Personal credibility (PC) is hot. Even if the words aren't used, the concept is constantly making headlines. Next time you watch or listen to a news broadcast, pay attention to how many of the topics center on one key theme: how some person or some organization has lost credibility with the public.
Every day we hear about executives who misuse power and money, investment professionals who lie and scam their clients, or government leaders who promise one thing and then deliver just the opposite. Surely these people should not be the only ones measured by their credibility; what about you and your organization - what is your PC factor?
A silver bullet for success
PC is what we do - and how we do it - that causes people to trust, respect, and believe in us. Our daily actions and interactions with others, no matter how small or large, comprise our PC factor.
Simply put, if you have no credibility, people won't trust you. If people do not trust you, you won't persuade them. And if you can't persuade, you will never be able to problem solve, innovate, or lead. In an ideas economy, you will become increasingly irrelevant.
Constant media coverage has made customers and clients much more cynical. A slick marketing campaign claiming product or service excellence is no longer sufficient to gain a customer's trust.
The same mindset affects how others (such as your boss, internal clients, or peers) perceive you. It is not about being slick; it is about being believable, trustworthy, and credible, and building others' confidence that you will do the right thing.
The ABCs of PC
PC skills can be taught and learned. However, just telling people to behave with credibility won't get anyone very far. Here are a few tips for creating a systematic approach to infuse PC into your organization's culture.
1| Use PC as hiring criteria. Focus on honesty and accuracy during the hiring process, and filter everything a candidate shares with you through a "credibility screen." Interviews should include very specific questions that require the candidate to highlight her credibility.
Ask the applicant to give an example of a time when she made a commitment to a customer to finish something by a certain deadline, but then realized she couldn't keep it. What were the circumstances, and how did she handle it? Or, ask a candidate to share a time when his boss instructed him to "fudge a little" on a report that was sent to higher management. How did he respond, and how did it work out?
2| Spell it out. PC is an abstract concept that can have many different meanings to different people. Therefore, when it comes to your PC initiative, you need to define exactly what it means within your organization. Examples of undesired behavior, or classic PC "busters," include
- constantly showing up late
- breaking appointments (or frequently rescheduling them) failing to do what you say you will do
- being messy or disorganized
- bringing too much of your personal life into your work day
- making decisions while keeping others in the dark
- telling little white lies that morph into big hairy lies
- trying to do everything, but ending up doing the job poorly
- putting others down to pull yourself up
- making too many excuses - even if they're legitimate.
3| Measure, evaluate, and reward for PC in performance management processes. Leaders should receive formal feedback from subordinates and customers about their ability to demonstrate PC behaviors. In turn, that feedback should impact which leaders are considered for future promotions, pay increases, and other opportunities.
4| Make it stick. Personal credibility won't become a priority within your organization unless you make it one. For your PC movement to be successful, you'll need to teach these qualities, and never stop talking about them. Hold small group discussions in which employees discuss how PC can be developed within your culture.
Managing your PC factor
During my 30 years in this profession, I have learned that without credibility, we can't accomplish much. Here are a few steps you can take to ensure that you are a PC role model at your organization.
1| Know your business inside and out. Regularly "try on" the jobs of a variety of employees. Attend different departments' staff meetings. Being there will help you truly understand employee needs.
Also, continually self-assess your knowledge of the organization. When you feel yourself lagging, re-energize your interest in what you do by finding different ways to demonstrate your knowledge and skills.
2| Find a mentor. Locate at least one or two "business" mentors outside the learning profession. Tap into their knowledge and get their help. You will form amazing relationships and boost the value you bring to your organization.
3| Track and measure results. Keep a close eye on all of your PC training and development activities. Explain to your leaders how these activities are assisting or aiding in meeting key business objectives.
4| Understand the workplace learning and performance (WLP) "double standard." Learning professionals must be approachable and authentic. At the same time, we must represent leadership values. When those of us within the WLP profession behave in ways that are not totally professional or appropriate, we receive far more scrutiny and criticism.
5| Keep your commitments. Commitment-breakers are viewed as promise-breakers, a label you can't have if you want your PC movement to be successful. To keep yourself in check, create a list of any commitments you make - both formal and informal - and keep them in front of you.
6| Honor confidences and avoid gossip. As a learning professional, you are privy to information that others perceive as highly valuable. Guard against any perception that you might betray that trust or engage in organizational gossip. Revealing information to people erodes trust instead of building it.
Finally, if you constantly focus on your own PC and do an honest self-assessment of your daily behaviors and interactions, you will find that even without much support from your superiors, your PC efforts will start rubbing off on those around you. After all, a work environment that focuses on building PC is good for everyone.
PC is a valuable asset. It can shape not just your career, but your life. Take it seriously. Strengthen it. Teach it to others. You'll never be sorry that you made the commitment.