When people believe what we say, they consider us credible. They take our statements at face value and move forward quickly. The teams that we’re on get our work done with less second-guessing, delay, and stress. A leader’s credibility is even more critical because any marks against them tend to stick around for a long time. So it’s wise for us to protect our credibility, this cornerstone of trust. Yet we can hurt ourselves in this regard without knowing it. Here are three quick things we can do to help improve ours.
- Call the shot. In billiards, novice players shoot the cueball and hope something goes in. It can be lots of fun. Eventually, the balls are cleared, but everyone assumes it’s luck.
Meanwhile, seasoned players call their shots. When the targeted ball goes in, we know there was skill involved. Even when the game doesn’t require it, the veteran player commits to a specific shot. The more shots they make, the faster their credibility grows. Not so with the beginner.
To build credibility, we commit to what we want to accomplish: we call our shot. In business, this usually means promising to get specific tasks done by a particular date. And when we come through, we rightly get credit for it.
- Track and display. Go to any college or professional sports event, and you find a scoreboard that all the fans can see. At their most basic, scoreboards exist to answer one fundamental question: is our side winning? Well, the same goes for us.
We need to decide what measurements are relevant to success in our world. Some will be outcomes like points and runs, and many will be indicators such as fouls, errors, and outs. We want both – and not just for our team – but for us as individuals.
By tracking our performance against these measures, and displaying the results where others can see them, we show that we know what’s important, that we aren’t afraid to be held accountable, and that we are working on the right priorities. It’s the visibility of the numbers that speak volumes about our credibility.
- To be honest. I know that this a familiar, everyday figure of speech. It usually signals that a deeper, more revealing truth is forthcoming and we are giving the listener a heads-up. This is well-intended and shows courage, vulnerability, and sometimes simple courtesy. The trouble with “to be honest” is that the listener can get distracted.
Does it mean that until now we’ve been dishonest? Or that we typically speak in safe, guarded terms, but in this case, we’ll make an exception? Close cousins of “to be honest” are phrases like “quite frankly,” and “to tell you the truth.” These expressions tend to soften, distract from, and weaken our actual point.
A more credible approach is to say things directly. “I can’t hear you right now,” stands stronger on its own than with the softening phrase in front of it. I realize this may take some getting used to. To be honest, it’ll be worth the effort. We will speak with more clarity. And we’ll even believe in ourselves more.
Credibility, like other aspects of trust-building, is not something we should assume others give us just because we’re friendly. These three ideas can help to solidify our reputation as trustworthy people.