Your Power Reputation: what really makes you irreplaceable at work
I don’t play computer games much anymore, though I have a Nintendo Switch and Mario Kart on my Christmas list. But when I did there was a game on the Gameboy Advance that I must have ploughed hundreds of hours into. It was called Advance Wars – a turn-based strategy game in which the player took on the role of a general leading an army against increasingly powerful enemies.
The standard tropes were all in place; you would have different weapons and types of soldier who would have different abilities such as faster movement, longer range shots, advantages against various types of enemy, and so on. But the part that I loved most was that you could choose different characters to play as, the general of the army, and each of them would bring a special ability that would alter the way you played. One might allow soldiers to recover faster from injury, another might make them more powerful in attack, and so on. But along with that special ability would come some corresponding weakness; troops that recovered faster might need more food, troops more powerful in attack might be less good at defence.
If all of this is sounding unbearably geeky then rest assured I’m getting to my point. You see, these days, when I think about that game I remember that the special powers each general brought to battle have a direct analogue in real life. Like these computer game characters, every leader brings a special power into battle with them, a power that alters the performances of everyone around them and changes how their opponents behave; their reputation.
We talk about having a good or a bad reputation but this is a nonsense that verges on uselessness. Good and bad are relative concepts, they depend on what exactly you want. For example, we might think that having a reputation for hard work is “good” but this comes along with some downsides. Hard workers are great but they are also fastidious, often inflexible when they have a mission to complete. Also, we associate, fairly or otherwise, the idea of hard work with seriousness and a lack of flare. You may well have cultivated a reputation for hard work but don’t expect that to get you invited to many parties – unless they want you to do the decorations.[clickToTweet tweet=”We talk about having a good or a bad reputation but this is a nonsense that verges on uselessness” quote=”We talk about having a good or a bad reputation but this is a nonsense that verges on uselessness” theme=”style6″]
On the other hand, we might think of having a reputation of being sneaky as being a “bad” thing. But that would be short-sighted; after all, what if someone is looking for help to achieve something that will require slight of hand, craftiness, or a little misdirection? If I needed to find out some information, maybe to help me in bidding for work, I would be very interested in someone who had a reputation for being sneaky.
The truth is that thinking of reputations as good or bad helps nobody. Instead, like our computer game generals, we have to think of what exactly our true reputation means, how it makes us strong and how it makes us weak. Figure this out and you’re on your way to using your reputation as a superpower.
So where do we begin? There are three Golden Rules for building and using your Power Reputation:
- Your Power Reputation must be authentic; it doesn’t matter what you wish people thought about you. What matters is what is true about you. Build your Power Reputation on a falsehood and you’re already on the path to failure. But find an authentic insight into who you really are and you’re on your way to success. Power comes from truth.
- Your Power Reputation must be something extreme; we’re talking here about the most, the best, the biggest. There’s no point building a reputation on being a jack of all trades. Mediocrity is cheap. Better to be extraordinary at something narrow than OK at something broad. In other words, what matters most isn’t how many people need you, but how badly each one does. Make the edges clear. Own your limitations.
- Know how your Power Reputation makes you strong, and how it makes you weak; Rihanna has a Power Reputation – she’s sexy and dangerous. This makes her strong in some ways and weak in others. She could launch a range of kinky underwear (she may already have one for all I know) but her reputation would make her vulnerable if she wanted to open a daycare centre. She plays to her Power Reputation so she gets the upside and avoids the downside. All reputations have upsides and downsides. Know yours.
I’ll use me as an example here.
I have spent a lot of my life wishing that I was a more conscientious, harder working person. The world needs a lot of those people and we are strongly encouraged to see hard work and conscientiousness as unqualified virtues. But that’s not how I’m wired. I don’t find ticking off boxes on a long list of completed tasks to be particularly satisfying. I know people who do and they are wonderful people, but I’m not that guy.
Before I understood the truth of Power Reputations I saw this as a flaw. Now I see it as a feature. Because I’m not like those guys. I’m me. So what is “me”?
A good place to begin here is to think about the jokes your mates make about you. Often the stuff that you get mildly teased about is a clue to something deeper. One thing that my friends all know about me is that I love to improvise and enjoy connecting things that other people don’t see as related. I recall once my friend Daisy randomly choosing topics for me and seeing if I could work them together in some off-the-cuff rant. And I love to argue for sport. These are all true of me. Taken together they constitute something not only true of me but something extreme. This is my outlying trait. This is the data point that sits outside the trend of my personal graph.
So how could I package that? Well, since I work as a Creativity Performance Coach maybe you’ve already guessed. The reputation I wish to broadcast to the world is that I’m the guy who will surprise you. I will always think of something different, find a new angle, make a new connection.
This is a Power Reputation with a number of upsides; someone like this would be useful in almost any team. This person would get you out of a scrape, be a wild card to keep your enemies on their toes. But, as I said, there are also downsides. Invention and innovation come with risks. This Power Reputation comes with some danger attached. A wildcard can also be a loose cannon. And just like the hard workers are seen as lacking flare, flare players are often seen as lacking hard work. You wouldn’t necessarily want someone with this reputation as your Chief Operating Officer or managing a large, slow moving project.[clickToTweet tweet=”Without a unique selling point, you’re just a commodity to be swapped out at any time” quote=”Without a unique selling point, you’re just a commodity to be swapped out at any time” theme=”style6″]
Obviously, a reputation is only a reputation when other people think it. I know what I want people to think about me. The next part is making them think it. But that’s another discussion. Now, let’s think about you.
Do you know what makes you uniquely powerful? Remember that the word “genius” means true to yourself, genuine. What is your genius? Steps to finding it:
- Believe that you have something
- Stop judging everything about yourself as good or bad
- Follow your feelings – your Power Reputation wants to be found
This may take a few goes to get right but once you have it your can start to develop it. Maybe you will out-work anyone. Maybe you can handle pain and hardship better than others. Maybe you’re stubborn. Maybe you’re super calm under pressure. Maybe you’re passionate and moved quickly to action. Maybe you’re curious. Maybe you’re caring. Maybe you’re easily bored! All of these things can be developed. All of them make you powerful under the right conditions.
We talk a lot about networking but very rarely do we think about the element of reputation properly. When building social capital you need to know what you bring to the table. Without a unique selling point, you’re just a commodity to be swapped out at any time. Your Power Reputation is what makes you stand out. It makes you irreplaceable. Develop it. Commit to it. Don’t chase the easy wins at the expense of your truth.
Aran is currently developing a workshop that will help you explore this stuff.
It’s sure to be a beauty.
If you fancy getting involved, drop him a line at