“Build your reputation by helping other people build theirs.” (Anthony J. D’Angelo)
While thinking about this next principle, I looked up quotes about reputation. Many of them dealt with the idea that it takes a long time, and a lot of work to build one up. Henry Ford said “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” (I added the italics). And, he is right, of course. My reputation is the summary of perception of all my past actions. I cannot think my way into one, or talk my way into one, I can only act my way into one.
I remember when I was first starting out with my wife, and we needed credit. It was hard because banks and department stores didn’t want to give us credit because we didn’t have credit. It was like we were in a classic chicken and egg situation. Eventually we opened a Sears credit card by purchasing our refrigerator and stove. That company, because they were selling us some appliances, were willing to take a risk on us. Good credit is a representation of a person’s track record on paying things back, and Sears was willing to actually give us a reputation even though we hadn’t yet earned it.
The same is true when we are leading and developing people. A person who is new to a job that they have not previously held elsewhere, will necessarily come in without a reputation, without a track record for that job. They will be tentative at first because they are finding their way, and if not treated with care, they can be squashed by the expectations of those around them. When we are developing new employees, we have to give them a line of credit to earning their reputation. That’s how we can help them to progress.
In this section of principles, we are working to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment. We have talked about the need to address concerns with our existing people, and how we are working to change what they do. We are very near the end of the process, and we need to make sure that they are set up for success. In this principle, we are granting them a line of credit to that success. We are letting them know that we believe that they can do it, even if they have never done it at all before, and even if they have done it poorly. They are looking to us for support, and if we will give it to them, if we will put our faith in them, they will work hard.
It’s a funny thing about giving someone a reputation before they have earned it. When you do that, most people will not want to disappoint you. They will work up to the reputation you set.
I have often said that there is really only one thing that an effective leader needs – followers. Without followers, I am not a leader, I am just a dude out walking around. But, if I cultivate an environment where people are set up for success, where they know that I believe they can achieve, then they will follow.
If you want people to believe in themselves, and achieve, then by all means…
Principle 28 – Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.