Building A Good Rep

Doing so could make or break your future

Jerome Henderson spent the first nine years of his professional life running down wide receivers as a defensive back in the National Football League. These days, he has a new playbook — managing a team of mortgage bankers in Raleigh, North Carolina, for HomeBanc Mortgage Corp.

Although he chose two vastly different ways to make a living, Henderson, a vice president with HomeBanc, is convinced that one thing remains the same whether you’re in the locker room or the boardroom: Reputation counts.

“Nothing is more important,” says Henderson, 36. “You can’t build a reputation on what you say you are going to do — you have to build it on what you do. I learned early on in this business that I was going to live or die by my reputation.”

All the innovative ideas, strategic moves, and polished presentations are useless if you don’t have a good reputation among executive management, colleagues, and customers.

Bad reputations are hard to shake, but they can be turned around. First, own up to your shortcomings or past mistakes. “People love to forgive each other,” says Clay Nelson, founder of the personal and business consulting firm Clay Nelson Life Balance in Santa Barbara, California (www.claynelsonlifebalance.com). “Nobody is perfect. I have 70 clients, and some days I do great things for them and some days I screw up. When I find out I made a mess, I get on the phone and clean it up.” After acknowledging what you did wrong, immediately lay out a plan to make sure it will not happen again.

Henderson has vowed to outwork anyone and back it up with action. One time he visited a client at her home at 10 p.m. to accommodate her schedule. In another instance, he allowed a loan to go through with the interest rate he had quoted to a client, even though rates had risen. “You need to do what you say 100% of the time,” Henderson says. “I think a lot of people look short-term as opposed to building a career. I want to always be able to walk into a room with my head held high.”

Here are some ways to gauge if your rep is intact:
Step up to the challenge. A quick way to torpedo your reputation is by shying away from risk or tough challenges. “You have to be willing to fail,” says Francie Dalton, founder and president of Dalton Alliances Inc., a Columbia, Maryland-based consulting firm that specializes in communication, behavioral, and management sciences. “That shows leadership.”

Assess how you treat others. That means sharing your success. “When you hoard what you’ve learned or don’t share responsibilities, that reflects badly on you,” says Lonnie Pacelli, a former manager at Microsoft and president of Leading on the Edge International, a leadership development firm in Sammamish, Washington.

Sweat the small stuff. Pacelli also emphasizes taking care of the little things like returning phone calls, responding promptly to e-mails, following up with thank you notes, and completing work on time.

Don’t take your word for it. Ask co-workers, colleagues, customers,

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