What is Reputation?

Reputation is the intangible ways in which we connect with others. This is where activities and behaviors that help you be known in your organization and industry exist. I like to think of reputation as the echo you leave when you exit a room. Your reputation is what your colleagues say about you when you are not there. Perhaps your colleagues are commenting on a presentation you just gave, or an interaction you just had, or your candidacy for a promotion. Do you know what they are saying about you? More importantly, what do you want your colleagues to be saying about you?

The global workplace is full of office “tyrants.” These troublesome creatures are very visible in their environments, just not in a good way. To survive in their fast-paced and ever-changing organizations, office tyrants feed on negative and energy draining behavior. They create havoc while performing their job responsibilities, cause controversy on every project, and cauterize relationships in ways that impede progress. A visitor to an environment that houses an office tyrant can easily tell when office tyrants are approaching simply by watching the behavior of the office tyrant’s colleagues. Their eyes roll, their bodies stiffen, and they will often scatter for the nearest water cooler or stairwell. Most troubling for office tyrants looking to create their next controversy is the fact that colleagues they have yet to meet are aware of their disruptive and unproductive behavior even before meeting them. As another successful day of bad behavior comes to a close, the office tyrants withdraw, only to return the next day to feed again. Can you think of any office tyrants in your organization? Do you know your reputation at work? Could you be an office tyrant?

Individuals successful in building a good reputation are regarded in positive ways. Your colleagues with great reputations are not only known in positive ways by colleagues with whom they have met and collaborated, they are similarly known to colleagues whom they have yet to meet. The old adage, “your reputation precedes you,” continues to exist due to individuals who are very successful in managing their reputation in their organization and industry.

What is Presence?

Presence is the tangible ways in which you connect with others. This is the place where activities and behaviors that help you be seen in your organization and industry exist. When you work to build your presence, you are seeking physical ways to connect with others and contribute to your organization and industry. You cannot be visible is you are not seen by others!

In your busy work environment, it is easy to become an office “hermit.” Thousands of office hermits are spotted in corporations around the globe on a daily basis. These surreptitious creatures quietly enter their offices as dawn breaks to ensure they do not have to interact with others. While hermits’ office doors are closed for most of the workday, passersby can hear the occasional sound of keys clicking on a keyboard or muffled voices on a conference call. As the sun reaches its peak, office hermits quickly dart from the confines of their offices to seek out food in a variety of places – perhaps the employee cafeteria or a local fast food restaurant. Whatever the choice, they have to be quick, as office hermits must return to their place of safety and solitude – their office – before they are seen by or have to interact with others. As the day plods on, key clicking and voice muffling continues. Then, just as at dawn, office hermits will quickly exit the building at dusk, slithering down hallways, scrunching themselves into the corners of elevators, and, with speed that would impress a jaguar on the Serengeti, exit for the day. And, as dawn arises the following day, the cycle continues. Can you think of any office hermits at your place of work? Are you yourself an office hermit?

Individuals successful in building their presence seize opportunities to be seen at work by “picking up their heads,” getting out of their offices, and building relationships across functional areas. They identify opportunities to be seen in different ways (i.e., subject matter expert, team member, cross-functional contributor). They interact, participate, and engage with others.

How Do Visibility and Value Relate to Each Other?

It is important to recognize that visibility and value are deeply symbiotic in your organization and industry. You already know that professional risks exist for busy business professionals who are invisible or undervalued in their organization. You do not want to be visible without providing value, and it is hard to demonstrate the value that you provide if you are invisible.

Low Value + Low Visibility. You are at a high risk level when a headcount reduction or departmental realignment occurs. The only reason you might survive is that no one knows what you do or where to find you!

Low Value + High Visibility. You are at a very high risk level, as you are providing little value and everyone knows it. How have you survived this far?

High Value + Low Visibility. You are at a moderate risk level, as the value you are providing exists – decision makers just don’t know who you are.

High Value + High Visibility. You are at a low risk level, as you are providing value to, and are visible in, your organization and industry. While no one can guarantee you employment or a promotion, you are reducing the likelihood of unexpectedly losing your job or missing a promotion.

What is Meant by Professional Transparency in Your Organization?

Networking while employed and performance appraisals are becoming increasingly ineffective due to the explosive growth in professional transparency. As recently as seven years ago, unless the subject of your search was your favorite movie star, rock star, or politician, your ability to find details about another individual was challenging. This was not due to your faulty research skills – information about an average individual simply did not exist publicly. In fact, information about others was so absent in the not-too-distant past, the thought of seeking out personal or professional details regarding another person would not have even occurred to you.

