Change & The Credibility Factor

I’ve been thinking about change lately, mostly about what it is that separates a person who seems to be able to influence change in a positive direction, from a person who might have the authority and the technical skill to do the work, but seems unable to pull it off.

The word credibility comes to mind.  The Thesaurus suggests that credibility is synonymous with trustworthiness, integrity and sincerity. I think that if these basic values are present, the chances of arousing the interest and respect of other people are pretty good. And, I believe too, that change agents come in many forms, manifest themselves in a variety of ways and at a variety of levels.

Thinking about that reinforces for me, the notion that it is credibility not title, position, role or authority that makes the difference between an effective change agent and an ineffective one.

So, if you are with me so far, the big question seems to be ” How do I prove my credibility to others?”

Here’s what I think it takes to earn credibility:

  • I do what I say I’m going to do… and I do it, when I say I’m going to do it.

Reliability is an important ingredient in establishing credibility.

There’s nothing more infuriating or counter-productive, than when someone makes a commitment to do something and then fails to follow through.

  • I represent myself honestly and do my best to be candid and open with my colleagues and bosses.

I think that to gain credibility with others we must simply find the courage and confidence to be ourselves and make our contributions without pretense or bravado.

  • I show that I’m open to learning and trying new things

Nothing puts holes in our credibility as a change agent more than conveying the impression that we have all the answers. And, it is arrogant to think that we can influence change in others without feeling the need to change something ourselves.

Change is a learning experience in itself. If we believe that it is for everyone but us, we are likely not asking the right questions, enough questions, or paying attention to what is going on around us.

  • I demonstrate respect for the experiences and knowledge of others.

One of the best ways to build credibility is to observe those who have gone before us and learn from their experiences.  If we want to be heard we must first listen.

  • When I challenge the status quo, I offer feasible and thoughtful alternatives.

To me, presenting a problem without considering a solution is not supporting change.  It is simply complaining.  This doesn’t mean that we have to have a solution for every problem.  But if we want to earn credibility, we have to consider not only the problem, but also the possibilities and questions that will stimulate further exploration.

  • I own up to being human and making mistakes. And, when I make mistakes, I apologize and then do my best to make amends.

Making excuses for the mistakes we make is simply unproductive and, well, not very attractive either. In general, we do not adversely affect our credibility when we make mistakes. We adversely affect our credibility when we try to cover them up, rationalize them away, or otherwise pretend that they didn’t happen.

There are probably a lot of other elements that contribute to the establishment and perpetuation of our individual credibility.  What comes to mind for you?



Filed under Change Management, Leading Change, Uncategorized

9 responses to “Change & The Credibility Factor

  1. What comes to mind for me, in addition to what you have distinguished already, is that a change agent can only be credible if they are perceived as part of and committed to the community of people who are at work on changing.

    It can be hardest for the more senior people in an organization, as well as the consultants who are hired to help, to be seen as part of “us” vs. the “them” who is trying to change us. But until you are part of “us” you can make very little difference.

    My most important hurdle in the beginning as a consultant is demonstrating that I can be trusted by everyone not just a few, as well as that I genuinely care about the future of the organization and the people in it. That starts with total respect for confidentiality and being able to hear anything without passing judgment on the messenger. Come to think of it, perhaps these are key to being an effective change agent whether your come from the inside or the outside.

  2. That’s good advice for building credibility in any situation. Brava.

  3. Gwyn Teatro

    Susan, You make a really good point. The “us” vs “them” culture is very challenging, particularly if you have been engaged by senior managment of an organization to go in and pave the way for the implementation of a major change. In these circumstances there is little time to prove your credibility and yet, as a consultant, it is an imperative if you are to make a difference at all…not an easy road to hoe but so rewarding when you find the combination that unlocks the door to acceptance.
    My hunch is that you do this very well.

    Wally, thank you for coming by and for your encouraging comment!

  4. Gwyn, just priceless guidance on an important topic. I only wish that I covered the topic of credibility as powerfully and concisely as you in my own work!

    A supporting point from my research for Practical Lessons in Leadership…the number one identified attribute of an effective leader as indicated by over 100 professionals, was credibility. One respondent described it best: “The do must match the tell.”

    Keep the great posts coming.


  5. Gwyn Teatro

    Thanks for coming by Art and for your kind words.

    “The do must match the tell” ~ I love that 🙂

  6. Terry Thomas

    As a nurse executive student, I really appreciate and enjoy the fun way to do homework. I did not think about cultural awareness being so important for consulting. Now I realize that all members of the organization face the same issues. Thanks for helping me change my view from analyzing critical puzzles (us vs them, etc) and wanting solutions, to
    opening my eyes and mind to embrace the journey!

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Terry,

      I’m so glad you found this post useful. Thank you for coming by and for taking the time to share your own thoughts.

  7. Pingback: Leadership and The Influence Factor | You’re Not the Boss of Me

  8. Pingback: Leadership and the Influence Factor | You’re Not the Boss of Me

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