Relationships are hard. Both personal and business relationships rely on two people working together. Your reputation is a track record of how well you’ve followed through on what you say you’re going to do. Don’t over promise and under deliver. This happens in business all the time. Here’s how not to ruin your reputation.
Do What You Say You’re Going to Do
Before, I ran a team of business consultants. Everyone on my 5 person team was incredibly smart and top of their class. I knew we were capable of really helping our client, if everyone pulled through. One of my team members was brilliant, had great ideas, and participated in every meeting. He would’ve made a great team member except for one detail that screwed him up.
He never did what he said he was going to do. Even worse, he meant to do it, but never did.
During one meeting he had a great idea to develop a tool for our client to help them analyze their customer data. Awesome. I asked him to have a draft complete by the end of the week, so we could review and finalize the week after. He excitedly agreed. Even better.
At the end of the week we met and guess what? He barely started the project. When asked why, he replied, “I got busy with other work, but don’t worry, I’ll have it done by the end of the weekend.”
Fair enough. But guess what? End of the weekend came and he still didn’t have it done. Now at this point, I was pretty frustrated, not because the project was late, but because I felt lied to. As a manager, I would’ve been fine if he said that he would have to move the time line back because of other priorities. The problem is that he set an expectation, and then failed to communicate that he would miss the deadline. After that, I could no longer rely on him to complete a task when he said he would, and gave him fewer projects. This is how you ruin your reputation.
I sit down with every new employee and talk with them about the importance of building a good reputation. Here’s my guide for what I do myself, and what I teach them:
1. Set a Deadline
Make sure you set a deadline anytime you commit to doing something. This way the other person knows exactly what you’re going to do and by when. It holds you accountable and keeps you focused on the task at hand.
2. Communicate in advance if you’ll miss the deadline
Priorities change, emergencies come up, the unexpected happens. Sometimes life gets in the way of what you want to have accomplished and that’s ok. If you’re going to miss a deadline, communicate to everyone early why it’s happening and when the new deadline will be.
3. Blocking out Time
There is only so much productive time in the day. Make sure you don’t over promise what you have time to realistically complete. Then, block out time on your calendar to complete any project. Treat this time as you would a meeting with the CEO. Phone call comes in? Don’t answer it. A request from a co-worker? Add it to your to-do list for later.
Also, plan for a realistic time. Don’t allocate 1 hr to a task that is going to take 4 hrs. I am a huge fan of Sunsama to organize my daily priorities and time. They have an awesome new feature that allows you to schedule tasks on your calendar, and set a completion time. That way, you can adequately plan out your day.
(Sunsama is invite only, so e-mail me if you want in)
4. Do more than promised
Doing what you say on time is great… but that’s to be expected. If you really want to make an impression, deliver more than what you promised. Going above and beyond will help you create a standout reputation.
5. Know when to say No
It’s also important to remember the power of “no.” Saying yes to every request might sound like a way to look dependable, but not always. It’s easy to take on more than you can complete and end up disappointing someone in the process. Failing to meet expectations takes a larger hit to your reputation than saying “not right now.” You can still be helpful by pointing them in the right direction to someone that can help.
Building Your Reputation.
Doing these 5 steps will help you build a stellar reputation for following through on your word. Reputation is like currency in the business world, and people will view you as reliable, trustworthy, and dependable. A good reputation will lead to better personal and career opportunities.
I worked with another consultant on my team who learned to follow the 5 steps above. He took on new projects, completed them, and communicated any delays early. When it came time for a promotion, guess who got my recommendation?