What trait most separates successful businesses from those that fade into the sunset? My answer is corporate reputation. Hands down.
Why business credibility?
Think about the entrepreneur who is trying to convince a team of stakeholders to pursue an innovative idea. Consider the businessman who runs into production problems and needs his business partners to extend credit for a few extra months.
Sure, there are many great characteristics that can be attributed to successfully maneuvering these situations. However, the reputation as an entrepreneur who gets things done and stays true to his word creates instant credibility “currency.”
Related post: 13 Requirements to Improve Business Performance
Credibility is hard to earn and easy to lose. People judge you not only based on your job performance, but also by your communications. That is, how you talk and what you talk about.
Words have to match actions. In addition to meeting your deadlines and hitting goals, it’s vital to establish trust. Whether you are speaking or sending written messages, a lack of trust will lower your credibility.
In the age of the trust economy, credibility has become everything. It includes your personal credibility, the credibility of your brand, your business, your products and services and everything else you do.
Huge advertising budgets and PR campaigns are not a substitute for business credibility. That’s good news for the small business owner who now has a more level playing field when it comes to getting their message out. But yet, It also means spending more time establishing and maintaining your credibility because your business depends upon it.
Focus on these behaviors, early and often to give your business credibility a boost:
Corporate reputation … readily own up to errors
No. not just a small one. I’m going to assume you do that every day. Is there a decision you regret? A strategic move that took the team down a rabbit hole? Or perhaps you let your personal stress bleed into your work, and were harsher in that meeting than necessary.
The truth is when you screw up, your team already knows. You’ll gain instantly credibility points by admitting it.
Corporate reputation research … actively listen
I don’t know about you, but I’m not surprised to learn that we only remember 25% to 50% of what we hear. I mean, I can only listen to my mother’s story about the burning the pie crust so many times, right?
But at work, tuning people out can be dangerous, especially when you’re managing them. You might miss important feedback, directions, or updates. Even worse? If your team thinks you’re not hearing them, they won’t confide in you.
This can diminish the chances that they’ll turn to you when they have questions or need help. And in turn, prevents them from producing their best work. That’s a top management faux pas: Not helping your team succeed.
That’s why it’s so important to learn how to listen actively. This is especially true in the early stages of building credibility and earning trust as a leader. It’s not an easy task at first — especially when we’re constantly overloaded with information and stimuli. However, it can be learned with a few good habits.
When colleagues are speaking to you, keep distractions minimized or at bay. Always try moving the conversation away from anything that might cause your attention to strays, like your computer or mobile devices.
Don’t be afraid to do whatever’s necessary to make sure you heard the person correctly. This may mean repeating back to them what you think you heard.
Corporate reputation examples … stop taking stupid actions
I’ve yet to work with a company where folks couldn’t list the “stupid” things they are doing for unheard of reasons.
Want credibility as a leader? Pick one of those things and figure out how to stop doing it. Your team will want to reward you, and you’ll free up more time for them to work on their priorities.
Take a stand
I bet if I asked you to describe the leaders you most admire, or your favorite boss, we’d only be a few sentences in before you told me a story about them standing up for something that mattered. Be that person. You know that thing you’re not saying because you’re too afraid? If it matters, figure out a way to say it well.
Admit what you don’t know
This can be humbling, but it’s better than bluffing your way up the ladder and then having your ignorance “discovered.” Instead of pretending to know it all, ask questions that will increase your depth of knowledge on the subject.
It’s okay to be unclear on something as long as you’re upfront about it. Nothing makes people believe what you do know like admitting what you don’t.
Think about how you use hyperbole. Did you wait on the phone for five seconds or five minutes? Did the supplier raise the rates by 2% or 10%? Spinning a story can put you on a slippery slope. Exaggeration makes for great humor, but it is a credibility killer.
If you had some control over a situation that didn’t end the way others wanted it to, own up to it. Own up whether you cast a deciding vote or just played a role. Shirkers suffer credibility gaps.
