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ESSAYS ON Reputation
Written by Rick Archer, July 2007
 

  • "Reputation, reputation, reputation!  Oh, I have lost my reputation!  I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial."William Shakespeare
     

  • "A good reputation is more valuable than money." - Publius Syrus (42 B.C.)
     

  • "I see my reputation is at stake, My fame is shrewdly gored."

    Said by
    Achilles, speaking to Ulysses after being fatally wounded by Paris at the gates of Troy.  Once considered invincible, Achilles acknowledges his own mortality. 

    William Shakespeare (1564–1616), British dramatist, poet. Achilles, in Troilus and Cressida, act 3, sc. 3, l. 227.
     

  • "Character is like a tree and Reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing."

    Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865), U.S. president.

  • "The great difficulty is first to win a reputation; the next to keep it while you live; and the next to preserve it after you die, when affection and interest are over, and nothing but sterling excellence can preserve your name. Never suffer youth to be an excuse for inadequacy, nor age and fame to be an excuse for indolence."

    Benjamin Haydon (1786–1846)
     

FORWARD

This article concerns Reputation.  Reputation is the
overall quality or character as seen or judged by people in general.  It concerns the recognition by other people of some characteristic or ability, such as being clever, clumsy, honest or dishonest.  Reputation concerns a place in public esteem, i.e. how a person is regarded.

Reputation deals with many different aspects of our lives. We all wonder about how people perceive us.

Do people think I have a
good name or a bad name?
Do people think I am honest or dishonest?
Do people think I cheat at cards?
Do people trust me?
Do my actions support my words?
Do people think they can count on me?

Of course we wonder how people view our talent. 

Am I any good at my job?
Is my word good or do people think I stretch things a bit? 
Do people think I play fair or do they think I cut corners?
Does my boss think I will meet my deadline?
Do I honor my spoken rules of conduct or do I disregard them whenever convenient?

Recently I came across a phenomenal article written by Thomas Friedman, the 3-time Pulitzer winner who writes for the New York Times.  Basing his article on a book titled How by
Dov Seidman, Mr. Friedman postulates that never before in history has the potential for damaging our Reputation been greater.

Please read the article. 


Reputation

By Thomas Friedman
New York Times

The whole world is watching, so you best get your 'hows' right

Three years ago, I was catching a plane at Boston's Logan airport and went to buy some magazines for the flight. As I approached the cash register, a woman coming form another direction got there just behind me - or so I thought.

As I put my money down to pay, the woman said in a very loud voice: "Excuse me, I was here first!"

And then she fixed me with a piercing stare that said: "I know who you are."

I said I was very sorry, but I was clearly here first.

If that happened today, I would have had a very different reaction. I would have said: "Miss, I'm so sorry, I am entirely in the wrong. Please go ahead. And can I buy your magazines for you?  May I buy your lunch?  Can I shine your shoes?"


Why would I say this?
 
Because I'd be thinking there is some chance this woman has a blog or a camera in her cell phone and could, if she so chose, tell the whole world about our encounter - entirely from her perspective - and my utterly rude, boorish, arrogant, thinks-he-butt-in-line behavior. Yikes!


When everyone has a blog, a MySpace page or Facebook entry, everyone becomes a potential publisher. When everyone has a cell phone with a camera in it, everyone is a paparazzo. When everyone can upload video on YouTube, everyone is a potential filmmaker.

When everyone is publisher, paparazzo or filmmaker, everyone else becomes a potential public figure. We must get accustomed to the thought that we are all public figures now.

The blogosphere has made the global discussion so much richer - and each of us so much more transparent.

The implications of all this are the subject of a new book by Dov Seidman, founder and CEO of LRN, a business ethics company. His book is simply called How.

Because Seidmans's simple thesis is that in this transparent world "how" you live your life and "how" you conduct your business matters more than ever.  Today so many people can now see into what you do and go tell so many other people about it on their own without any editor or watchdog.  To win now, Seidman argues, you have to turn these new conditions to your advantage.

Seidman writes:  "For young people, this means understanding that your reputation in life is going to get set in stone so much earlier. More and more of what you say or do or write will end up as a digital fingerprint that never gets erased. My generation got to screw up and none of those screw-ups appeared on our first job resumes, which we got to write. For the current young generation, much of what they say, do or write will be persevered on-line forever. The moment employers finish reading an attractive resume, they will Google the person next."

"The persistence of memory in electronic form makes second chances harder to come by," writes Seidman. "In the Information age, life has no chapters or closets; you can leave nothing behind and you have nowhere to hide your skeletons. Your past is your present."

So the only way to get ahead in life will be by getting your "hows" right.

Ditto in business. Companies that get their 'hows' wrong won't be able to just hire a PR firm to clean up the mess by taking a couple of reporters to lunch - not when everyone is a reporter and can talk back and be heard globally.

But this also creates opportunities. Today "what" you make is quickly copied and sold by everyone. But "how" you engage your customers, "how" you keep your promises, and "how" you collaborate with partners - that's not so easy to copy, and that is where companies can now really differentiate themselves.

"When it comes to human conduct there is tremendous variation, and where a broad spectrum of variation exists, opportunity exists," writes Seidman. "The tapestry of human behavior is so varied, so rich and so global that it presents a rare opportunity, the opportunity to outbehave the competition."

How can you out-behave your competition?  Here are three examples.

