of the blog where I tell you that “I don’t have all the answers” (because I don’t), or that “we all have a lot to learn,” (because we do), and then try to offer you a few points of reflection or some practical tips to implement. But I’m not doing that today. Because, frankly, you already know what you need to do.
A good reputation can’t be acquired, it must be built.
That means you need to do good things. You need to treat people well. You need to work hard. You need to solve problems. And you need to choose what is right over what is expedient or comfortable. And you need to do these things over and over. Every day.
The following quote about establishing a good reputation is credited to Socrates, and it’s a good one:
“Regard your good name as the richest jewel you can possibly be possessed of -- for credit is like fire; when once you have kindled it you may easily preserve it, but if you once extinguish it, you will find it an arduous task to rekindle it again. The way to a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.”
Strive to be exactly what you want others to think of you.
I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s definitely not complicated.
And although it might sound that way, it’s not about being perfect. You can’t and won’t do the right thing every time. You’ll make mistakes, technical, ethical, and otherwise. When you do mess up, remember that how you handle mistakes contributes as much (or more) to your reputation as does avoiding them. People will pay more attention to you when you fail than when you succeed, so you need to be prepared to take responsibility and to learn from your errors.
As my friend (and 4word partner!) Elizabeth Knox points out in Faith Powered Profession, it’s not just your reputation that’s on the line here: “as Christians in the workplace, God’s reputation is on the line. How we behave reflects on Him.” Elizabeth points to 2 Corinthians 3:2-3: “You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spriit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”
Work hard at your reputation, because at work and in the world, YOU are a living representation of God’s reputation.
What kind of reputation do you want to build for yourself? Think about it this way: If, a decade from now, some future President nominates you for something important, what do you hope your colleagues will say about you?