Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Do You Know What Other People are Saying About You?


I've known Marshall Goldsmith for many years, and he was kind enough to give me a blurb for my last book. I recently read his new book, and wanted to ask him some questions about a Chapter 6 -- on reputation. Here's what I learned and wrote for my Gannett column:


When you look in the mirror, do you see the same image that your co-worker or boss see when they look at you?

If you’re not, you may be in trouble.

That’s because your reputation is critical to your career success, and if your self-perception is out of sync with what others believe, it can not only hold you back now but forever hinder your progress.

Marshall Goldsmith, a leadership guru, says that many people are clueless about their reputation among business associates. For example, you may be unaware how your behavior – including in your private life – impacts how others feel about you. You may think your education and work history mean your professional reputation is great – but colleagues have been passing around photos of you drunk at a party, or the blog post you wrote about trouble in your marriage.

Goldsmith says one of the biggest blows to a career reputation can be made online, especially through social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. “People post about their private lives on these sites, where anyone can see them. It’s insane. They’re showing a total lack of judgment,” Goldsmith says. “It takes about two minutes to find something out.”

At the same time, monitoring your reputation can be critical if lies are being spread about you – your career can be torpedoed if you’re not managing information and aware of how others see you, he says. With the Internet, and “everyone having a camera,” it can be tough to maintain control over your reputation, but the key is being vigilant about not letting your private life overlap into your professional world.

While what you say on Twitter or Facebook may not seem like a big deal now, will it still be OK if you were suddenly out of work and needed to apply for a job? Or, if you were up for a big promotion? How would a boss or potential employer view your words and actions?

“The truth is, we may never completely know how a damaged reputation impacts us,” Goldsmith says. “It can be a silent career killer. That’s why it’s time to quit drifting through life, and understand the importance of being aware about what is being said about you.”

As for the contention that many people believe being “transparent” online is a way of just being themselves, Goldsmith says that instead of “revealing honesty,” such actions show a lack of professional judgment that will haunt the person for years to come. “It comes down to this: Your personal life is personal. Keep it that way,” he says.

In his new book, “MOJO: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back if You Lose It,” (Hyperion, $26.99) Goldsmith says that you should understand:

  • The reputational goal. It’s easier to build your reputation if you have a clear idea of what you’re trying to achieve. For example, Goldsmith says he wants to be considered one of the best in helping make leaders successful, so he always asks himself what he can do to have the most impact on helping others. “I don’t have to be the smartest, but I want to be the most effective,” he says. “That’s the question I ask myself constantly: Will this make me effective?”
  • A bad reputation is gained through a series of events. One mistake won’t ruin you, but if it happens again and again – for example, you crumble under pressure – then people start to believe that you can’t handle leadership. He suggests doing an annual “behavior review” about your past performance, such as six “great” personal moments or “bad” personal moments and looking for a pattern.
  • It’s difficult to change your reputation – but it can be done. Opinions of you are not formed overnight, and they won’t be altered quickly, he says. You must consistently deliver the same message, so that people begin to interpret you in a new way. “Also, if you make a mistake, sincerely apologize for your sins, and then try to get better over time,” he says. “It’s not going to improve instantly, but stick with it.”
What do you do to manage your reputation?

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Monday, March 30, 2009

How to Protect Your Personal Brand When Your Company's Reputation Sucks


Just imagine, for a moment, what it must be like to be an AIG employee. Armed guards at the door. Your top executives threatened in horrific ways, even if they had nothing to do with the executive bonus debacle. Even AIG families have been threatened.

Dan Schawbel, a personal branding expert, says there’s no doubt that current AIG employees are going to be “tainted” by the “bad corporate reputation” of AIG.

“Corporate brands and personal brands can build or destroy each other because they are both associated with each other. When a reputation management crisis occurs, the individual, regardless if he or she is an executive or a new-hire, is tainted in the same regard,” Schawbel says. “Even if you quit your job and interview at another company, that corporate brand will stick to you like glue.”

One group of employees who may be commiserating with AIG workers right now are former Enron Corp. employees, who saw their own company go through a similar reputation nightmare in 2001 when the company filed for bankruptcy and some executives ended up in jail for financial misdeeds.

