How’s your credibility with your leadership? With your line managers? Key senior stakeholders? Their leaders? Is it where you’d like it to be?
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Is your credibility with these stakeholders that really matter for your career success one that instils sufficient trust for them to want to “pull you up” into the roles you aspire to?
I coach and groom numerous cohorts of “corporate high potentials” in various countries for the transition into international leadership. A common theme is their lack of appreciation of how important their visibility and credibility with key senior stakeholders is to their promotion and growth prospects.
Thankfully, in most initial triangular conversations, their bosses often refer to this “lacking visibility and credibility with those that matter“. They usually “get it” with this double whammy of message guidance around credibility thinking.
Many of these clients also ask me to help them better understand “how senior leaders think” to make them so successful. Suggesting that they have noticed that there is a different kind of thinking “at that level”. Different to the “facts and delivery” oriented focus in their current level of work as a contributor or manager.
Credibility Thinking. What’s That?
So what is this different “credibility” thinking and how can we better leverage it as (budding) leaders?
I’ve seen credibility defined as “the quality of being trusted and believed in; of being convincing or believable“. To me that means:
Trusted. A track record of under-promising and over-delivering. Consistently doing what you said you would. That earns trust.
Believed. That others have confidence in our confidence. They believe we are capable and worthy.
Convincing. That they think we know what we’re talking about. And that we can convincingly influence outcomes that suit their (and our) agendas.
Credibility. What Are Leaders Looking For?
It is exactly these above traits leaders are always looking for. Avoiding entitlement thinking or what I call “bring people”.
Rather looking for what I call “fetch people“. Those that are hungry. That have a plan. That want to grow and get somewhere. That have the courage to step out of the masses and reach out to their leaders for mentoring and guidance.
Borne out by the aforementioned line managers’ emphasis, my experience is also that senior leaders are always on the lookout for good people.
People that they have confidence in. People that they consider worthwhile investing in. Hungry people. People acknowledged to be competent. Ambitious people. People putting in the miles. Decisive people. People they can rely on. People they want on their team.
How do they become aware of these traits? By us standing up for what we believe in and having the courage to get those leaders to know about that. To be willing to (sensibly and diplomatically) challenge conventional thinking with innovative ideas and approaches outside of our comfort zone.
To go out of our way on our next business trip or conference or training visit to their city. And seeking them out for a personal conversation. By having others already connected to them (and us) to broker a connection via Linked-In, for instance.
I describe how we do that in my blog Stepping Up or Pulling Up?
You see, these leaders often feel more confident giving a “proven” internal candidate a chance than depending on references from someone from outside their organisation on somebody new and unknown.
Credibility and Visibility
We’ve already spoken above about promoting yourself through an important attribute, without which career success can be very difficult. Visibility. Inside and outside your current organization.
This is particularly relevant in today’s global corporate marketplace. Those making promotion choice decisions (because they need good players in their teams) are often in a different city or country to you, the candidate.
The next level roles are often also only available in different cities or countries, necessitating a global move.
This is where we coach candidates heavily in the benefits and the mechanics of networking with purpose. To facilitate a visibility they had usually never considered necessary (or possible) before.
My coaching will always test the candidate’s mobility to be able to accept such a transfer. Many will acknowledge that, with children in high school etc, they aren’t. That’s OK, provided they understand the career ramifications of that. I’m surprised how many had never thought of it.
We will also usually test whether an individual sees themselves “up to” taking on an international role. Many jump to it, hungry to prove themselves outside of their country. Others lack belief in their ability to do so.
Be that all as it may, eligibility for such decisions or roles lies in direct proportion to your visibility and credibility. And in most cases less on your ability to “sell” your competence, but rather “the belief that comes out of your eyes“. This “vibe“; this inner confidence is more than anything else that the hiring leader will want to be convinced of. And in the context of what I said in Head, Heart and Tummy, it will be their “tummy” they will be listening to most from their exploratory interactions with you.
Credibility. So What?
So what does this mean for you in your career? Having read or listened to the above, what would you rate your credibility at on a scale of 1 – 10, in terms of your eligibility to be sought after for the kind of roles you aspire to?
What might you lack to fulfil those requirements? What will you need to strengthen?
If you are well on your way towards establishing your credibility in this way, congratulations. You are one of the 5% that know why that have already taken solid control of your career.
If not, why not engage yourself a good coach and/or mentor to help you make sure you can – and to make sure that you do – what you owe to yourself for your success (and those that depend on you).