5 Essential Lessons on Reputation from Adele’s Grammy Performance

adelenewAdele, widely known for her flawless voice, hit an unexpected bump at this week’s Grammy Awards. As she sang “All I Ask” even the untrained heard that she was a little flat or ‘off’ compared to her standards. Her exasperated face at the end of her performance said it all.

Something had gone wrong.

Yet, the immediate social media response was that the sound engineer messed up. A technical glitch had derailed her performance.

After all, it was Adele. It couldn’t be her.

Because of her reputation, the audience looked past her less than perfect performance. Everyone knew that she was better than that one night.

Don’t we all dream of having a reputation that overlooks that one-time failure or disappointment? And, a pass for when we don’t fulfill expectations – especially our own? Growing a trusted relationship and reputation like this happens with intent one day at a time.

Today I met with a senior leader intent on building stronger relationships and trust with his new internal clients. He concluded that if he relies on an occasional “performance” in big meetings here and there, these interactions will take on extraordinary importance. Too much so. He created a plan to interact with them more often on important issues and develop a reputation with substance.

Reputation Building Strategies:

These strategies have worked for Adele and are relevant to us too.

Lead with your talent.

When is the last time you did something for yourself to grow your talent and capability? If you had to pause and think, then this is too low on your priority list.

Your talent and your time are your two greatest assets. Your talent is unique to you. Develop it, train it, and keep this talent fresh and current. Talent and knowledge create the foundation for others to trust your ideas and recommendations.

 Allow yourself time to do great work.

Speed is the name of the game in today’s workplace. Faster is assumed to always be better. Yet, know when fast will address immediate gratification, but undermine the longer cause. When top quality is essential, make sure there is time to accomplish that goal.

The music business is fickle and daily visibility is the goal of many artists. Adele ran counter to this conventional wisdom. In fact, in a recent article she shared that she wanted her fans to miss her a little. After almost five years, she returned with ‘25’ and her best work yet.

 Be relatable and real.

If you have seen Adele singing car karaoke with James Corden you know that being real and relatable comes naturally for her.

Being relatable doesn’t mean being something you aren’t but rather, letting others see who you really are. This transparency displays confidence and is an essential element in building trust.

In a recent Time Magazine article, Adele shared, “I don’t like that word,” she says of “brand.” “It makes me sound like a fabric softener, or a packet of crisps. I’m not that. But there’s personality in an artist, and if you’re expecting people to let you in and give themselves to you, you have to be a whole package … And, I don’t care if you make an amazing album – if I don’t like you, I ain’t getting your record. I don’t want you being played in my house if I think you’re a (jerk).”

 Keep it about the work (no drama).

Be known for your work. This focus on excellent results gives you the benefit of the doubt when things do go wrong – and they will. In business, you will have to make sure others know of your work by getting them involved, but this doesn’t equate to self-promotion.

Adele appeals to a very wide audience. While many Adele fans are also consumers of popular and current music, Adele has gone her own way. Her music is more timeless and classic, yet current too. She has defied much of the conventional wisdom of how you have a successful music career today by keeping her focus on the music – the work, the craft.

 Small actions snowball into a bigger reputation.

When enough results and great work are in your “bank account”, you can rely upon it when you need it.

A few years ago, I had privately been out several days while my mom was battling cancer. The day I returned to the office I had to lead a very important meeting. I would have typically spent days preparing for and ensuring that every potential issue had been anticipated. I arrived early at the empty meeting room feeling very uneasy. My face must have given me away. A colleague of mine stopped by and said, “This group trusts you and respects you. Your best today will be good enough.” And, it was. While not everything was perfect or just as I had envisioned, I knew that this wasn’t a one-time performance. I had built a longer term reputation I could rely upon.

None of us will ever have the admiration and adoration that Adele has today; however, she does offer us lessons on building that rock solid reputation.

Because one day there will be a bump – and it will be ok.

Patti Johnson is the CEO of PeopleResults. You can follow her on @pattibjohnson.

Patti Johnson