Paving the Path to Credibility

TrustTrust and credibility are irrevocably linked. Think of someone you find trustworthy. Isn’t your trust based on this person’s credibility? Conversely, think of someone you believe lacks credibility.  Do you trust this person?

Relationships are built on trust. (And, remember, it is all about relationships! What may we do to build the credibility needed to establish trust?  I answer this question by offering up the three Ps: Preparation, Presence, and Participation.

Preparation

The words “I am going to wing it” send shivers down my spine.  Preparation is vital to demonstrating credibility.

During Meetings

A meeting without an agenda is not a meeting. It is a waste of time.

An agenda, distributed to all participants before the meeting, is critical. The agenda represents your playbook. The agenda is your “call for preparation.”  Once you have this framework, you can then prepare.  What information can I add?  What questions do I want to ask?  What materials do I need to bring with me to the meeting?  Do I need to talk to colleagues to gain more information before I attend this meeting?

In Presentations

If you are giving a speech, think through the outline, draft your key points, and practice saying the words out loud.  Each and every time you give a presentation, you must be present in the moment – aware of your intentions and the impact your words will make. With this mindfulness, you are able to react in a manner that further communicates the content.

Avoid the “I have done this a million times” trap.  That trap lulls you into a false sense of security. This complacency is often accompanied by rambling, hmmmms and pacing.  Distractions always intrude upon the message.

In addition to knowing what you are going to say, anticipate what you will be asked.  A prepared, credible speaker is one who is not flustered by unexpected questions. As a benchmark, research conducted by the Center for Risk Communication states that 95% of the questions that will be asked about a subject can be anticipated.  That means, that the speaker is able to identify answers to 95% of the questions before they are even received.  This same level of preparation, regardless of the topic, prevents the post-mortem disappointment of “oh I wish I would have said …”.

Throughout Your Workday

Planning your day is akin to preparation. Taking the day as it comes says, “I’m going to wing it.”

Hyrum Smith, co-founder of FranklinCovey, is well known for his time management work.  Both he and Dr. Stephen R. Covey crafted a system that encourages users to plan their day and week based on their priorities.

You may choose to use the FranklinCovey system or another system.  The important message is: use a system! Spend time before the workday to organize and prepare.  What projects must you complete?  What are your task priorities?  What meetings are critical to accomplishing your goals?  How will I ensure my work/life balance, including time for self? Answers to those questions serve to prepare you for the job to be done.

Presence

It’s not just the words you say, it is how you say them and the way you say them.  Presence is key.

Body Language

Reviewing Amy Cuddy’s research and TEDTalk about body language is a must for anyone who spends time with others. (That means all of us.) When you stand in a room, sit at a desk, or talk with a colleague, be aware of your self.  What is your body saying?  Does it support your words or betray your words?  Face your fears and insecurities and act as if you belong.

Credibility is diminished by those who are not aware of their body’s messages:  for example, the inattention from those who play with their hair, the lack of self confidence from those who look down or up when talking with someone, the nervousness of those who fidget with their jewelry or the wandering mind of those who click their pen constantly (my pet peeve).

Your Words and Inflection

Listen to yourself talk out loud. Do you declare, or do you question? Do you use a voice that can be heard by all, or do you whisper?  Make yourself heard.  Be clear. Be concise.  And, pronounce your words correctly!

Control the emotion. The hardest thing to do at times is to harness your passion.  But, harness you must.  Emotion distorts your message.  Instead, exhibit your passion in a concise, clear manner.  (You prepared for this by following the first P above.)

“Emotional leakage refers to emotional information that we pass on to others through our body language. This information might be conveyed unintentionally, through a threatening gaze, a haughty stare, or a cold or aloof manner. These micro-expressions may be fleeting, but audiences are able to detect them. Guard against emotional leakage.”

Bruna Martinuzzi, Presenting with Credibility

A Seat at the Table

We have all been in situations where the unspoken rules of seating arrangements exist.  “You can’t sit there because (fill in blank with name) always sits there.”

My advice – be bold and take that seat – or take any seat – at the table.  Reserved seats should be indicated by signage.  If there is no sign, it is open seating.

Now, for many, this is a risky move. You may think, but what if someone gets mad?  So what? A seat is a seat is a seat. A change in scenery notepad on a tableis good for the mind and great for collaboration

And, whatever you do, if there is a seat at the table. Take it.  Don’t relegate yourself to a corner or against the wall.  A caution: if there is not a seat at the table, don’t insert yourself by pulling up a chair and squeezing in, unless you are the only person not at the table.

In some organizations, a seat at the table seems to be tied to gender.  Let’s counter that by being gender-neutral.  If you have been invited to a gathering to share your expertise, then take the seat that allows you to exhibit your credibility.

Participation

Those who sit on the sidelines are only as credible as the players they support.  If you want to forge your own credibility, you must “lean in” as Sheryl Sandberg states.

Step Up

Credibility is gained by “offering” instead of “receiving”.  Step up.  Volunteer ideas, resources, and your services. Don’t wait to be asked. (For you won’t be asked. Those who have volunteered are already doing what you want to do.)

One becomes a trusted colleague when he/she thinks beyond the moment and beyond the task.  In all of your work, ponder the purpose behind each job or task. Continually think about ways you can add value or improve the process.  One of my favorite phrases – “participate in making it happen.” The credibility gained from that participation leads to trusting relationships.

Respect – Don’t Defer

We were all raised to respect authority. But sometimes we get caught up in the shining lights of a “title”.  You may think to yourself, “I can’t disagree with this person – that’s the CEO.” Or, you may find yourself sitting in a meeting nodding yes, thinking no, and leaving grumbling.

If this is you – stop it.  Always remember, you were not hired to be a “yes person.” (If you were – run, run, run from that job!)  You were hired for your skills, knowledge, talents, attributes, etc.  So use them!

Deferring to a superior does not gain you credibility. Instead, it makes you a puppet. Your role in an organization is to be your own person and to have your own thoughts and ideas. Do that. Don’t be afraid to speak up in any room.

The secret to speaking up and even countering the ongoing dialogue is in respect.   Be respectful as you speak – in your tone, in your words, in your mannerisms. Always remember that you have the right to a differing opinion.  Let the light shine on a divergent way of thinking.  That idea/thought just might turn into the next star.

Collaborate

Organizations are communal. As you know, communal living takes collaboration.

Credibility is given to those who know how to operate within a team.  Credible people eschew egos for the greater good.  Credible people offer themselves and their resources.  Credible people find power in the “we”.

Contributions by all, as opposed to one or two, drive collaboration.  Trust is awarded when one is found to be dependable, transparent, and open to other’s ideas. So much more can be gained through synergy than through isolation.

tree-lined route cropped

 

The pathway to credibility is lined with preparation, presence, and participation.  This is an easy route to follow.  It just takes self-awareness and a desire to exist for a purpose beyond one’s own ego. Go ahead – take the journey!

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