I've spent 50 years building my reputation (yep, it started at birth). My reputation is my most valued asset, something I take great care to develop and nurture and I would never do anything to jeopardize it. It helps me make a living, it lets me work with amazing people, travel to incredible places and make a difference to the lives of many other people.

We live in a world where it has never been easier to ruin a reputation, mainly due to social media and the speed at which news travels. We all need to take care to develop and protect our reputation and make it rock solid.

Having been a lifelong student of this concept, I think there are seven key codes to follow when it comes to ensuring that your reputation will withstand pretty much anything.

1. Get serious about being empathetic.

We often hear people talking about the need to be empathetic and to put ourselves in the shoes of others, but talk is easy, actually doing it is much harder. I think empathy is a skill that can be developed. It does however take an effort to retrain our impulse to jump to conclusions and make every situation about us not them. Personally I have found that my life changed in every single way when I fully embraced empathy and being known for being empathetic in business has certainly enhanced my personal reputation.

2. Make conscious decisions about every interaction.

Many people go through life taking a very passive approach to their interactions with others. My philosophy is to try and make every interaction during my day count, regardless of whom that interaction is with. People notice this and in a lot of instances, the impact is dramatic and sometimes even life changing.

3. Step up to life in a changing world.

We all understand that the world is changing at an incredible rate, but not everyone is happy about it. Are you one of those people excited about this or are you a doomsayer? People get sick and tired of hearing from the doomsayers and if you are one of them, complaining all the time, being negative about your industry, your city, your world, your reputation will definitely be damaged.

4. Help people especially when you haven't got the time.

Actions speak louder than words and acts of kindness are incredibly powerful, especially when done by exceptionally busy people. We should never be too busy to do an act of kindness--they should simply be a part of our life and we should be kind because that is the right thing to do, not because it enhances our reputation--that's just a nice bonus.

5. Grow an extraordinary network.

The key word here is "grow". A lot of people have a "what can I get" out of this network attitude, as opposed to "what can I contribute" attitude. Growing a network means investing time and energy into, supporting those in your network, looking for ways to help others and protecting them. Grow a great network and you will have a ready-made fan club that will protect you and your reputation at every opportunity.

6. Be brave enough to be authentic.

What does it mean to be authentic? For me it means showing people you are human, you make mistakes, you are vulnerable, you try to do your best and that sometimes you get it right, sometimes you don't. Today we admire and respect people who are brave enough to show their authenticity--and we intuitively know when people are not. Open up, share the true "you" and see what happens.

7. Give people reason to trust you.

We expect people to trust us, but in reality we have to earn trust. People are cynical and rightly so, trust is built over many years and you can't have a bulletproof reputation without being trusted. So how to do become trusted? Firstly never give people a reason not to trust you. Hold yourself accountable before anyone else is even in on the picture. Do the right thing, always. And if you say you are going to do something, do it.

Published on: Oct 6, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.