“A reputation once broken may possibly be repaired, but the world will always keep their eyes on the spot where the crack was.” — Joseph Hall

With last year behind you, you’re more than likely exploring areas in your life that can be improved. One area my clients often want to work on is making a great first impression —and it starts with an analysis of your reputation.

That’s because your reputation precedes you. When people hear your name, what three words do you want to immediately come to mind? If you’re like most leaders, you will want words such as “reliable,” “authoritative,” and “decisive” to be part of your personal brand. We all desire to have our reputation held in high esteem. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case because people tend to focus on and share the negative.

Don’t allow the challenges, obstacles, and setbacks in life to appear as “cracks” to your personal brand because, over time, they can jeopardize your success. Although you can’t prevent people from describing you in ways that are less than favorable, you can take proactive steps to improve your reputation.

Consider these 4 easy strategies:

1.  Write your vision and make it plain. In the words of the late Stephen Covey, “Live your life with the end in mind.” Consider your dreams and what you feel passionate about. Put your vision on paper and fill in the needed resources.

2.  Decide how you want to be perceived. Choose three to five adjectives you want others to visualize when your name is mentioned. Be completely honest with yourself. To authentically communicate your brand, start with a revamp of your wardrobe so your clothes reinforce your message. For instance, if you want to be known as someone who is innovative, consider wearing shades of green.

3.  Invite feedback. Be open to constructive criticism. Learn how others really feel about you and your leadership style and performance. Listen with an open mind. Personally, the 360 Degree Feedback is a valuable tool which I make available to my clients because it provides that level of transparency. Doing so may reveal issues that are hindering your progress. Remember, honest feedback is critical to the strength of your brand. In addition, when you publicly state your goals and assign deadlines for tasks to be completed, you are inviting feedback and support. Therefore, refuse to allow anything to stand in the way of your success, including yourself. Also, consider your online reputation. Now, more than ever, search engines such as Google are an incredibly important part of your reputation. Free tools such as BrandYourself will provide you with a reputation score and suggest ways to improve it.

4.  Create an organized plan. To help you accomplish your New Year’s resolutions, keep your reputation on track, and build a personal brand destined for complete leadership, devise a plan that includes clear action steps.  Last week, I used SMART goal format in working with a client to accomplish his top 4 personal branding goals for his start-up business.

Remember, you only have one chance to make a great first impression!  How you are remembered matters. Take control of protecting your reputation. As a complete leader, learn ways to strengthen your leadership presence. To be remarkable: stand out! Be remarkable! Get results!