So much depends on your reputation. Guard it with your life. Reputation is the cornerstone of power. Through reputation alone you can intimidate and win; once it slips, however, you are vulnerable, and will be attacked on all sides. Make your reputation unassailable. — The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
Your reputation is simply the opinion that others have about you.
Why is reputation so important? Because when people decide whether to work with you, they are asking whether they can trust you.
They have to consider you a good person who plans to do the right thing and who will not use them for your own selfish purposes.
Will you do what you say you will do?
Will you be easy or hard to work with?
What will happen when you encounter obstacles?
You are a mystery
How do people answer the questions they have about you?
Let’s face it, your true nature is a mystery. People can’t read your emotions and your thoughts. Your unknowableness makes it hard for people to judge you.
So we resort to what we can observe – your appearance, your actions, your words.
As Greene says: “In the social realm, appearances are the barometer of almost all of our judgements, and you must never be misled into believing otherwise.”
Create your own reputation
It’s up to you to create and maintain your own reputation. Do not rely on others to do it for you.
Your reputation will protect you in the game of appearances. It gives you some control over how others judge you. The same act can be judged mildly or harshly depending on your reputation.
If Robert DeNiro or Meryl Streep stumble over a line in a rehearsal, no one worries. Their reputations precede them. The same cannot be said for a young actor at an audition.
How do you develop your company’s reputation online? Greene says “in the beginning you must work to establish a reputation for one outstanding quality, whether generosity or honesty or cunning. This quality sets you apart and gets other people to talk about you.”
Some examples in the software business?
- Patrick McKenzie—for uncommon transparency about many details of his software business
- Joel Spolsky—for creating a positive and productive working environment for engineers at his company
- Dan Siroker—after a stint at Google, he successfully ran President Obama’s 2008 social media campaign with the careful use of metrics, analysis, and rapid testing iterations
- Avinash Kaushik—made online marketing analytics accessible to everyone; put analytics in a business context; an enthusiastic teacher
Your reputation precedes you. If your reputation is strong and commands respect, much of your work to build trust is already done before you arrive.