"Protect Your Reputation; its the only one you have."


Question:  My mother used to say, “Protect your reputation; it’s the only one you have.” 

  • How important is your reputation to you and why?
  • How has your reputation changed over the years? 
  • Are you proud of your reputation and why?


This question turns out to be three questions, and I will take a stab at answering all three.  This is a very good question and one that I think everyone should contemplate.


We all have many reputations, and we are pretty much responsible for what they are.  I would say that I have a reputation with my wife, with my son, with my grandchildren, with my mother-in-law, with other relatives, with my friends, with my neighbors, and with my family.  I have a reputation in the community, and I had a reputation  at the Walt Disney World® Resort when I worked there and still do.


First of all, my reputation is extremely important to me . . . and it is the one thing that gave me a lot of credibility with the Cast at the Walt Disney World® Resort.  I think that people in positions like my was have to work even harder on this subject than some other people, as most people do not trust people in senior leadership positions for the most part.  I keep that one fact top of mind as I interact with Cast Members and other people who do not know me as well as my family knows me.


I would say that if I could get only one perfect score on my Cast Excellence Survey from my direct reports—a perfect score of 7.0—that it would be on the question of trust.  I did, by the way, get a 100 percent, 7.0 on this question.  As they say, the only way to be trusted is to be trustworthy.  Every action you take must be thoughtful if you are to take trustworthy actions.


Without trust, there is really nowhere to go.  If they had scored me a 6.0 on trust, some people might say that is good.  I would say that it is not good if they “kind of” trust me.


On one other question I received a 6.80, as one person rated me a 6.00 on the following:  Pursues Success With Integrity.  Four of my direct reports rated me a 7.0, and one rated me a 6.0.  I must have done something that put doubt in one person’s mind about my integrity, and I really wish I knew what it was.  I may be guilty or I may be innocent . . . but one thing is for sure, and that is:  one person has something on his or her mind that I don’t know about.


As I always say, “Be careful what you say and do because they are watching you and judging you.”  This really means that you have to work very hard to have a great reputation.  When I look ed at my results for the Cast Excellence Survey through the years, some questions mean a lot more than others to me.  It would be easy to just skip over questions where you got a 6.00 or higher and think that you are doing just fine.  Take the time to think about each question and how it impacts your reputation, and work on that for the next year to see if you can improve it.


Reputation and trust go hand in hand.  If people trust me, then they will tell me everything.  They will not be afraid of me or intimidated by me, and they will push back when they think I am wrong if I have the right reputation.


One day years agoI was in a Disney Learning Center picking up some books on tape of the new book by Stephen Covey, The 8th Habit.  One of the Cast Members engaged me in a conversation.  She ended up telling me that she had taken my Time Management seminar, that she had heard me speak to the College Program Students, and that she was listening to my Disney Great Leader Strategies CD and my tape titled Inspiration—The Real Work of Leaders.


She went on to tell me that I was in a high-level position and that I seemed real, authentic, and nice.  Let me tell you, she made my day because that is exactly the reputation that I want to have.  I want her and other people like her saying nice things about me behind my back.


I had to make some controversial decisions sometimes and ones that some people didn’t like; but I can tell you that if you have a strong reputation for doing the right things and that people trust you, then they will often give you the benefit of the doubt and support your position or at least not go negative. They will say things to others like, “I don’t agree with him, but he has a great reputation . . . and I do trust him.”  Also always remember to tell people WHY you made a certain decision so they don’t make up the reason in their mind, which is usually not correct.


My reputation has changed a lot over my 40-year career.  When I started out, I was ambitious to a fault.  I was a great manager, meaning I could get anything done and done on time.  I did not really care too much about people or how I got the job done.  For many years I was successful with this style.  I got promoted; I got bonuses; I got stock options, company cars, and all the perks that went along with my rising positions.  I never once heard the word leadership during the first half of my career.


I eventually started to realize that my behavior and the way that I got things done were not very nice.  I started to go to seminars on leadership, read about it, study it, and slowly—but surely—I started to change my own behaviors to those that included not only getting the job done but how I got the job done.


