Pick up the Wall Street Journal any day of the week, scan the front page, and you will immediately find stories of brands tarnished and reputations squandered. Companies losing the confidence of their customer base. Business partners severing the relationship. Key investors pulling out with little to no warning. They simply don’t want the association—or the risk.
The fact is, it doesn’t take much to seriously damage a brand. There are countless ways to lose the trust of your key stakeholders and you needn’t be the CEO of Equifax, Wells Fargo or Volkswagen to experience profound, even career-ending, reputational damage. Never forget, as a leader, you’ve got a lot of people watching you and continually making judgments about your integrity, approach, and effectiveness. The same level of scrutiny applies to your team and your business. Judgments are made, opinions shared, perceptions influenced. And in today’s world of instant information sharing and the 24/7 news cycle, reputations are built or broken with the click of a mouse.
As a business leader, it’s essential that you pay attention to your brand. There are three elements of reputation that should always be on your radar: personal, team, and company. Pause to reflect on each. Ask a diverse group of others for input. Then decide: is my brand exceptional, mixed, declining, or poor? And what must I do right away to solidify personal, team, and company repute?
Consider the following:
- How am I viewed by my boss, peers, direct reports, and business partners?
- How do my customers and clients perceive and talk about me?
- What do my contacts in relevant regulatory agencies think of me? Do they trust me? Respect me?
- Does the Board give me freedom to make decisions without undue interference?
- Do my employees and industry peers view me as an exemplar and a visionary? The kind of leader who values employees, puts customers first, drives innovation, and is poised to lead the company to an extraordinary future?
- How is my team typically described by others?
- Are we viewed as reliable, trustworthy, direct, professional, inclusive, communicative, strategic, future-focused, collaborative, creative, etc.?
- Do others want to join the team?
- Are my top performers consistently being approached by others to partner, mentor, join their team, or provide a value-added point of view?
- How is the company portrayed in the press?
- What do customers and employees say about us on social media?
- Do our clients consistently rave about us?
- Do we get frequent and enthusiastic recommendations and referrals?
- Are we seen as an employer of choice?
- Is our stock price increasing?
- Are investors raising their hands to get a piece of the action?
- Do regulatory agencies trust us?
- Are we being pursued for exciting collaborations and partnerships?
- Are we seen as having a bright future?
- Do we stand out as industry leaders?
- Are we receiving meaningful recognition and awards?
Amid the daily pressures of leadership, rapid decision-making, and too-frequent fires, it can be a challenge to focus on building an outstanding brand. But at the end of the day, it’s pretty simple: be the leader who generates confidence, trust, loyalty, and rave reviews. It’s the foundation of success for you, your team, and your company—not to mention the customers, partners, and investors who look to you to lead an exceptional organization.