Credibility cannot be achieved if you do not possess the following three attributes: expertise, track record and respect.
Expertise means that you actually comport yourself as an expert. Experts’ opinions are believed and sought; they are not generally subject to quibbles or arguments. No one has ever walked up to Peter Drucker and challenged his thinking about management strategy.
You gain expertise through experiences, education, observations and boldly moving on from both your victories and your defeats. It’s fine to be defeated in a good cause if you learn from it. That’s how you hone your skills — through continual application and real-world use. It’s often said that saints engage in introspection, while sinners run the world. Think about that.
In a rapidly changing world of technology, globalization and shifting social mores, expertise is an ongoing act, not a static position. How do you know you’re an “expert”? Because people cite you, quote you, defer to you, ask your opinion and use you as the standard. Even if all that only happens within your own organization.
2. Track Record
Nothing succeeds in promoting credibility like results that others can see, touch, feel, hear and smell. In other words, don’t just talk the talk; walk the walk. Track records don’t require uniform and unblemished successes. In fact, it’s better that they show variation. The idea is to constantly improve.
The best batters in baseball, on average, only get a hit in every three at bats. The key idea regarding looking back on your successes and failures is to build on your strengths. We spend too much time evaluating defeats and focusing on correcting weaknesses. Determine how and why you were successful, and seek to replicate that success. Weaknesses will simply atrophy.
3. Interpersonal Skills/Respect
By “respect,” I mean not merely affection. No one respects people who can only win if someone else loses, or who see life as a zero-sum game. You don’t have to like everyone, but you do have to remain civil. When you share, you gain respect; you also gain respect when you accept responsibility, when you volunteer and when you effectively negotiate and honestly resolve conflict.
Engendering respect requires the savvy use of interpersonal skills. The ways in which you communicate with colleagues, associates and clients play a large role in credibility and prove your ability (or inability) to create allies instead of adversaries.
Advice from a Yogi
An important factor in leveraging these three components is the willingness to coach others. Coaching builds your expertise, your track record and your respect. It’s like “one stop shopping.” As Yogi Bhajan, the late spiritual leader and entrepreneur who introduced kundalini yoga to the United States, once said: “If you want to learn something, read about it. If you want to understand something, write about it. If you want to master something, teach it.”