Credibility is the quality of being trusted, where people believe in you. If you lose your credibility at work, you are no longer able to influence people. And if you can't influence other people, you are really going to struggle in the role. So why should you take something as important as your credibility for granted?
You should think about your credibility at work, much like you do your car. You don't take your car's credibility for granted, especially given the consequences that arise when it breaks down. You take your car in for regular warrant of fitness checks to prevent any breakdowns and to get peace of mind, especially on those long stretches of road that cause you some angst.
The metaphor holds. A large part of your livelihood is based on your ability to perform well at work. When you lose your credibility at work, it's hard to get it back. That's why a regular WOF on your credibility will give you a chance to proactively address some things - before they grow into major problems that could stall your career.
Here are five things to check for in your credibility WOF:
1. Are you at the top of your game? Or at least 'near the top' would be a good aspiration. The risk associated with success is that we often begin to take 'what we know' for granted. Like on a rusty saw, the blades will grow dull. What have you done in the past year to sharpen the blades on your saw?
Are you across what best practice looks like in your field? Do people see you as having particular expertise? When you give a business case, do people really believe that you can deliver? If you can't back up your talk, your credibility is shot.
If you're not on a learning curve, get on one soon. It will show others that you're open to stretching yourself, which only enhances your credibility when you ask them to do the same.
2. Are you reliable and consistent? Trust is a major component of credibility. When people trust you, they're willing to put themselves in your hands. That means that they incur some risk when they do that. People will trust you more if you are reliable and consistent in what you deliver, as well as in how you deliver it. You lose your credibility if you promise one thing, and then deliver something else.
That's also the case if you're often late, or if the quality of your work is inconsistent. Reliability even applies to your personality. If people can't depend on you, or find you to be inconsistent, they will start to work around you in order to get the job done.
Are your standards high enough around the quality of your work? Do you ask for feedback in order to calibrate with others who rely on your support? People see you as credible if you show high regard for the standards and quality of your work.
3. Do you have both feet in? It's hard for people to believe that you care, or that you can relate to their experience, if they believe that you don't live in their world. Or, in some cases, it's that they don't believe that you have fully committed to them.
Since a major part of your credibility is about how believable you are in the eyes of others, it helps immensely if you're fully vested in what the team has decided to do. If you agree to support a decision, but others then see you as working to sabotage it behind the scenes, it goes right to the very core of your integrity. People don't rate you highly if they perceive that you are using them to advance your own agenda, sometimes at the expense of what the team needs to succeed.
High potential managers who are moved through roles quickly, often being groomed as future executives, will suffer credibility gaps if the team is not convinced that they will be around long enough to invest some skin in the game.
If the team thinks that you're just passing through, or that you've unplugged, your credibility will suffer.
4. Do people really know you? At the heart of trust is a relationship. Sometimes you may get so wrapped up in a cause, or completely absorbed in a particular project, to the point where all you ever seem to talk about is work...or the project....or tasks.
When you stop connecting with others as a 'whole' person who has a life and interests outside work, people will struggle to find that human element to plug into with you. Is it all business, or can you talk and laugh about things more broadly? There is such a thing as TMI [too much information], but sometimes you can go to the other extreme, where you give people very little to connect with.
People see you as more credible - believable - if they can relate to you, or believe that you can relate to them. It helps if you give them something to connect with. Have you spent enough time in the past year investing in key relationships?
When it comes to your credibility, you can't afford to be a stranger.
5. Do you truly back yourself? Confidence is contagious, as is evident when a team is working its way through a rough patch and then, the strength in someone's voice gets everybody recharged and refocused on the prize.
If you have doubts about what you're selling the team, they will see it in your eyes and hear it in your voice. Confidence is the energy you project when you're asking someone to follow your lead, take your advice, or to just listen. Think of that energy as a blend of head and heart. You're more confident if you can explain something well. And if people sense that you have a visceral connection to what you're asking them to buy into, that actually helps them feel more confident.
We see confident people as more credible, largely because they instil a sense of optimism and a 'can do' attitude, even in the face of adversity.
When it comes to your credibility, you can't afford to come across as wishy-washy. You've got to back yourself if you want others to do the same.
Will you pass your credibility WOF?
Ask three people who know you reasonably well at work, and who will be honest with you, to sit down over a coffee - together or individually - and answer the five questions.
You want a positive tick next to each question, which is a passing grade. If you discover that you have some work to do on any, or all, of the five, pull over along the side of the road and get your tools out.
In the case of your credibility, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You can avoid a lot of breakdowns along your career path if you treat your credibility like you treat your car. Not a rental car...but rather your own. You know the difference.
Harold Hillman is an executive coach and author. He has a Master's degree in Education from Harvard University and a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Pittsburgh. Previous roles include corporate vice president and chief learning officer at Prudential Financial in New York.
Hillman came to New Zealand in 2003 to join Fonterra and is now the managing director of Sigmoid Curve Consulting Group, where he coaches business leaders and executive teams. His first book, The Impostor Syndrome, was published in 2013. Hillman's second book, Fitting In, Standing Out, will be published in August 2015.