Franny Oxford remembers interviewing former Enron employees in her role as a human resource manager for a large Houston manufacturing and distribution company in 2002.

“Maybe they received some coaching on what to say, but every one of the people I interviewed who had worked for Enron immediately told me what their role was at the company, how they were not involved in what happened, and how they had learned from their experience,” Oxford says. “For the most part, I bought it.”

Oxford says she hired a number of former Enron employees, and “they did very, very well.”

“Enron was one of those companies that was very focused on the bottom line. The people were held very accountable for their performance, and they focused on excellence. They were independent, good leaders,” she says. “And they were grateful to get a job.”

Oxford, now a human resources manager at an air quality control company in Houston, recommends AIG employees looking for a new job should also use the same tactic as Enron workers: Outline your job, explain how you were not involved in the problems, how you learned from the mistakes made and what remarkable skills you can bring to a new employer.

Schawbel agrees. “There is no question that if employees interview for a new job right now and have AIG stamped on their resume, the discussion will come up. You shouldn’t avoid it and you can’t get away from it,” he says. “Instead, you need to be honest and open about it.”

Schawbel, author of “Me 2.0” (Kaplan, $16.95) also recommends that current AIG employees understand that they have the opportunity to remain authentic, transparent and ethical, despite their company’s wrongdoings. “They can admit their company is wrong, even if politically it’s not acceptable. These employees can escape AIG altogether – or work to build the image of the company back up,” he says.

At the same time, working for a company evoking such public hostility right now will take some fortitude, he says.

“Whenever you meet someone new, they will ask ‘What do you do?’ and you’ll start talking about your company. If your audience doesn’t know you and is disturbed by the bad press your company just garnered, then they may dismiss you altogether,” he says. “Personal brands can go through rebranding to shake the corporate brand, but it might take a while to reposition yourself in a new role, in a new company.”

And AIG employees may face even more issues as they try and adjust to a new role within the working world. Oxford says that she noticed some former Enron employees “almost had PTSD” (post-traumatic stress disorder).”

“They actually seemed to have problems working in a non-stress environment, especially those who stayed the longest at Enron, the ones who worked right until the very end,” she says.

In the end, Schawbel says AIG provides an important lesson for all workers and their careers.

“It tells us that the companies we work for have influence on how we’re perceived. We need to make good decisions on who we work for, not just because of money or benefits, but because they are a great place to work with a positive reputation,” he says. “We have to consider everything we’re affiliated with, from our college to our company to our club or organization and even the people who surround us. We’re constantly being judged, and to shape positive perceptions we have to surround ourselves with exceptional brands.”

What are some other steps you would recommend for AIG employees or anyone who has been hit with a company scandal?

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Managing Your Online Reputation

Blogging has opened a whole new world for those who want their voices to be heard. From the teenager writing about everyday angst to the politico hoping to sway the masses to the business person seeking new business, the blogging world has exploded in recent years.

Still, there are a lot of growing pains that go along with the written word. I should know, since I've been a journalist for more than 20 years. I received a college degree in journalism, and have worked with some of the top journalists in the country. It is part of the everyday fabric of a journalist's life to constantly question and assess sources and information and even our own personal biases when we put our hands on a computer keyboard.

Many bloggers have never had these discussions, and that makes sense. The medium has clearly outpaced the ability to discuss all the ramifications of what is written, but it's time we took a deep breath and did just that.

One of the people who thinks a look at blogging and the responsibilities that go with it is important is Liz Strauss at Successful and Outstanding Blog, considered by many to be one of the leading voices in the blogosphere. As part of her very popular SOBCON08 in Chicago on May 2-4, Liz has asked me to speak. My subject: "Managing Your Online Reputation – Avoiding Situations that Need Damage Control."

I'm going to spend some time in the coming weeks interviewing legal experts to get the latest scoop on the liabilities that go along with blogging, and I'll also explore some of the issues that journalists talk about every day: the personal responsibilities that go along with writing for the masses; how to best manage your influence and connections for the long term; and how to react when things go wrong.

If you'd like to find out more about the conference, you can also check out Jason Falls' video. If you're attending and want me to discuss a particular issue, let me know.

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