September 11, 2016: Reputational Value

I needed to choose a picture for this blog and I could think of none better than this one.
My husband is my ultimate accountability partner in character and reputation.
(and holding my hand on a hard hike is just frosting on the cake!)
This blog topic has been on my mind for some time. I have wanted to write about it, but left it 'parked' for later. My thought was that the subject matter revolved only on a recent work experience with a story told of days past.

Instead, I have found this attribute of personal goodwill to come up in daily conversation with my kids and friends as well. Reputational value revolves around the person; regardless of whether it's displayed at work, at home, or at play. It's a value we should hold close to our chest and one we look for in those who surround us.

I tend to struggle with this one as it relates to my first blush impression of others. In my quest to not judge and to give the benefit of the doubt, I lean on the side of looking the other way during the courting period of relationships.

The key is knowing at what time to walk away when reputation is in question.

Reputation is an asset that takes years to built. Typically over a lifetime. And then with the slip of the fingers, it can fall apart in front of us.

I am constantly trying to explain this to my kids during their high school and college years. But while I am lecturing, I quickly find that this never goes away. I am just as susceptible as them.

People who treat other people poorly gain reputations for this trait. As they do for lying, cheating, and not following through on their word. Reputation holds a value. One higher than any title or net worth.

I have a friend who still points out an instance where a mutual friend once got caught cheating in a friendly card game. His advice to me? Never trust him. You can't trust someone who cheats their own friends in cards.

Reputational value.

I once worked closely with someone who had a horrible reputation. I was told over and over of his past indiscretions with money and people. But in typical form, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. My rationale was that people in higher positions have more garbage thrown at them and until I experienced poor behavior firsthand, I should not judge.

Bad choice.

I don't always follow the advice I give my young adult children:

"Be open-minded and kind, but know when to walk away from a bad person and a bad situation. Some people don't want to do the right thing. That is a fact of life that we must all accept. And we can't force people to change if they don't want to."

In the end, my colleague's reputational value became a direct reflection of me. I risked a personal asset that I worked years to build. I have always said that when it comes to the Serenity Prayer, I have the serenity and the courage parts down pat. But boy, the wisdom to know when to walk away can be a personal challenge.

The funny part of my recent story on reputational value was hearing how this person's bad reputation carried across states and among different generations of people. A true testament of a bad reputation that is well earned.

Talking with my twenty-three-year-old son in Colorado, he shared a story of a friend who is a bar waitress as a second job. In Omaha she works many late hours to cover her college expenses.

"Mom, I heard this story about that guy you used to work with. Do you know that he goes into bars and restaurants and stiffs all the waitresses? He seriously does this all the time. They all talk about him. He carries on like he's the king of the hill and then doesn't leave a tip. Not a dime.What an a(xxxxxx)."

As I heard this story that now has a bit of folklore, crossing states in the millennial crowd, I pictured myself in days past sitting next to this same king of the hill. As he signed the tab and left no tip, what did this do to my reputation?

My dad always told me that I am an extension of those I choose to surround myself with. Obviously, I need to start following his advice and the same advice I give my own kids.

So when Grant sent me a text this week, thinking I was being too hard on a new friend, I paused.

Reputational value and being extremely selective in my company and alliances has gone back to the top of my list and top of mind. But in counter, I also don't want to be an elitist who looks down my nose at others.

My answer to Grant?

"I believe you, Grant, that your friend is a good kid. I never go by what others say. But comments on past behavior do cause me to pause and raise my radar. You need to stay clean in your own choices and know when to walk away when you see bad choices. You know the difference. Your reputation is worth a lot and don't take that for granted. Ever. In the end, I trust you on your friend choices until proven otherwise. But I will challenge when things come to my attention."

Reputational value vs. being judgemental? Guard your asset. Use your wisdom to know the difference. When in doubt, default to protecting your reputation. Every time. (I call that my bullshit meter. We all have it. Use it. xoxox)

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