REPRESENT

Point number one: Your reputation matters.  In professional environments we call this personal branding.  In family circles we call this the family name.  In church or spiritual environments we call this representation.  Regardless the angle, having a good name is valuable.

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold. Proverbs 22:1

What others know about you, what others think about you, and what others think they know about you matters.  If I hear one more teenager say, “I don’t care what people think about me.”  I’m going to scream.  Not true.  Above all other people on planet earth, teenagers care, deeply, about what others think.  Ever heard of peer pressure?  And so do you and so do I.  Let’s not be so dishonest.

And here’s the thing, point number two: we should care.  A good name is to be chosen…

You have to want a good reputation and make choices that reflect that desire in order to make it happen.  Now, to be clear, I do not base my worldview, moral beliefs and standards on what others think.  However, I do think it is crucial for success and living a life of significance that I strive to develop into a woman of unquestionable character and integrity.  What I desire is that my reputation or my “personal brand” matches or lines up with what I claim to believe.  For example, what if I claim that I believe it is important for people to take good care of themselves physically, to eat right, to stay in shape, and to live a healthy lifestyle; and then you see me 100 pounds overweight and snacking on a coke and french fries?  You would think one of two things:  either I no longer believe what I claim or I am a hypocrite.  And in that moment, I have lost your respect and any ability I may have had to encourage you to believe and pursue a healthy lifestyle as well.

If we are going to make claims and state our beliefs it is crucial that we follow through.  Don’t even make the claim if you can’t back it up with your life.  If you want potential employers,  colleagues, even friends and family to respect you, to trust you and to care about what your ideas, then you need to present yourself in a way that matches your desires.

When I spoke to about 150 teen girls last week,  I focused on three areas that dramatically impact your reputation: modesty, manners and the mouth.

Like it or not, immodest dress sends so many wrong messages, it just isn’t worth it.  Cover up.

Manners such as saying please and thank you, sharing, taking turns, opening doors, going last, greeting people, knowing how to introduce yourself and others, etc. go a long way toward building trust with people.  Proper etiquette goes beyond just saying that you care about someone to actually showing it.  And we all know the saying, “actions speak louder than words.”  Or do they?

That brings me to the last focus area, your mouth.  This is a tough one for me because I genuinely like to talk and sometimes in speaking all those words, I say things I should not.  There is a Proverb that says, “A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.” The ability to control your mouth and to speak only things that help or encourage is a powerful, beautiful skill.  As your mama used to say, “if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.”  Good advice.

Personally, all of this comes together under an umbrella of understanding that my life is not about me.  (Note: Convincing teenagers – and many adults – that all of life is not about them is quite a task in and of itself and they are not likely to begin caring about modesty, manners or their mouth as long as they continue believing the world revolves around them.) Rather, I get it that I represent my business, my clients, my family, my community, my faith and my heavenly Father.  How I dress, how I treat other people, and how I speak not only reflects on me, but on them.

A good name is founded on a selfless attitude.

Reputation matters and we should care.

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What is wrong with people?!

I have been traveling this week and am utterly amazed by how many people obviously hate their job and, more importantly, appear to hate people as well.  Ordering a meal from a fast food restaurant, I didn’t know whether I should laugh, cry or start lecturing the young lady attempting to take my order.  She was clearly unconcerned about how I felt about her or if I ever returned to that restaurant again.

A few months ago, I joined a teleconference call  hosted by a so-called professional in my industry who makes the big bucks.  After a long introduction which included all of this impressive credentials, he had my full attention and admiration.  I was taking notes like crazy, so thrilled with the opportunity to gain his insight.  And then, with regret in his voice, he decided to tell the listeners that the best way to get into this particular speaking market was to lie on our cover letters.  Just lie.  Really?  Red flags starting flying and the internal dialogue began in my mind…

Was any part of that amazing introduction of yours true?  Are you  really speaking from experience and giving us valuable insight, or am I now involved in a big marketing scheme designed to convince me to purchase whatever audio or e-book you will surely have for sale at the end of this call.  Hang up, Jaclyn.

And so, I did.

If you have a desire to influence the world around you in a positive way, then please — for heaven’s sake — pay attention to what I am about to say.  The way you present yourself to the world around you matters.  Your attitude, your dress, your behavior, your character, all of it matters.

