In our last post, we introduced our five-step model for influencing. This edition is going to focus on step number 1, credibility.
Effective influencing is about affecting change in a positive way that preserves and enhances your relationships with others. It’s no accident that credibility is the first step in the model. If you can imagine someone trying to influence your thoughts, behaviours and actions that you did not see as being credible. Their ability to exert that influence is greatly diminished. The same is true of your ability to influence others. Your credibility is a critical part of your license to influence.
We define credibility as the measure of trust that others place in you. Credibility is a precious and volatile commodity. Being an expert in your field provides you with a certain degree of credibility but it goes far beyond that. Credibility must be earned and continuously re-earned. It requires steadfast consistency between your actions and your words and it demands that you deliver on your promises and commitments, always.
How do we create the level of consistency required to maintain credibility and enhance our influencing skills?
The first step is to be clear about your values. Values are the lens through which we see the world. They shape our experiences and drive our behaviour. They are the foundation upon which we make decisions in our work and in our lives. Being crystal clear about what values are important to us enables us to act consistently over time. Time spent clarifying your values will pay dividends as you progress in your journey of continuing to enhance your credibility.
The next piece is to hone the practice of making meaningful commitments and delivering upon them. People appreciate when you make commitments that are important to them. Your credibility, in their eyes, is greatly enhanced when you deliver on those commitments. Sometimes this means renegotiating your commitments but to do this with the genuine agreement of the other party can have the effect of further enhancing your credibility.
Great leaders strive to always do the right things for the right reasons. They make hard choices which, when made for the right reasons, enhance their credibility in the eyes of others. There are many examples of this with political leaders and heads of state. I won’t dwell on anyone in particular but would encourage you to reflect on some of the tough decisions we’ve seen made in our lifetime and consider the impact that has had on your chosen leader’s credibility.
Always being professional in your actions is integral to building and enhancing your credibility. I can think of several examples over the course of my career where individuals have acted in an unprofessional manner (perhaps at a company function!). Their credibility is greatly diminished in my eyes as a result of this behaviour.
Clear communication is another means by which we build credibility. Bring to mind your favourite news anchor. Now imagine that they do not properly annunciate their words and can’t form complete sentences. How does this affect their credibility as they deliver important messages?
Finally, and perhaps most apparent, is your ability to demonstrate expertise. As previously mentioned, this is a key part of establishing and maintaining credibility but, on its own, is not enough. A word of caution on demonstrating expertise: always be careful not to overstate your expertise as this can tend to have huge unintended consequences and can significantly erode credibility.