Everyday we're reading about another powerful figure imploding on his own egregious misdeeds.

Once your reputation is ruined, it's very hard to get it back. Reputations take years to build, but can crash in a second. You must covet your reputation and protect it - it's as important as, say, your credit score. People will hire you based on your reputation; give you money to fund a startup based on your reputation; connect you to others based on your reputation. As Warren Buffett once said - and I'm paraphrasing - never do anything that you wouldn't want to see on the front pages of the newspaper the next day.

But you don't have to do something drastic to ruin your reputation. Sometimes, small things you do can ding you; commit enough of them and you'll start to see an impact. Here are three things many of us do that may be ruining your reputation. Don't kick yourself if you've committed these "crimes" - I have too. Just be aware and minimize them:

1. Not Following Up. How many times has someone told you they'd call you back or connect you to so-and-so or follow up with an email and they never do? People tend to be understanding about this - hey, we're all super busy - but do enough of that to a mass of people and you build a reputation as someone who is unreliable. Pretty soon, that will become the way people describe you. Every time you make that promise, stick to it and follow up. It never failed that the most successful people I met would always do exactly as they said they would - send me the book they mentioned, follow up with a call, set up a meeting. It didn't mean those things happened right away - what mattered is those things were done.

2. Being a hypocrite. Be very careful with this. Oftentimes we tend to criticize behaviors that we end up committing ourselves. For instance, Suzy in the office hates when people gossip and yet, she's gossiping all the time. Or Matt calls out people who don't meet deadlines and then fails to meet his own. The moment you critique something, you've set yourself up to adhere to a higher standard. Not being able to "walk the talk" will brand you as a hypocrite and make people trust you less.

3. Talking too much. Live by one rule of thumb: Listen more than you talk. Let's face it, most people don't really want to hear you speak, unless it's about themselves or it's about dirt on someone else. We're all wired to focus on ourselves. If you talk too much, people tune you out. You are seen as too self-involved, tone-deaf, selfish. Every time you find yourself holding court and rambling on, stop for a minute and ask the other person, "What do you think?" Refrain from being the one who always has something to say. The more you listen, the more people will pay attention to you.

Published on: Nov 8, 2017
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