FIXING A REPUTATION IS SIMPLE, BUT NOT EASY

Everyone has a reputation, albeit a good or bad one. The question in business is, what percentage of your own leadership style is contributing to the overall reputation of your organisation?

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Before we answer that, let’s take a step back and look at the ‘so what?’ of reputation management. Why is reputation important? A research study conducted by the World Economic Forum found that 25% of an organisation’s bottom line is linked to its reputation. A quarter of the value of your organisation boils down to how you are perceived. With this in mind, it’s worth getting a thorough understanding of what is building or breaking down your reputation.

People want to be associated with companies with a positive reputation, because by association they also look good. Companies with a good reputation are incredibly focussed on what it is they want to do, and how they are going to get there.

They are clear on the values that drive their decision making. This central message is echoed through all the different channels of communication to their various stakeholder groups. When everyone has a very clear understanding of where they are going, it is a lot easier to be innovative and look for ways to achieve the desired end point, without being distracted by the unimportant.

Organisations perceived to have strong, stable brands, attract top employees; they can pick and choose from the talent pool and decide who they want on their team. They will opt for strong candidates that resonate with the company’s values, people who can perform at a certain level to ensure expected outcomes. Having the top recruits on board and giving them the freedom to be innovative, encourages growth within the organisation. Customers can then invest their hard-earned cash into a particular product or service that they really want. Profits earned by the company can be used to re-invest into the teams and technology as well as making socially responsible commitments to uplift the communities within which they operate. All of this contributes to the overall reputation of the organisation.

The same goes for an organisation that does not have a positive reputation; it will be difficult to recruit a team as low morale impacts productivity. Service delivery will be affected and ultimately the investments that customers are willing to make will be compromised; leaving the crux of what keeps the business afloat in serious doubt.

Returning to the question posed earlier, what impact does your personal reputation have on the business? In my opinion, most people in senior positions think that they can separate their personal life from business. As much as you may want to keep your personal life just that—personal—your work and personal life will embody the same values.

You can’t have a different set of values when you are at work and then chop and change it around when you head back home. When it comes to reputation management, three key words pertinent for any leader, are authenticity, integrity and consistency.

Your core values and the way that you conduct yourself on a daily basis filter down through the organisation. You are steering the ship and leading by example. I do sometimes wonder what example the leaders of our country are setting for our nation.

With that said it’s not only a question for South Africa, take a look at the current USA election race. What example is this ‘first world’ country setting for the rest of the world? People in high places seem to get away with making ridiculous statements to get attention; they rant and rave on public forums, but at what cost to their reputation?

On a recent flight to Johannesburg, I had a conversation about this specific topic with a gentleman who hit the nail on the head when he said, “It is the arrogance of power that lets people think that they can get away with the things that they say and do in the public domain.”

Is that perhaps why we have so many young people making ludicrous statements where, to the rest of us, they are clearly losing sight of reality by thinking that rules are no longer applicable to them? The recent #sciencemustfall farce is one example. In times like this, I return to the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln who said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”

With that said, it is about knowing what to say and when. Once you’ve uttered a word, it cannot be unsaid. When we present media training workshops, we always warn participants against “going off record”, if you don’t want it in the public space, don’t mention it. I think people often say and do things without thinking about the consequences; the thrill of the attention is blinding and leads to over-inflated egos that need continuous feeding. When the attention dwindles, they think of more absurd ways to feed the ego monster.

Can a reputation be rectified if you’ve done something dodgy or said something incredibly stupid? Fixing a reputation is simple, but not easy, and some situations can’t just be “PR’d” away. If you’ve messed up, take responsibility, own up to it, be empathetic to those that are affected and indicate what you plan on doing to prevent this from happening again. It boils down to the three pillars of reputation that I mentioned earlier; being authentic, having integrity and showing consistency. The key is to apply these words to every aspect of your personal and business life.

Keen to continue the reputation conversation? Join Regine on Twitter @ReputationIsKey or Facebook www.facebook.com/yourreputationmatters.

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