Even after I started to change, the organization I was in was not changing—so my career did not go the way I wanted it to, and I was passed over for a promotion that I had always wanted.  I did not let this change me back to my old style.  I kept on with my move to become a strong trusted leader and away from being just a great manager.  Don’t get me wrong.  I still got things done, but I got them done through people and not by running over people.


I have continued to understand the principles that one must follow to be a whole person and how important integrity is to one’s life—especially at the end of your life when no one cares what position you once held . . . or how much money you made    . . . or how much of a big shot you thought you were.  In fact, if you think you are a big shot and ego rules your life, I can assure you that most people do not think of you that way! Many top executives and I know a lot of them would be shocked at what people really think about them. Many mothers would not be proud of how their sons and daughters were leading. Lead your people the way your mother would like for you to be led.


If you examine your own values and the principles that they are based on, you will start to understand how to build the right habits that will give you a great reputation with everyone in your life.

Principles like fairness, honesty, respect for others, cooperation, integrity, courage, caring, listening, and involvement are the principles that give you moral authority and give you a strong reputation—and then you do not have to exercise the power of your position to get things done. 


When people trust you and believe you are competent, and when they see you live by strong principles and values, then they give you moral authority—and this is the strongest and most lasting kind of authority that you want to have.  For example, when you give your children unconditional love and set the right example for them and teach them the right things, the odds go up significantly that they will most often make the right decisions when they are alone with a tough decision to make, based around their values.


So am I proud of my reputation?  Well, yes, I am for the most part.  I know where I am not happy and where I could do better.  I have several people that I need to work on and change my behaviors so that I can have a more trusting relationship and reputation with them.


One area where my reputation is really strong is with my grandchildren, and I believe with my direct reports at work.  Priscilla too thinks I am pretty good, but I know there are things that I can do there as well to make things better.  My mother-in-law thinks I am perfect and told me that she would have adopted me if I had not married her daughter.  Now that is a great reputation.


Just being aware of the power of choice that each one of us has in order to have a strong or poor reputation is the first step.


Just thinking about this subject is good, but what you do about what you think is the name of the game.


It turns out that most questions like this one and the others I have answered so far are not really hard. When you take the time to think about issues and have a point of view on them, then when the questions come they are easy to answer and not hard. They are hard if you have not given them any thought, though.


One other point that I should make, I think, is that while these were interesting questions posed to me, I cannot be the one to rate my reputation.  It is YOU who will evaluate my reputation.  The only thing I can do is to try to do the right things in your eyes so that you can rate me well on this subject.  If I think I have a great reputation and you don’t, then what I think really does not matter.


Remember that it takes a long time to develop a good reputation, and a few seconds to lose it.  Good luck with your reputation.  Now I have to go work on mine some more in a few areas of my life.   . . . Lee

 Great Leaders Look forthe Better Way Every Day!!!!!

PS: I had breakfast with my three grandchildren and my son this morning at Einstein’s. These four people give me pretty high marks on my reputation. Grandparents usually do pretty well when rated by their grandchildren. Now I am going to go home and work on Prisiclla. Have a good weekend everyone. For the 50,000 runners in the Disney Marathon I hope you finish the race safely and without too much snow on your heads…..Lee

1 Comment
  1. Great post! An excelllent reputation is something I believe we all desire. Why not, it shows that people respect us and believe in us. I have a good story about Lee’s reputation. I was recently at Disney World attending an Executive Learning Group which I am a member of. Lee was the after dinner speaker and he spoke about his book “Creating Magic”. I was very impressed with Lee’s speech but a little skeptical because I have heard many speeches from high level execs such as Lee but that the people that worked for the person would say that he really did not care or listen them. Well, the next morning, I was at Disney Boardwalk and our group’s breakfast was moved from one room to another because of a conflict with the original room. In true Disney fashion, I asked the person who was setting up the original room if he could give me directions to my new room, He said I will do better than that and take you there. On our walk to the new room, I asked him did he know Lee Cockerall and what did he think of him. He said that not only did he know him but that he and the people he worked with loved and respected Lee! This was coming from a food server! I asked why. He said Lee truely cared about them, listened to them and communicated what he believed was important to Disney’s success as well as their own. To me this is a true leader with a great reputation: when a front line person says that a very high level executive is believed, trusted and understood!

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