Open doors for others
The most credible leaders are ones who help people when they have nothing to gain. Building a reputation as a door-opener is a great way to catalyze credibility, not to mention karma.
Listen and observe
I’ve heard people say, “I’m my person. It doesn’t matter what others think.” Then they feel disappointed when colleagues don’t treat them courteously, fail to respect their time, ignore their input, or disregard their information.
These same people complain when they don’t get the job they want or the salary they expect. They don’t understand why the best employees hate to work for them. They fail to understand why colleagues don’t give their best efforts on team projects.
Going the extra mile
Of course, you can’t beat the credibility that comes from being ridiculously great at what you do. Show up every day with your A game. Give 10% more than is necessary to every task. Be constantly learning.
Credibility is built through small and consistent actions over time. Imagine the power of paying some extra attention to a few of these vital behaviors as you turbo-charge your career for the future.
Know what you are talking about
If your car was broke, would you ask your dentist how to fix it? Of course not. That’s because your dentist probably wouldn’t know how to fix a car. Most likely, you would take your car to a mechanic and have them tell you how to fix it.
Consider, though, what would happen if you took your car to the mechanic and he returned it to you in even worse shape. Would you take your car to him in the future? Probably not.
Just because someone sees you as a credible source once, doesn’t necessarily mean they will continue to view you that way. You consistently need to know what you are talking about to remain credible.
Care about others
As you start to build credibility, you’ll notice that you have the ability to influence things around you a bit more. If you want to become a great leader, you’ll need to use your influence and power to help others.
Ultimately, this builds on the credibility you have already established. It will put you in situations in which you have the opportunity to become even more credible.
It’s important to note that everyone has a certain level of power and influence. Just because you are not the CEO, doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference.
In fact, I would argue that employees often time have much more power and influence over an organization’s actions than the executive team.
Figure out how you can make a difference and do it.
Part of establishing credibility is creating a sense of trust between you and your subordinates. Developing a reputation for giving honest and truthful information goes a long way towards gaining employee respect and establishing trust.
A credible leader uses actions along with words to lead his organization. Do not ask your subordinates to do anything that you would not do yourself. Take every possible opportunity to show your staff that you are willing to perform whatever tasks are necessary to succeed.
A leader must be accountable for their decisions and actions. When a leader makes a mistake, they own up to it and take the steps necessary to correct the error.
Have relentless integrity
In business, sometimes people can be so focused on the bottom line that they lose their grip on ethics. Ethics can be tricky at times, though; “the right thing to do” is not always so crystal clear.
It’s important that you go into a situation knowing what you are willing to do and what lines you won’t cross. If a situation comes up and you don’t feel comfortable with it, express (in private) your concern with your boss.
From a leadership point of view, always take the time to make it possible for your employees to express their concerns with you. Great leaders don’t force – they lead. Hire great people and create the best possible environment for them to work in.
The bottom line
All of these tips are great for building your credibility, but remember that the process can take years of hard work and diligent execution. More important, know that an ill-advised choice or avoidable mistake can wreck all the work you accomplished in a matter of minutes. Take as much care to protect your credibility as you do establish it.
What other tips do you have for entrepreneurs trying to establish credibility? Please share your thoughts with others in the comments section below.
So what’s the conclusion? The conclusion is there is no conclusion. There is only the next step. And that next step is entirely up to you.
It’s up to you to keep improving your continuous learning. Lessons are all around you. In many situations, your competitor may be providing the ideas and or inspiration. But the key is in knowing that it is within you already.
All you get is what you bring to the fight. And that struggle gets better every day you learn and apply new lessons.
When things go wrong, what’s most important is your next step.
Test. Learn. Improve. Repeat.
Are you devoting enough energy to improving your continuous learning for yourself and your team?
Do you have a lesson about making your lifelong learning better you can share with this community? Have any questions or comments to add in the section below?
Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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