Office Reputation Management Crash Course, Part 1: You
People are as good as they are seen to be; not fair, but true. Reputation is everything and great jobs and great contracts come to people that make others feel secure about their abilities - AND their attitude.
In this two part article we're going to take a look at things you can do to foster the correct image of yourself, and your place in the team.
Added on 03.10.2014
Integrity & Honesty
Everyone wants to be seen to be reliable and dependable, and keeping to good work and time management practices helps achieve this. But more than this, honesty and integrity in everything you say and do goes a long way. Make your word your bond, from a follow-up email after a meeting or phone call to a big project deadline. If you make a promise and discover you've over-stretched yourself, then work late and keep that promise. But take a hard look at the promises you make; they are your guarantees, so be sure that you can deliver them. Don't try too hard to please others or you will almost certainly please no-one, least of all yourself.
Don't be afraid to admit to not knowing something. If you try to seem knowledgeable about something you're not, chances are you'll be caught out. Treat lack of knowledge as an opportunity to learn. No-one knows everything, and you'll be seen to be inquisitive, to be able to adapt and learn, and to be able to think on your feet. You'll demonstrate not only honesty, but also modesty, confidence, curiosity and intelligence - all good qualities.
Every so often things go wrong; it's not always possible to meet every single deadline in your career. Plan ahead; if you forsee problems, let people know ahead of time. Give them a window into the difficulty that is holding things up, especially if something is more complex than planned. The person you're delivering to might be able to help you re-prioritise the component tasks. They can also let anyone who might be depending on them know that the deadline might be changing - remember, there could be reputations other than yours on the line here too.
If something completely unforseen throws a last minute spanner in the works then all you can do is apologise. Make your apology sincere; make yourself accountable, take the responsibility. Offer a new deadline and be very careful to make this a realistic one that you can meet - or hopefully even beat.
ABC - Always Be Communicating
Communication is vital at the early stages of any project or contract because you must make sure that the expectations people have are correct. Some people deliver great work that is poorly received because they forget, or are not prepared, to spend time on expectation management.
Make sure that your vision of what you're delivering is one that is shared by the client / your boss / etc. Show progress towards the goal with milestone reporting, and get feedback on your interim updates and reports to make sure that everyone is on board and happy with the direction you're headed in.
Stay Focused, Stay in Charge
Digital isn't renowned for days that start and end quietly, where you can guarantee getting seriously stuck into some really productive work. Instead, phone calls, emails, meetings, revisions, updates, new requests and setbacks come thick and fast. You have to be able to juggle whatever the job throws at you and you have to be SEEN to be coping (even if inside you're screaming).
Most of this comes down to time management - a topic in its own right. Two quick words of advice here: first, factor contingency into every project, every task, and every day; second, email less and talk more. Conversations get things done; then you can circulate a quick email to record what was agreed.
Remember Body Language & Appearance
Most agencies these days allow casual wear, but think about the message your outfits send. When meeting a client (especially a new client) or delivering a big presentation, a bit of low-key power-dressing still works wonders. And make sure that your body language (starting with your face) says 'Happy to be here, and fully switched on'.
What You Do Outside of Work
Great party or awesome gig at the weekend? Save it for reminiscing with your mates. Outdoor or sporting activities or cultural pursuits that make you sound dynamic, healthy and clean-cut? Better. Volunteering? Even better; some companies have a culture of community engagement. Updating your own insightful industry-commentary blog? Go to the top of the class.
Watch Yourself at Work Dos
Whatever limits you think you have with alcohol, stick well within them. If your manager is offering a round of shots then by all means join in and enjoy yourself, but know your limits. You will win far more respect for bowing out at a point that suits you personally and keeps you safe within your limits than you will by going along for the ride and seeing where that takes you. Alcohol loosens tongues and reduces the ability to assess any situation accurately. There's a very good reason that most tales of office woe start with 'So, we were in the pub and...'