Character matters. Who you are is the basis for how the world sees you. Every small interaction with the world around us is like another brick laid in the wall of our reputation. Here’s what I mean.
None of us is perfect. We are going to make mistakes. We are going to hurt people. We are going to mess up. We may also be accused of things we didn’t do. While there may be evidence of a weak spot in the wall, the impact on our reputations will be directly related to the foundations we have laid.
When We Mess Up
Several years ago, I really messed up. I made a decision that egregiously hurt a close friend. I didn’t do it to intentionally hurt her, but I knew going in that it would. When I finally checked my selfish motives, I was sorry and contrite. I apologized and publicly owned what I had done. She inquired of some of our mutual friends as to why it appeared I was being forgiven so quickly. (I actually wondered the same thing.)
The response I received was directly related to my reputation at the time. While this particular event revealed a very selfish motive, our friends considered that over the long haul I had been someone who truly cared about others and valued being a servant-leader. As such the event became just a small nick in the wall of character I was building and fortunately, did nothing to permanently define me. Today it serves to remind me that “but for the grace of God, so go I.”
When We Don’t Mess Up but Someone Says We Did
Similarly, there are situations where either perception or rumor will result in a false accusation of wrong-doing.
We’ve all been there or thought it at one time or another. “I can’t imagine she would ever do that.” We give others the benefit of the doubt based on our experience with them.
A co-worker of mine was once accused by a colleague of taking credit for work that was not his own. He was known as a wonderful team-leader who lobbied for shared bonuses and other rewards. While the accusation could not simply be dismissed, our supervisor worked diligently to get to the facts, refusing to believe the accusation outright. She soon discovered the truth, and he was fully vindicated.
When we have built our relationship on character and trust, as well as the ability to admit when we ARE wrong, false accusations are very likely to be doubted or may even immediately be considered false.
Character matters. Begin to lay the bricks of relationship-focused and character-driven behaviors in the wall protecting your reputation. Together they build a reliable, relatable leader who, while not perfect, is trustworthy and whose character will prevail under trial.