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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Anonymous Bret Simmons said...

Great stuff, Anita! I STRONGLY agree with this statement:

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.”

Thinking you have ANY privacy online is buying the Facebook lie. And why would you want to behave online as if you had something to hide? To me that sends a mixed message. The ONLY way to approach social media is to behave as if you have NO privacy.



March 3, 2010 12:30 PM  
Blogger Anita said...

I just read yesterday that someone said that you probably wouldn't take your personal photo album to a job interview, yet that's what you're doing when you post private stuff online. I thought that was a great example.
Thanks for your comments!

March 3, 2010 1:20 PM  
Blogger Film Co. Lawyer said...

I'm really concerned about the legal implications of this kind of thing. As a lawyer, I see some serious future lawsuits against employers denying someone a job b/c of their religious beliefs, age, political affiliations, etc. I also think there are some serious privacy concerns to take into account & sooner or later, the law is going to catch up. I even ranted about this very issue on my rant blog.

As an executive/management type person, I don't want to select people who are too sanitized & have no individuality. Countless lawyers are like this and in my particular industry, you need creativity and different perspectives.

My concern is not really about TMI or domestic issues but about one's opinions on social issues. Why should who I voted for in the last election or my political beliefs have anything to do with my fitness for a retail job??

I wouldn't dream of playing Grammar Nazi w/someone's Twitter account & think any HR person who's doing that to their employees has WAY too much time on his/her hands.

My recommendation would be to be yourself but keep your profile private. Don't friend a boss or co-workers unless you're equal on the totem pole.

I personally feel that if you're being forced to hide who you are, there's no point in having a Facebook account or an online presence of any type. As for myself, I'm fortunate to work in my dream job & get the necessary autonomy to be honest and have opinions. Feel free to view my blog & I'd like to hear whether you think employers will go as far as I fear they will.

March 3, 2010 6:51 PM  
Blogger Anita said...

Film Co. Lawyer,
There is plenty of debate right now among HR folks about whether they should consider the online information they "dig" up online. And, of course, there are the legal implications, as well. Did a company eliminate an applicant because they saw a photo online -- and rejected them because of skin color or religious beliefs?
At the same time, there are ways to share private information with your friends and family that don't entail you detailing your hangover on Twitter. What it takes, however, it some forethought and planning. And, too many people don't do that until it's too late and they can't keep their information private.
I would say the best strategy is to be aware of your reputation online, just as Marshall advises. Why put something so important in the hands of others?
Thanks for your comments.

March 4, 2010 6:44 AM  
Blogger Film Co. Lawyer said...

I just saw this posting on the Punk Rock HR blog & it's a wonderful example of the very issues that concern me about social media & the legal implications. I thought you might find it of interest as well:

March 5, 2010 3:39 PM  
Blogger Anita said...

Film Lawyer,
I'm a faithful reader of Punk Rock, so I've already read it, but I'm glad you've passed it along for other readers. Thanks!

March 5, 2010 3:45 PM  
Anonymous Caroline Bender said...

Excellent topic. As we watch waves of lay-offs, we also notice that certain people always last. Something about them is too valuable to let go. Productivity and quality of work dominate, to be sure. But the "intangibles" include the things you talk about here.

March 9, 2010 9:42 PM  
Blogger Anita said...

Great point...thanks!

March 10, 2010 9:56 AM  

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