Reputation-Building 101: What You Say and Do Matter

In the news this morning there were three short celebrity stories that begged a 101 tutorial on reputation-building or at least on avoiding reputation-busting. Beyond our seemingly endless curiosity about celebrity behavior, it’s worthwhile to think about lessons we can apply to our own reputations.

John Galliano apologized for his drunken anti-semitic rants after he was fired from his job as creative director at Christian Dior.  Dior was concerned that Galliano’s reputation for inspired dress design was being overshadowed by his now infamous reputation as an out-of-control and hateful drunk. Like Mel Gibson, Galliano will be going to rehab, hoping not only to deal with a drinking problem and bad behavior but also hoping to rehab his reputation. Clearly what Galliano says matters. What you say offers the world a peek at your values. Will what you say (in conversations, in interviews, in public appearances) enhance or tarnish what you want to be known for?

In the Boston Globe’s “Names” section, Lindsay Lohan was quoted about her desire to be “identified with great films and not her personal problems , ‘I don’t want that to be what I’m known for anymore — the tabloid stuff.'”  Lohan has blown any good will that people felt for this child star with her repeated bad behavior. Her name no longer conjures up an image of her film performances; rather our brains see a disheveled party girl. Clearly what Lohan does matters. Your collective actions frame how the world (your employees, managers, clients, colleagues…) see you.  Do your actions signal confident leadership or does everything about your behavior scream, “can’t be trusted” or “volatile.”

Charlie Sheen was back on the news within hours of his children being taken away from him. No need to recap his too-many-to-count missteps lately. He says he’s “winning” and in control. But the cumulative impact of his ego-centric words and actions is that Sheen is spiraling downward. While he was previously thought of as personally wild but with some impressive credentials, his reputation is now consumed by his decline. Clearly what Sheen says and does matters. What impression do your words and actions leave with the people watching and listening (your clients, managers, employees…)?

So how’s your reputation?  What are you doing to help or hurt it?

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