Are you a young leader looking to gain credibility? What to do? I talk to leaders all the time, especially those in their 20's, who are seeking the quick credibility answer. How do I get credibility now and not have to wait until I am in my mid 30’s or early 40’s before people will respect and respond to me?
Well, great question.
I have a theory. The Credibility theory.
Starts with an equation, since I was a math minor in college..... Ultimately, credibility is this:
C = T x (E + E). Credibility = Time (multiplied) by Experience + Expertise
Whether a young leader, or a seasoned leader, this Credibility theory can work for you.
So here are some thoughts on how to best gain credibility now:
1. Listen. Listen. Listen. Simple enough. Ask great questions of those around you, and then LISTEN to the answer. Don't talk until you have something to say. Learn to ask great questions and learn from them.
2. Write it down. Record it. Put it in a moleskine or evernote or on your iPhone. But be just short of annoying on capturing things you hear and watch and are part of. You'll find that writing something down automatically makes it a priority.
3. Find those who are smarter than you, and latch on. Learn from them. Ask questions. Be a learner. Connect with leading organizations, networks and individuals- connect with companies, teams or individuals who are highly respected, and you'll gain respect.
4. Become an expert NOW, even before you need to be. Set a standard of excellence way before you're the leader in charge who is expected to. That way when it's your turn to come off the bench you are ready. When you are asked for your opinion or involvement, give it or do it.
5. Self awareness and self identity. Be self aware. Know who you are and where you are in life. You are young- deal with it. Don’t think you know more than you really do, or have more experience than you really do. Maintain a very clear and realistic picture of your self identity and current reality.
6. Demonstrate your ability to collaborate and be a team player. Reality is, most of us work in a team environment, so you have to show your ability to get along with others in making things happen. The Lone Ranger and Han Solo aren't ideal.
7. Stay focused, but broad. Those who have the most credibility no longer are just experts in one area. You need to be a generalist, but have the ability to dive deep in a certain expertise area.
8. Learn how to follow. And follow really well. It will position you for authority later.
9. Deliver. Faithful with little, faithful with much. No matter what the task or assignment, whether how important or how minuscule, GET it DONE. Work really hard. Be a hustler. Accomplish getting coffee or making copies or working on spreadsheets or filing papers like it's the most important assignment ever. Demonstrate in the small and unimportant tasks the characteristics you will still have with the large and important tasks. Do what you said you would do. Follow through. Credibility is built over time because of hundreds and hundreds of small assignments done well.
10. Lead with humility. Be known as the team member who will always get it done and is completely trustworthy. Show up early. Leave your ego at the door. Do your work with excellence. Volunteer for the tough assignments that no one else wants. Be the Hungry 2nd, not the Arrogant 1st. Act like you don't belong. No one enjoys being around someone who thinks they deserve way more credibility than they really do. Stay humble and motivated, with an attitude and posture like you really don't belong in the conversation.
11. Be patient and let your Experience create your Expertise. Credibility comes with action- doing, not just thinking or talking. Jump in and get involved. Do something. A little dirt on your hands and sweat on your brow goes a long ways. A platform takes time- it's just a reality. Most of us aren't patient enough to spend adequate TIME at DOING something until we gain a platform or credibility. We usually lose interest, get bored, or just simply move on to something else. The key- stick with it. Gladwell says it takes at least 10,000 hours.