I have been away from Linked In for a several months and was making some updates the past few days adding a number of connections. For those of you who have been on this network building site, invitations lead to mining which lead to more invitations and so on. My wife was using our family computer as I did this connection building on my work computer a few feet away.
She was listening to me comment on some of the names that I viewed as I scrolled down the list and became fascinated by my sorting observations. The observations are the unfiltered first reaction to a name on someone else’s inventory list which heavily influence the decision of whether to invite or not invite someone to “friend” you for lack of a better term. The reason I mention this exercise is I had just completed watching yet again one of my favorite movies “Rob Roy” starring Liam Neeson in the title role and Jessica Lange as his wife. Why is this important and what does it have to do with LInked In?
If you have never seen “Rob Roy” I would encourage you to do so. Without giving away the end, the theme of the movie is “Your honor is a gift you give to yourself.” Rob Roy’s honor is more dear to him than anything else. He would not be who he is without it. His wife, family, clan and even enemies admire him for it. I have shared this with my children as well. I tell them their name is the most important asset they have . When someone mentions your name, what do you want people to say about you? Do you want them to say “I don’t trust him” or “he is not a hard worker” or would you rather them to say “his word is gold” or “he has got your back?”
Using this context, as I sorted through the names of people on the connection list of others, recollections like these came to mind. As an Old Fart who has been in an industry and area for a long time, I know a lot of people. And, they also know me and would hopefully have more things on the good side of the ledger to say about me. I had a colleague once whose reputation was not pristine. He once commented that he had been marketing to someone for 18 years and knew them well. I made the comment to myself, “and they also knew you, as they have never hired you for any work.”
As I went down the Linked In list, by far the names I recognized provoked a favorable reaction. I haven’t thought about that person in years or where are they now? Yet, there was a handful that proves the antithesis to the Roby Roy theme is alive and well. My wife would ask about a particular sigh or “tsk.” I would comment this person is not very trustworthy (I declared some as sleazy), this person is a jerk to others, or this person is a real rectum.
These observations were usually based on concrete examples, so they were more than the result of personal interaction. One would more often than not try to game the system. One made everything more difficult than it needed to be. One went out of his way to have a very good employee fired over a minor screw-up, which is ironic since the accuser was far from perfect. One took a female colleague into a stairwell to bless her out (this one scared me when I first heard about it). One was fired for sexual harassment by two different employers by being an asshole primarily to female subordinates. Not to be gender specific, there are a few women on the list who elicit a negative reaction as well.
In my dealings with people through the years, one of my pet peeves is when someone treats a perceived subordinate of another supervisor differently than he does a perceived peer. In other words, they look down on the subordinates, suck up to the managers and treat the peers in a more appropriate way. The example of the person fired is an extreme one, but more common is the condescending tone used by these people to perceived subordinates or actual subordinates.
I recognize I have used extreme examples to prove my point, yet these are the ones I would sigh and pass on when I saw their names. On the flip side, there are many of whom I am proud they would accept my invitation to be in my network. They are the ones who provoke the Rob Roy type response. That is what we should aspire to be. People whose name provokes fond memories or respect. Atticus Finch is another name in books and movies that evokes such a response. I often say my wife is easily the best half of our family. She has commented to me about how wonderful neighborhoods have been where we once lived. I finally told her the neighborhoods were nice because you lived in them. You made them nicer and people responded to your efforts.
But, in-between these extremes are people who are accountable and responsible. They work hard and they endeavor to do the right thing. Sometimes they give in to temptation and feel badly about it. They would then fess up and take their medicine. One of the lessons I received early on was about the friar who responded appropriately to the question “what would you do if you found someone’s wallet filled with a lot of money?” The first person answered “I would turn it in to the law” while the next person said “I would keep it.” The third friar said truthfully “I would be tempted to keep it, but would pray that God would give me the strength to turn it in.”
Your name is so very important. How do you want to be remembered when it is heard? It is up to you, so please remember Rob Roy’s mantra – “Your honor is a gift you give to yourself.” None of us are perfect, but it is a goal we should each aspire to reach. If you don’t, Linked In can serve as the reminder to others you don’t want.