How to Take Ownership of Your Reputation

There is a lot of discuss these days about reputation management. Sorry, but I’m not into reputation management. I think reputation leadership is far better.

Here’s a quick illustration that clarifies the difference between reputation management and reputation leadership.

How to Take Ownership of Your Reputation

This past week I was the keynote speaker at the Pennsylvania FCCLA Spring Leadership Conference. I challenged the 400+ student leaders in the audience to take 100 percent ownership of their reputation. I explained that owning their reputation does not require “spin,” which is the less-than-politically-correct way of saying “reputation management.” Instead, ownership requires leadership. It requires individuals to lead their lives in such a way that their reputation stays sweet instead of turning sour.

Before explaining any of this or even starting the conversation on reputation, I wanted to establish its importance in a very visible way. That’s why I pulled out a jug of lemonade and another jug of chocolate milk.

After explaining how thirsty I get when keynoting, I took a big gulp of lemonade and said, “Wow, I loooooove lemonade!”  Next I threw back a swig of chocolate milk and said, “But I also loooooooove chocolate milk!”  I went back and forth several times. My face turned a deeper shade of green with each swallow while the “ewwww’s” from the audience grew louder and louder.

I finally said, “I love each so much, I should just mix them together and guzzle it down.”

So that’s exactly what I did. And as you can image, the entire audience went nuts!

Once everyone finished groaning in disgusted, I jumped up on my soapbox and explained we cannot develop a good reputation if we constantly mix sweet actions with sour actions. In fact, it doesn’t matter how many sweet actions we take, one sour action can instantly turn all that sweetness into chocolate lemonade. As Will Rogers said, “It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute.”

Bottom line, no amount of spinning turns sour actions into a sweet reputation. A sweet reputation is developed by being better today than you were yesterday and better tomorrow than you are today.


Question: How do you protect your reputation from becoming chocolate lemonade? What do you do to keep your reputation sweet?