Many of us plow through the day without giving much thought to the impact we have on others. As we’re balancing our schedules, managing projects and responding to emails, it’s easy to get tunnel vision and lose awareness of how we engage with the people around us whose support we need. While we think we’re getting things done, we could accidentally be behaving in ways that undermine the credibility we’re seeking to build with others.
Credibility is the foundation of any effective leadership style. Without it, there is no trust in our relationships. With it, we’re able to influence others. We can purposefully build our credibility with others by demonstrating four keys to credibility:
- Understand and Meet the Standards of Others
To lead effectively we have to meet the standards of others. If we can’t do the easy things that are bright-lined in our job description, found on our employee evaluation or communicated directly to us by either a manager or a peer, it’s nearly impossible for us to be credible. Beyond the obvious like showing up on time, it’s the little things that build credibility, like meeting deadlines, being responsive, demonstrating quality in work products and being approachable.
But there are also the unspoken expectations others have that matter. These may not always be clear but are critically important. On our leadership journey, we need to be curious about discovering what these often unstated or understated standards are so that we know what we’re being measured against and what we can do to take our performance to a whole new level.
- Narrow Your Say-Do Gap
While we’re being measured by the standards others have on us, we’re also being evaluated on how well we uphold the standards we ourselves set. To be credible, we have to manage our “say-do gap,” the space between our words and actions. When the gap is small, we’re consistent. When it’s large, we’re at risk of frustrating others and damaging trust.
Many high performing leaders find this key to credibility challenging because they often find themselves in a position where they are overextended because they’ve taken on too much. We have to be cautious what we take on so we don’t find ourselves in a position where we’re overcommitting and under delivering.
- Communicate Your Intent and Expectations
As more organizations use matrices to manage their teams, many professionals find themselves reporting to multiple bosses, serving on several teams and using the terms “straight line,” “dotted line” or “indirect report” when referring to their work ecosystem. Success is no longer singular — we have to work with and through others to achieve success, which means that our reputation is often tied up in how well our team performs.
To lead a credible team, we have to bring clarity, focus and direction to them. Communicate the “what” not the “how.” This allows people to act independently and take initiative. High performance is possible and a positive reputation is earned only when success has been defined and expectations have been conveyed.
- Maintain Accountability
If we’re able to meet the above-mentioned keys to credibility, then this last key is critical. To be credible, we have to make standards matter. When others can’t live up to the expectations of the team or organization, we have to have the tough conversations where mistakes, missteps and poor performance are discussed.
Accountability often takes on a negative tone when in reality it’s a positive thing. The best leaders earn their credibility by having teams where people feel comfortable talking about what went wrong and how they can apply lessons learned. Accountability also brings a sense of fairness in the workplace. When standards matter and all are held accountable to them, people feel free to focus on results not on inconsistencies that exist within an organization. They don’t ask, “Why should I do this when no one else seems to be doing it?”
Credibility is earned in moments. As leaders, we need to ensure we’re taking the time to assess how well we’re building trust with others. Building credibility isn’t a mystery. It also isn’t easy. It takes intention and action but can be achieved with the right mindset and focus.
Angie Morgan is co-author of “Spark: How to Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success” and co-founder of Lead Star, a leadership consulting firm. She can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.
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