Today, individuals you have never met, from anywhere on the globe, are instantly finding out more about you than any other time in human history. Whether they are at their desk in a towering glass office building, sequestered in their basement at their suburban home, or lounging at their favorite cappuccino bar, they can instantly access volumes of information about you with only a few keystrokes. Fortunately, some of this information is beneficial to your profile. Unfortunately, some of this information you would prefer to keep private.

Recently, I attended a social media presentation that was hosted by the president of a regional marketing organization. To show the power of Google, one of his colleagues googled the president’s name as the president was speaking, and a lot of information appeared behind him on a screen. Unfortunately, one of the items on the screen was a link to a court document detailing his recent divorce. Although it was in clear view to the audience, this leader never turned around to see the link and his colleague never said a word. I doubt that this is information he would have chosen as a backdrop during his presentation!

At the same time, you are able to tell people about yourself with greater ease than ever before. If you go back a few short years, before Facebook and Google, the ways to share information about your accomplishments and background were limited to a resume. Your primary strategy was face-to-face, one-by-one conversations with others. Transparency was low. With technology like Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and YouTube, you have the ability to increase your personal and professional transparency and instantly share information about yourself with millions of people.

At the same time, organizations across the globe are seeking ways to increase employee transparency. Technology is providing organizations the ability to build internal platforms (ala Facebook and LinkedIn) that allow their employees to build a profile and share information about themselves that are critical to the business. Employees can post a picture, and list their competencies, certifications, degrees, sample projects, work history, and interests. Internal decision makers, hiring managers, and colleagues can subsequently mine for talent internally before looking externally.

What is Meant by the Pace of Change in Your Organization?

Networking and performance appraisals are becoming increasingly ineffective for employed business professionals due to the pace or how quickly you are expected to change.

You are being asked to do more with less, and do more, faster. Listen to Virginia Rometty, the Chief Executive Officer for IBM. The headline of a Wall Street Journal article published in April 2013 boldly declares “IBM’s Chief to Employees: Think Fast, Move Faster.” With so many changes occurring within your industry and your markets, your organization needs you to change faster.

Reporting structures announced today are effective next Monday. The enterprise-wide telecom platform upgrade announced next Tuesday feels as though it is going live tomorrow. A high-tech company that began operations two years ago suddenly has a multi-million or -billion dollar valuation. The social media darling Instagram was launched in October 2010 and was sold in April 2012 to Facebook for one billion dollars. It took forty-two years for television to have 50 million users. The iPod? Just three years

What is Meant by the Frequency of Change in Your Organization?

Frequency refers to how often change occurs. There was a time when organizations were proud of their stability and consistency. Acquisitions were infrequent, co-workers with whom you attended new hire orientation twenty years earlier still were around to join you for lunch. A hard day’s work provided you job security. Words like “right-sizing” and “down-sizing” were not in the dictionary. Your job description had not changed for years.

Today, mergers and acquisitions are daily event. Yesterday’s technology upgrades quickly become obsolete. Roles, responsibilities, and relationships change faster than a name plate on a cubicle. If you are like so many others in your organization, you had had three to five bosses in the past five years. Kevin, a client, shared with me that the boss with whom he wrote his annual goals was not, for three years running, the same boss who reviewed his achievement to his goals at the end of the year. Another year, another boss.

In a March 2014 poll conducted by Inc. Magazine, 28% of the respondent’s business models changed in the last five years; 36% of the respondent’s mix of products and services changed; and 47% of the respondent’s financial structure changed.7 I frequently speak with clients who have received emails that a workgroup – for example, account management – has reorganized their staff and function, effective immediately. These same clients attest that it feels like the same workgroup just reorganized six months earlier!

I worked with a client company whose leadership and organizational structure was relatively the same for almost forty years. This same organization has changed its leadership and “go-to-market” structure three times in the last six years.

What Are the Benefits of Networking?

Networking is and will continue to be an important professional activity for business professionals. In fact, 60 – 70% of employed individuals located their most recent job opportunity through networking. In a poll I conducted on LinkedIn, these numbers were corroborated when 59 percent of 1339 respondents chose the category “by networking with friends and colleagues” as the strategy that led them to their most recent job. Therefore, networking was three times more effective as using an on-line job board and almost three times more effective as using a recruiter.

