You have been named a new leader in your organization, or you are a long time leader with some new people in your organization. Or maybe you aren’t a formal leader but are working on an important new project. Or perhaps you are staff person with expertise that can benefit the business but only if you can get others to see your perspective.
These are just four situations where having the ability to be more influential could make a big difference in our effectiveness.
Regardless of our role, rank or seniority; no matter what our job, we can all benefit from being more influential. After all we are all trying to influence others all day long.
One key to achieving that greater influence is credibility.
Enhancing your credibility with others is one of the best ways to become more influential. People want to follow the advice and counsel of those with expertise, and you want to be one of those people!
It is not enough to be an expert on a subject matter or a situation though. You must also be perceived as an expert. That perception comes from how you carry yourself and interact with others on this subject AND in every other way as well. You see, credibility is more than just expertise. Credibility is a combination of expertise and trustworthiness.
Kevin Hogan, in The Science of Influence states it as a formula:
Credibility = Expertise + Trustworthiness.
Very few people can maintain great influence without both parts of this equation. There are certainly situations where the expertise is so profound that idiosyncrasies and even rudeness will be tolerated because the person is so knowledgeable. This is likely not the case for all of us.
On the other hand, there are situations where you have likely trusted someone so much that they were credible on subjects they might not have been so expert about. They were still influential with you because of that extremely high trust level. After all, you reason, they care enough about me that they wouldn’t steer me wrong with their advice or suggestions. These cases too, are isolated.
So we need to work on both parts of this combination in order to become more influential.
Expertise is certainly a good place to start. If you are an IT professional you better know a router from a right click. If you are in finance, you better know a payment from a promissory note. That is basic expertise, and only a starting point. To greatly increase your influence through your credibility, you must develop your knowledge and expertise consistently and continuously far beyond those basics.
There are many ways to do this:
Using your skills in volunteer or community organizations
to name a few.
And as I mentioned before having the expertise is important, but being perceived as having it matters much more. Perception is everything. It might not be fair, but it is how the world works.
Changing perceptions, especially of people you have worked with for a long time, won’t happen overnight. But by consciously building your expertise and applying it whenever possible your influence will grow.
The other part of our credibility combination is being trustworthy. Building trust consists of many factors and, like expertise is about more than ourselves. While there are things we can do, it is how are actions are translated by others that is the true measure of our trustworthiness.
Here are three things that you can do, starting today to build your trustworthiness, and therefore, your credibility.
Build rapport. In a situation where you want to influence others, don’t rush to that point too quickly. Build rapport by building your relationship with the other person. You know how to do this, just remember how important it is.
Focus on them. Be interested in them. Understand their issues and concerns. We all want to feel important. We all want to be heard. By keeping your focus on the other person you are serving yourself as well.
Be consistent. Build rapport in every situation. Be kind and thoughtful everyday. Consistency in our actions is a key trust component. We trust people when we know what to expect in their words and deeds. Be consistent.
Remember that in the end, this is about perception – which means in a practical way that you can’t succeed by applying the above suggestions as a ploy or a technique. These strategies work when they are done with sincerity and honor, and they will backfire if people feel you are using them as a way to manipulate them or a situation.
The good news is that by applying these approaches to build your trustworthiness you will likely be building your perceived expertise as well.
Credibility is a combination of expertise and trustworthiness, but those two components, aren’t completely distinct and different as described in the mathematical formula described above. They can be built simultaneously by conscious and consistent focus.
And with that conscious focus and determined actions you can build your credibility – one of the golden keys to unlock greater influence.
©Kevin Eikenberry 2005. Kevin is Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group (http://KevinEikenberry.com), a learning consulting company that helps Clients reach their potential through a variety of training, consulting and speaking services. To receive your free special report on “Unleashing Your Potential” go to http://www.kevineikenberry.com/uypw/index.asp or call us at (317) 387-1424 or 888.LEARNER.