Five Ways to Build Your Reputation

Reputation-building requires continuous work.

August 1, 2011

Every day, we all encounter numerous people at work and in our communities.

What perceptions do others have of us? Remember: Reputation isn’t about how we see ourselves and our work, but how others see us.

What is your reputation? Do you appear kind and loving to family; professional and motivated to business associates; and knowledgeable and compassionate to members?

In the business world (including credit unions), strong relationships and the ability to maintain a good reputation are everything. Our livelihoods depend on it. The better a member’s experience, the better your credit union’s reputation and the more successful it will be.

If members or business associates don’t think you have a good reputation, they won’t trust you with their business, they won’t be loyal, and your credit union will struggle to succeed.

How can you avoid pitfalls and build good reputations for yourself and your credit union? Here are some suggestions:

1. Start with your personal reputation. You might think it doesn’t affect your business, but your personal reputation definitely carries over into the workplace.

Work on character traits such as personal integrity, reliability, trustworthiness, competency, responsiveness, and confidentiality. These priceless character traits cost nothing more than a strong personal commitment.

Also, pay special attention to your online presence. With online reputations more public than ever, anything you add to a public Web page is available for all to see.

2. Put others ahead of yourself. At Mountain America Credit Union, we follow the principles of Ron Willingham’s Integrity Service program. Early in his book by the same name, he states:

“We—individuals and organizations—have two basic life directions that influence our career success and personal happiness. One is to focus on ourselves, get what we can get, and keep all we can keep.

“The other is to focus on others and to create as much value for them as we can, knowing we’ll be compensated, rewarded, or respected according to the amount of value we create.”

By being selfless, you instill trust, create loyalty, and build a reputation as a great leader. And you help build your credit union’s reputation as a great institution.

3. Walk the talk. Creating a good reputation requires more than a strong mission statement. As Abraham Lincoln once stated, “Character is like a tree, and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

In other words, to appear a certain way, you need to endeavor to be the kind of person who acts that way—making the perception the reality.

4. Ask for feedback. If you’re unsure how people view you, don’t guess. Ask a trusted person for help (for example, a close friend, a significant other, or your supervisor). Often, they can see things in you that you’re too close to see for yourself.

Once you get feedback, try to avoid the natural tendency to become defensive. View the feedback as a gift you can use to improve.

5. Keep at it. Creating a good reputation isn’t something you do once and then forget about it. Reputation-building requires continual work; otherwise, everything can fall apart.

“Glass, china, and reputation are easily cracked and never well-mended,” said Benjamin Franklin. Keep working to improve positive character traits and maintain a flawless reputation.

By incorporating these practices, you and your credit union can build and maintain a reputation that will be a great foundation for future success. 

SUZANNE OLIVER is senior vice president of educational services and governmental affairs at Mountain America Credit Union, West Jordan, Utah, and chair of the CUNA HR/TD Council. Contact her at 801-325-6234. For more information about CUNA Councils, visit