For business professionals looking for their next job or self-employed business owners seeking revenue, networking has many benefits. When networking, these individuals can

– practice how they verbally and visually present themselves to others.
– polish how they describe their goals, needs, and capabilities.
– meet colleagues who can introduce them to others who can help them.
– connect with colleagues whose work complements their own, creating new synergies and opportunities.
– hear what others are doing which may generate new ideas for them.
– try out new looks in their wardrobe, ensuring their wardrobe is polished, up-to-date, and ready for interviews and meetings.
– create opportunities for others to give them feedback on what they are doing that works and what they are doing that could improve.
– catch up with old friends and be reminded that they are not alone.

By and far, networking is the most effective strategy for business professionals to land a job and self-employed business owners to generate revenue.

Are You Accessible?

Being accessible is not just having an “open door policy” or ensuring your team knows your cellphone number. Accessibility is about creating an atmosphere where your colleagues can reach you – even interrupt you – and leave the interaction with a positive feeling.

Accessibility is the degree in which colleagues can reach you and benefit from the interaction.

Your office door is always closed. Are you accessible? Perhaps you possess low self-awareness of how your behaviors in your organization diminish outreach by others. You can be heard decrying “No one ever tells me anything!” and “How come I am always the last to hear about these things?” When you think about it, you may discover that you are less accessible than you think you are. Do any of the following characteristics seem familiar to you when you think about being accessible to others?

You rush frantically between conference calls or meetings with little time to talk to others.
You get easily annoyed when a colleague reaches out to you (especially if the outreach feels like an interruption).
Your back faces the entrance to your office or workstation.
Your interactions with your colleagues never seem to benefit them.
No one comes to you for help.

What Happened to the Art of the Introduction?

Let’s face it. At some point in the development of our society, we lost the ability to introduce ourselves to one another. I was not alive when this loss occurred, so I do not have firsthand knowledge of when this happened. I am not a sociologist, so I do not have the research fundraising skills to figure out why this occurred. I am not suggesting that our ancestors excelled at introducing themselves and that this ability mysteriously eroded over time. It does seem, however, that the attention we pay on introducing ourselves to one another peaked at some point in the past. Perhaps you can imagine the following “moments of introduction” throughout history.

Circa 1,000,000 B.C.

Grog: “Ugga.”
Sura: “Yug.”

Circa 1910

Gregory: “Good afternoon. My name is Gregory Van Pelt. It is a pleasure to meet you. Lovely day, is it not?”
Suzanne: “Good afternoon, Mr. Van Pelt. My name is Suzanne Rockefeller. The pleasure is all mine, I am sure. It is quite the lovely day.”

Circa 2015

Greg: “What up.”
Sue: “Yo.”

What happened? Is it the head-spinning advances in technology, growing networks of global economies, and changing workplace demographics that we discussed in the introduction of this book? While I do not know the answer, I do know that the degradation in your ability to introduce yourself is causing you to miss an opportunity to make a strong first impression. You are more likely to say good morning to Siri than to a colleague. John Clancy, President of Radius Worldwide, a global software services company, understands the importance of a strong first impression. John has held a number of senior leadership roles throughout his career and has met hundreds of new colleagues, investors, and customers along the way. “I can’t stress enough the importance of the first few seconds you have when meeting a new person. With a strong introduction, you have the opportunity to create a connection that provides you a surplus of goodwill. No one wants to start a relationship in a deficit, which takes even more effort to turnaround. Making a good first impression is critical to laying a strong foundation for future interaction.”

Why Don’t We Introduce Ourselves Well?

Regardless of your comfort level or skill, you are probably one or more of the following when you introduce yourself to a new colleague:

Inconsistent. Sometimes you introduce yourself to others effectively and sometimes you do not.
Uncomfortable. You find introducing yourself to be uncomfortable; you either introduce yourself quickly or you avoid introducing yourself altogether.
Inattentive. You pay little attention while you are introducing yourself – it is over before you even realize it.
Underskilled. You do not know how to introduce yourself effectively.
Underinvested. You do not value the importance of a strong introduction, and you have not thought about building your skill for introducing yourself to others.

Whether you are inconsistent, inattentive, or underinvested, introducing yourself effectively is one of the foundations for raising your visibility and value in your organization and industry. If there is one behavior I could change that would help me feel this book is a wild success, it would be shifting your mindset regarding introducing yourself – shifting from the belief that introducing yourself is unimportant to the belief that introducing yourself is a critical behavior to embrace in today’s fast-paced and frenetic organizations.