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  • Writer's pictureA D Ackerman

Your Reputation is Showing

photos (c)Copywrite ADAckerman Coaching and Consulting, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved

Yes, You. Now. Always.

It's kind of like in the old days when I wore a slip under my dresses. You never could predict when your slip would be showing out from under your outfit. But, when you discovered it at the end of the day, or if a good friend was brave enough to tell you about it during the day, you suffered from embarrassment and a feeling of being, well, not right.

I realize many of you have never worn a slip or a dress, but I hope you get my point. Maybe you relate better to the tiny particle of broccoli caught between your teeth or the piece of toilet paper on the bottom of your shoe. We never think about the fact that it's NOT there. But we are mortified when it is.

Where am I going with this? And how does this relate to your reputation?

Here's the deal. Most of the time, as you are developing your reputation, you are not doing it with any intention. You do not get out of bed in the morning thinking about the steps you will take that day to enhance or diminish how others see you. Yet, every action you take, every choice you make will contribute to what people see in their mind's eye when they think of you. Over time, the cumulative impact of all these decisions, behaviors, and outcomes create your persona, your reputation. And once it exists, it is tough to change. So let's figure out how to get it right.

I am using the photos above to demonstrate my transition from college student to medical student to accomplished professor/lecturer. There were many steps in this process; some were intentional, many others were not.

One example was a situation I described in one of my posts a couple of years ago when I told you about the medical student who had been so impressed by me when I was her intern during her third-year rotation on pediatrics that she became convinced that pediatrics was where she belonged. As I noted in that post, this startled me, humbled me, and made me realize that someone is always watching how we behave and work.

But that was at the beginning of my career. So many other things happened that allowed me to become known in my field. There are so many that I can't possibly remember or relate all of them to you. But I will list a few that I think are important.

1. Being able to "get things done"

In "My Best Boss," I told you about how Dr. Smith asked me to direct the clinical research activities of a brand-new vaccine development company to achieve full FDA approval for the Hib vaccine. I had no credentials at that time that would have suggested I was the right person for that job. Yet, he believed in me and my ability to do it. Why? Because I consistently did what I said I would do. If I didn't know how I would ask. I had a reputation for doing what I committed to doing.

When I was a fellow in pediatric critical care at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Hospital, I "volunteered" to write a chapter in what was then a new textbook of Pediatric Critical Care. Because of my involvement with vaccine development, I wrote the chapter on infections and immunity pertaining to critical illness in children. The chapter included a section on the newly described human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and AIDS (which I knew little about at the time—but I did my homework and summarized everything currently known about the disease). After the textbook was published, medical schools around the country started to invite me to give talks about the subjects I had covered in the chapter. I showed up when I promised, gave well-prepared presentations, and added value to those settings and people.

My reputation was growing through these events.

(As an aside, the 6th edition is about to be published. I co-wrote the chapter on Professionalism in Pediatric Critical Care, because that is what I care most about and relate to.)

2. Keeping my word

This topic is related to number 1 above. But it goes further than "getting things done." It goes to the notion of truth-telling and giving more than is expected. Throughout the early years of my career, I volunteered only for projects to which I knew I could add value. Initially, it was challenging to say "no" to friends and colleagues who wanted/needed my help. But once I realized that saying "no" was a way to preserve my integrity, it became easier.

3. It's the little things

What you do when no one is looking is important. How you treat those who have no "official" power over you can and does impact your reputation. I am not perfect. None of us is. But I do try to be sure that I treat everyone with respect. Respect for the fact of their humanness.

I am talking about how you speak to the environmental services representative who cleans the treatment room after you do a procedure, the postal worker who delivers your mail at home, the IT tech who tries, but fails, to rescue your computer, and so on. It's not easy to be respectful at the end of a difficult day or long week of repetitive challenges when the person you need doesn't meet your expectations. But, you know what? I suspect that how you do this has more impact on your reputation than all the books you may write or the artwork you may exhibit.

When my kids were small, and I was a junior faculty member running a division of pediatric critical care, for which I had no specific training, I was constantly stressed. Unfortunately, I frequently let that stress undermine my reputation. I would be cross with my husband, kids, nanny, students, or employees. Yup, I got the reputation for being a word that rhymes with witch. This is a tremendously tricky reputation to overcome. It was only because of #1 and #2 that I usually was afforded grace by the folks I likely hurt the most. You see, they trusted me, so they knew that if I was less than kind at a particular moment, I didn't intend to be that way.

4. People talk

If you live in a bubble, none of the items listed above are likely to matter much. But you don't.

We live in an open forum where those with whom we have interactions talk about us. They may not do it using words, per se, but they share their opinions of us by their responses, body language, facial expressions, and the like. The truth of who we are and how we are is just as important (and maybe more so) in our new virtual world as when we were working or playing in each others' physical space.

As a coach, I do my work entirely over Zoom. Yet, I found that my reputation in this situation developed much like my reputation as a physician and leader. It doesn't take long for new acquaintances and clients to tell me they trust me. Many also tell me that they feel entirely safe in my (virtual) presence.

I believe that once you make your reputation, you embody it, and you carry it with you. I have no studies to show you that my theory is correct. But I hope you agree that the following is true:

  • You are never too young and it's never too early to think about and develop your reputation

  • Others see everything you do and every action you take. So, everything impacts the development of your reputation.

  • There is a saying, the origin of which I do not know, but I find it is true: "Your reputation precedes you." Believe this. Know it's true.

  • Be intentional. Think before you act. Be certain that your actions reflect your true values.

  • Reflect each day on whom you may have impacted with your words or deeds. Ask yourself—Did what I did or said have the desired effect on my reputation now and into the future?

  • What kind of person do I seem to be, based on what others can observe about me?

What has come up for you while you read these words? What do you like about your reputation? Are there aspects you would like to change? How will you do that? What is the very next step you will take? Do you have a sense of how your thoughts impact your actions and how you might work to change those that do not serve you?

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.


Thanks for reading. I value your time and am honored you chose to spend the last few minutes reading this post. I hope it provided value for you. If so, I would appreciate it if you would share it with someone who might also find it of value.

I would love to hear from you. Please come find me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Or send me an email at

To add more value to your life ask yourself this question every day: What choice can I make and action can I take in this moment to create the greatest net value? Then take the free VQ (value quotient) assessment to start your journey with Axiogenics, and learn how to consistently play your "A" game.


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