If you can master the art of proper etiquette, you will set yourself apart from the crowd of rude and crude people.  If you can establish a solid personal brand that rings true, you will earn respect and become a person others want to follow.  And if you can back up your acts of etiquette and your attempts at creating a personal brand with the aggressive and continual development of genuine character; now that would really be something!

Here are the three layers described, beginning with the most shallow down to the nitty-gritty.

1) Proper Etiquette – Just be nice.  For whatever reason, manners have become a lost art.  Many people, often it seems those working in public service, are painfully bad at using good manners.  I personally thank my mother and Grandma Beverly for teaching me to say “please” and “thank you” and to take turns and to smile and to do my best to make others feel comfortable.  And then, I thank Sue Thompson, the author of etiquettedog.com, a blog on the subject.  I met Sue years ago at a conference, and when she spoke I realized how true and how important behavior, image and presentation really are, regardless of how we feel about it.

Did you know there is a right way to present your business card, to introduce yourself and others, to write and send e-mails, to eat, to make conversation, to set a table, etc.?  Etiquette is not just an art, but a science that yields results.  People learn quickly to trust you and your business when you consistently practice proper etiquette.  And, the ironic part, since very few people still do, you easily set yourself up as the example.

2) Personal Branding – Who do others think you are?  Your personal brand is basically your reputation or what is left in the room when you leave.  You can easily determine your current personal brand by asking people what words they would use to describe you.  The four or five words you hear most represent your brand.  Scary thought?  The key to branding is getting people to say about you what you want them to say about you.  Now, here is the ironic thing about branding:  a few years ago, we wore different faces.  At work, we put on our work face and did the work thing.  At school, we put on the student face and the two could look very different.  For example, someone may have been a real jerk of a student and a great employee.  However, technology and this crazy thing called social media has changed all that.  You can no longer be different people in one body.  (I don’t recommend that anyway. How exhausting.)  You are you, period.

People who are business and life savvy, are the same regardless of where they are physically or online.  If you want a strong personal brand, the facebook “you” should match the work, student, mom, daughter, church worker, whatever, “you”.  As a rule of thumb, especially if you are an entrepreneur, young person or an out-of-a-job person, if you wouldn’t put it on your resume or job application, then don’t put it on the world wide web.  Protect your reputation, therby protecting your brand.

P.S. – For years I spoke for Monster.com, and one thing I’ll never forget learning and presenting to students is that employers work really hard and spend a ton of money developing their brand and company image.  The last thing they want to do is hire an employee who will taint that image.  So, if your image doesn’t really match up with theirs, forget it.

3) Character:  who you are when no one is looking.  Your personal brand may be who others think you are, but your character reveals the truth about who you are.  My pastor recently said, “character is who God and your spouse know you are.”  Without solid character, it won’t be long before the truth about how you fake etiquitte and present a fake image will surface.

Remember, you were not born with perfect character.  Think about how your sweet little baby decided one day to smack you in the face, and a couple years later lie to you about who put the doll in the toilet.  Did you teach them those things?  Of course not.  We are born messed up.  Character must be developed through conscious decision making andaction.

A few years ago, I was introduced to a children’s character development book entitled, “Eight Keys to a Better Me.”  In the book, eight character traits are listed: Honesty, Respect, Patriotism, Kindness, Courage, Responsibility, Feelings and Self-Worth.  While written for children, I realized they still applied to me.  Which ones do you truly possess and which ones need some work?

The girl taking my order at Captain D’s severely lacked etiquette, represented the brand of her employer terribly, and therefore, I assumed — right or wrong —  she was lacking in character.  The “professional” hosting the teleconference clearly knew and applied proper etiquette and was a master at personal branding; I had cleared my calendar for this call and had a credit card ready!  However, he lacked character.  See, it takes a whole person who is real, authentic and full of purpose to truly make a positive impact.

As the new year approaches, I am taking time to examine myself, again, and see what else needs transformed.  I’m re-studying the timeless principles of etiquette, working weekly on establishing a solid personal brand and daily on developing the weaknesses in my character.  Transformation is tough.

So, to answer my own question, what is wrong with people?! We don’t want to look in the mirror and examine ourselves.  We don’t really want to change because we see don’t want to have to admit we are flawed, wrong, or messed up.  We don’t want to say, “I need to change this,” much less actually do it.

Listen — be ye transformed.