Recent scandals have drawn attention to the importance of the credibility of business leaders. Right or wrong, the actions of a few have increased cynicism among employees and customers that threaten managers’ credibility. Fortunately, leaders can learn skills to manage their own credibility and by doing so, enhance the credibility of their workgroup and organization. By improving their personal credibility, leaders can increase the value of their work and of their companies and reduce the costs of damaged credibility.
Credibility is like currency; a leader has a kind of “credibility account,” from which he or she draws as they take action. The more credibility the leader has earned, the more he or she can spend when there are controversial decisions, or when circumstances are outside their control. Leaders can build their credibility accounts by considering the following four factors:
- Consistency: Doing what you say you will do; being open; providing accurate information; being honest; admitting errors.
- Competence: Exchanging information; being a relentless learner.
- Concern: Genuinely demonstrating sensitivity to the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of others; listening; showing empathy; taking the time to check in to see how things are going.
- Commitment: Persevering despite obstacles; reaffirming beliefs and values, particularly during times of change.
As with currency, a manager’s credibility may ebb and flow, often because of circumstances beyond his or her control. During these ups and downs, it becomes critical to draw on different accounts.
For instance, when a manager realized that a computer mishap prevented the timely transfer of documents, (reducing her consistency account) she immediately called the customer to explain the situation to the best of her knowledge (to improve consistency). She empathized with the customer’s frustration (showing concern) and met with a technology manager to find out what happened and what could be done to prevent further errors (developing competence).
Stay tuned next week for the do’s & don’ts of building credibility.
Special thanks for this content goes out to my friend and mentor Lisa Philip of Transitions Group North America
Dr Douglas T Hanson