In Michigan, Seidman writes, one hospital taught its doctors to apologize when they make mistakes. The hospital dramatically cut their malpractice claims. In Texas, a large auto dealership allowed every mechanic to spend freely whatever company money was necessary to do the job right. They saw their costs actually decline while customer satisfaction improved. A New York street doughnut-seller trusted his customers to make their own change. In the process, he found could serve more people faster and build the loyalty that kept them coming back.

"We do not live in glass houses (houses have walls); we live on glass microscope slides… visible and exposed to all," Seidman continues. So whether you are selling cars or newspapers (or just buying a paper at a stand), get your 'hows' right - How you build trust, How you collaborate, how you lead, and how you say you're sorry. More people than every will know about it when you do - or don't.



Thomas Friedman is a columnist for the New York Times.  He is a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner.

This article is reprinted from the June 27, 2007, issue of the Houston Chronicle.  I assume it originally appeared in the NY Times.


THE REPUTATION TRILOGY

A Lesson you fail to learn the first time becomes a Lesson you are doomed to Repeat

I am about to take you on a 3 Chapter Adventure known as the Reputation Trilogy.
All three incidents are examples drawn from my own dance career that deal with "Reputation".

TRILOGY ONE: SPIN

This is the story of how my first wife brutally slapped me three times in public.  Although no one is ever blameless, in my opinion I had done next to nothing to deserve this.  Nevertheless through "Spin" - a careful manipulation of the facts - plus a glaring absence of communication on my part, this incident backfired on me to become my fault.  I fell into a dark depression.

I had just learned one the hardest lessons of my entire life.

TRILOGY TWO: HARVEST MOON

This is the story of how my second wife and I allowed a rival dance studio steal our once-dominant position as the best Swing Dance Studio in Houston right out from under our noses.  Our failure to properly respond to a Smear Campaign led directly to our downfall. 

I had just learned one the hardest lessons of my entire life.

TRILOGY THREE: VESUVIUS

This is the story of how I threw a horrible temper tantrum at the dance studio.  I screamed at two students demanding a Refund and threw hundreds of dollar bills on the floor.  I was completely out of line. The next morning I awoke to find the students had sent a poison pen version of the story flying across the Internet.  They were going to take down my entire Western program for revenge.

Yet despite my terrible behavior, miraculously I managed to rescue myself from this potential disaster to emerge without a scratch.

So how did I do that?  I paid attention to the lessons learned from my previous two adventures and used my experience to rescue victory from the jaws of defeat.
 

METAMORPHOSIS

With my Houdini-like escape from the deadly email, I had begun my Metamorphosis into a person who not only understands the need to stand up for his Reputation, but one who does it skillfully.

In the summer of 2007 I visited an active volcano site in Hawaii.  I could not understand why the guides forced us to walk single file and insisted on walking beside us to make sure we cooperated.  When we got to the active lava flow, I had my answer - the new hot lava is almost identical in appearance to the hardened lava.  We all know about the Red Lava from Dante's Peak and other volcano movies, but this kind of lava was a deadly, highly camoflouged assassin I knew nothing about.

Without our guides, any of us could easily have lost a foot before we ever knew what happened.  The guides protected us.

I am offering to be your guide in the Court of Public Opinion. I have a valuable contribution to share with the rest of you...

A chance for you to avoid risking your own Reputation by learning from SOMEONE ELSE'S MISTAKES.


You might just save your Reputation from going through a lava field some day.

NEXT STORY: Spin

Perception is Reality - In Politics, it doesn't matter what the truth is.  It just matters what people believe the truth is. Now we turn our attention to the Public Relations concept known as Spin

In public relations, Spin is term signifying a heavily biased portrayal of an event or situation in one's own favor.

Spin typically involves a selective presentation of the facts and quotes that support one's position combined with the sly omission of any facts that "fail" to support one's position. 

Spin is the story of the most bitter PR lesson life has ever handed me.  I found out first-hand why you always have to aggressively present your side of the story any time there is an ugly public incident.
 


Rick Archer's Note:

Spin
, Harvest Moon, and Vesuvius are my own personal experiences.

SSQQ is a more general story involving the Reputation of my dance studio.

Victoria, Alex, Cheryl, and Google are stories about other people whose experiences illustrate issues involving 'Reputation'.

  •  Victoria Osteen is the polished, intelligent beautiful leader of the famous Lakewood Church here in Houston.  One day in 2005 around Christmas time, Ms. Osteen is said to have lost her temper while boarding an airplane on a vacation flight to Colorado. 
    The Curious Christmas Calamity of Victoria Osteen
     
  •  Alex Schamenek was just trying to help.  He had an idea for a new Salsa Crash Course here at SSQQ.  In the middle of his class, someone began to videotape.  Alex let him continue.  Big Mistake.
    No Good Deed goes Unpunished

     
  •  Cheryl was new in town and wanted to teach a Samba class.  The problem was that she was incredibly busy and had a little trouble adapting the the SSQQ class format.  So she started teaching classes whenever she had some free time.  That wasn't a very good idea. 
    The Strange Saga of the Mysterious Samba Lady

     
  •  Lots of people have been reading my stories about Reputation and Google.  So now they email me right and left to get their names removed from the SSQQ website before it is too late and everyone finds out the truth.
    Zephyr the Belly Dancer, Joye the Same Sex Dancer, and Ted the Girl Chaser
   
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