Reputation Story and Why it’s Important Inside Organizations
Organizations may not know the story they’re telling with their actions yet it’s important to be aware of exactly what that reputation story is in the minds of other people, not only external to the organization but inside it.
A story is always being told, fluid and being noticed. It might be felt in different ways by different departments and individuals depending not only on their experiences but also the disconnect between what is said and what is done.
The story is the one that is being communicated with words, those expressed and not expressed (that should be communicated) and actions taken and not taken.
How is the organization as a whole and its particular leaders coming across to people? What story about themselves are they conveying in the media, to clients or customers and prospects, to the general public, to its fellow leaders and people with whom they interact with and guide?
For so many leaders and organizations, this remains a blind spot of great proportion, which is problematic because they have burned most if not all of their trust, influence and reputation capital and don’t realize it.
This is why it’s critical to accurately research, learn and fully understand reputation, in the macro and micro both, as it determines the level and quality of this capital.
The macro is the reputation generally speaking the organization has with its people and the micro is the reputation within a department, or with a leader or between workers. There is also a macro and micro for reputation outside of the organization.
So, of what is reputation capital comprised? It’s the sum of the quality of organizational and leadership competency plus the level of character, poise, decision-making (especially when things go awry) and the quality of relationships (in other people’s minds).
There is frequently a gap, sometimes significant, in what organizations and leaders believe is their reputation and what the evidence reveals. This can be an act of ignorance or denial.
It can also be a bad, chronic case of extreme myopia, which is more common than you might believe.
Regardless of which it is, the costs are similar, the risk is not being managed and a wise, protective, corrective course is not being urgently, thoroughly pursued to problem solve and benefit from that correction and improvement.
While it is not impossible, it is rare that an organization can self identify with precision where the reputation gaps, deficiencies or weaknesses are or solve them on their own. Why? Biases, emotions and ego so regularly get in the way. Awareness of those problems are not recognized either.
Kindly point out they are possibilities to people and the result is often anger.
Reputation quality inside an organization is just not a common practice that is researched as a priority, done well, regularly and by creating psychological safety to gain accurate readings and understanding. That’s not a mistake. It’s an error of thinking, strategy, “insurance” and improvement.
The recommendation then is to gain understanding of how important reputation research and accuracy of finding is to an organization and all of its leaders, conduct research or investigations regularly while offering psychological safety and then with humility, compassion and short-and-long-term wisdom, make the emotionally intelligent and wise corrective actions.
This process will constantly build, protect, restore and rebuild reputation capital and that means greater credibility, trust, influence, ability to persuade and a stronger relationship dynamic.
This will make for a healthier, stronger culture that can withstand occasional bumps, bruises and disputes. Respect will be mutual and the likelihood of negativity simmering unseen or longstanding conflict will be minimal. Reputation crisis internal to the organization will also be unlikely.
Caring about reputation inside the organization is always smart prevention and risk management. Seek out hurt, discontent and anger, with humility and solve it quickly and thoroughly with high character and emotional intelligence and organizational, leadership and culture well-being become not only probable but present.
A reputation story is always being told, whether we know of it or not. It is vital not to assume what that story is. Recognize the value of doing the work and seek out invaluable and sometimes critical feedback, including the emotional temperature of both individuals and the collective.
Choose not to judge. Choose instead to learn and respond with poise, self control, compassion and wisdom to benefit.
Think employee relations, less frequent and better managed disputes, less ongoing, nagging and often unknown discontent and conflicts and better simpler conflict resolution. Think stronger organization relationships.
Michael Toebe helps individuals and organizations accurately analyze and wisely, more successfully respond to conflict and crisis that threatens or harms reputation. He writes and publishes Red Diamonds Essays (on Medium) and has written advisory for Chief Executive, Corporate Board Member, New York Law Journal, Corporate Compliance Insights and Physicians Practice.
This essay was first published at Red Diamonds Essays, on the Medium platform, on Sept. 16, 2020.