It’s been a little over a year now since I graduated from a federal-agency-sponsored leadership program. I’ve been reflecting on what happens after the leadership program is over. Agencies usually collect feedback from the participants in the form of surveys. Then they track the success of the graduates by tallying how many of them are promoted to higher-level positions over a given period of time.
Since completion of my program, a couple of my fellow graduates have been promoted. A couple have been reassigned to different positions at the same general schedule-level. Many remain in the exact positions they were in when the program started. It’s difficult to measure the effectiveness of the program based on these results. It hasn’t been enough time, and it’s hard to know for certain how many of my classmates have sought out promotion opportunities.
It’s true that some people participate in leadership programs just to build their resumes without any real aspirations to be better leaders. However, most participants actually have a passionate desire to be more and do more. While graduation from a prestigious and well-respected leadership program helps prepare for the next big opportunity, it doesn’t provide any guarantee.
Sitting back with the “I have arrived” attitude at the end of a leadership program is likely to be ineffective. To be successful, leadership program graduates need to keep the momentum up after the program ends. One way to do this is to focus on the value of a good reputation. A good reputation can help distinguish you from others with similar experience, education and background. Like it or not, in today’s world, your reputation precedes you. The people you meet already know about you and have formed an opinions about you. It’s not really fair, but it’s reality.
According to French diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, “The reputation of a man is like his shadow, gigantic when it precedes him, and pigmy in its proportions when it follows.” So, how do you build and maintain a good reputation?
Do what you say you’ll do.
Doing what you say you’ll do is the most important factor in building and maintaining a good reputation. According to the founder of analytical psychology, C.G. Jung, “You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.” Keep your word. Every time you do, you increase your credibility and integrity. You build trust and gain respect from others. When others see you doing what you say you’ll do, they’ll know they can count on you. Doing what you say you’ll do can also raise your personal self-esteem.
Consistently do the right thing even when nobody is looking.
Consistently doing the right thing even when nobody is looking is another important factor in building and maintaining a good reputation. According to J. C. Watts, “Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.” Take the high road. Remember the Golden Rule, and treat others as you would want to be treated. You earn confidence and trust by doing the right thing. As an added bonus, it feels especially good to do the right thing when nobody is looking. It’s a confidence booster.
Give credit to others.
Giving credit to others is also an important factor in building and maintaining a good reputation. You have a long list of personal accomplishments to be proud of, but try focusing on others. According to motivational speaker Brian Tracy, “The more credit you give away, the more will come back to you. The more you help others, the more they will want to help you.” Build up your co-workers by recognizing their achievements. Create a culture where achievements are regularly and appropriately acknowledged. This increases employee engagement. Don’t forget to express thanks to others for what they do, too. It’s a simple gesture, and it’s free.
Graduating from a prominent leadership program can be a big step toward preparing yourself for the next big opportunity, but you can still miss out on career advancement because of a less-than-stellar reputation. Your reputation will always precede you. Do what you say you’ll do, consistently do the right thing even when nobody is looking, and give credit to others. Doing so will help you distinguish yourself from others by building and maintaining a good reputation.
Sherrie P. Mitchell is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.