Key behaviors for establishing your credibility.
By Michael VanBruaene and John O’Sullivan
Credibility is a key factor in your success as a manager and leader. If you’re not credible, you won’t be respected, making it impossible to achieve your potential as an effective manager, and leader. Be aware — daily — of how your behavior affects your co-workers and others who are relevant to your work. Be deliberate and strategic in choosing your behavior.
This article is devoted to four essential management and leadership behaviors. You should consciously engage in these behaviors every day to build and sustain your credibility. They are:
Perspective, Presence, Vulnerability, and Gratitude.
Perspective shows that as a credible manager/leader your point of view and approach considers things in their larger context, and you’re thorough and have a sense of humor.
When facing a problem, you ask yourself and your colleagues: “What’s the worst that could happen?” What does that worst case tell us? How does this information play into what we’re considering and doing? Is it likely that there is more than one right answer or option to consider? Effective perspective also counters the tendency to over focus on an issue or problem to the point that we don’t see it clearly and within its context. Creative thinking also suffers when perspective is lacking.
As a credible manager you were probably not hired because you knew all the answers. You were more likely hired because you demonstrated the ability to arrive at good answers. A credible manager knows how to facilitate a process for finding the best outcome.
Good listening is an important element of your perspective as a credible manager. You use listening to get at the heart of a problem or issue. You probe and ask clarifying questions. In doing so you’re communicating your interest in the issue at-hand, and your perspective.
Perspective also includes your sense of humor. Humor is more than telling jokes or getting laughs. A sense of humor shows a recognition that you and the problem being worked on are not the center of the universe, and that we shouldn’t get too wrapped-up in the issue at hand, as this can unnecessarily narrow our focus and get in the way of creative decision-making. We can stand back and laugh at ourselves, not taking ourselves too seriously.
Ideally you communicate your perspective to your colleagues, and they also incorporate it into their thinking and acting.
Presence is about how you choose to convey yourself. The credible manager consciously chooses to be present — physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It’s demonstrated in the words you use, the articulation of your voice, your body language, posture and appearance; and the level of attention you give to people and issues at-hand.
You demonstrate physical presence when you are alert, curious and relaxed; and show that you “have your feet firmly on the ground.” You have mental presence when you are focused, engaged, inquisitive, and not distracted. You truly listen to what your colleagues are saying, responding only after they’ve finished speaking, and responding by first asking clarifying questions. And only then being able to objectively and accurately consider and challenge that which has been posited.
Emotional presence is evident when you’re calm. Your voice and body language are relatively composed while still expressing your feelings. In a crisis you can explain, calmly and factually, the nature of the crisis and its potential impact on the organization. Note: The key to attaining calmness is a regular practice of activities that foster this feeling. For example, you could do five to ten minutes of deep breathing, take a walk, or some other activity that diminishes your disquiet.
You demonstrate spiritual presence when you communicate hope, humility, and confidence. “We’re going to work this out, we’ll all have to pitch-in to do it.” Your spiritual presence positions you to make the difficult decision even if it means you must rely on your instincts to break the tie among several courses of action.
Presence is challenged when there is a difficult decision to make. As a decision-maker, there are times when you’ll be alone with an important decision to make. It’s inevitable. After all the analysis, and consideration of the pros and cons it’s up to you, there may be no clear-cut resolution and decision. You’re now alone with the decision that must be made.
We may tend to withdraw when alone with the decision to be made becoming less present in the work place than we prefer to be. This is normal, and to some extent may be necessary. Making difficult decisions when there is no clear answer requires thoughtfulness and introspection. Usually they are best accomplished alone. We may want to “think out loud” with a trusted colleague, but in the end we are alone for that decision.
You should be careful that this time of introspection does not significantly affect your overall presence in the organization. Granted you may be somewhat withdrawn as the decision weighs on you, but it’s important to be as present as possible in general organization operations. And upon making the decision, you now have an opportunity to be present as you explain and implement the decision.
In our next article we’ll explore the solitary aspects of being a manager or leader; the being alone when making difficult decisions and the general loneliness that can occur.
Vulnerability is a credible manager’s tool for establishing trust and rapport. It’s about being yourself, managing your ego and letting everyone know who you are. Being vulnerable shows that you trust your employees. When you’re seen as vulnerable employees know that they’ll have an open and trusting working relationship with you.
With vulnerability you’re comfortable opening up to your employees, willing to admit that you don’t know the answer to something, that you share their concerns, or that you may be wrong. And you’re managing your ego with this approach. The focus is not on being right but arriving at the best answer.
You don’t hide your fears, concerns, and hopes. When you’re frustrated or upset you inform people of it, but not in a loud or disruptive way. If you are effective with being vulnerable, many times your colleagues will know you’re frustrated or upset without your communicating what you feel. And they’ll more readily help you resolve the problem.
Not that long ago, management gurus cautioned us to avoid getting too close to co-workers. They had little confidence in you as a manager, assuming that being close to your employees would limit your willingness and ability to make tough decisions, that you’d give employees too much leeway or have favorites. This approach can result in your being aloof. It can be fatal to the credible manager because being an aloof manager/leader results in employees feeling intimidated. This aloofness and resulting intimidation is the opposite of vulnerability. With vulnerability you’re approachable, friendly and engaged, all of which facilitates everyone focusing on doing their best, and you’re being a credible manager/leader.
An aspect of vulnerability and being yourself is your workspace. It should communicate who you are. Encourage others to do the same. Get to know your folks and let everyone get to know you.
Hang around the lunchroom or other communal space and acknowledge the people there. The more people know about you the more likely they are to find things in common with you, which leads to effective rapport and trust. Knowing about them also helps you orient to their perspectives in your communication with them — choosing the best words, phrases and examples so that they can do the best job possible.
Gratitude is the foundation for perspective, presence, and vulnerability. Grateful behavior reflects an attitude that becomes a mental and physical disposition for how you go about your work. It affects how your mind works and your verbal and physical mannerisms. We’ve put this behavior last as it ties the other behaviors together and is essential for the credible manager.
Bottom line results can range from lower employee turnover, more customer loyalty, improved sales, more profitable financial outcomes, and a more viable, flexible, responsible organization capable of addressing the challenges it faces each day.
Gratitude reflects your appreciation for that which life presents to you. In the world of work you’re grateful for your employees, the challenges of your job, the satisfaction you have with your work; even your frustrations and challenges. They are your opportunity to learn, to stretch, to excel.
When you practice gratitude, you present a positive outlook and mindset. Your gratitude creates an aura within and around you that affects your presence and perspective with your decision- making and interactions with employees, and how you address and resolve organizational challenges.
Gratitude creates and supports positive emotions. It’s contagious and can transform individuals and companies. Emotions stem from and create meaningful interpersonal encounters. When you act from a position of gratitude you create meaningful situations for others and yourself.
You appreciate the respective personalities of the people with whom you work. You’re grateful for all that your colleagues bring to their jobs and the organization — their skills, perspectives, and inclinations. You appreciate that some are creative and others more regimented, realizing that both are important.
You can even be grateful for a problematic employee. Many times they compel us to see things from their perspective. They require you to have, and exercise, a flexible mind in how you interact with them.
Gratitude must be authentic and sincere to be effective, not to simply influence or control people. Gratitude expressed insincerely, can easily be detected by employees and colleagues, eroding trust and respect and destroying intimacy.
Transforming gratitude into a daily reality. You want your employees to know and feel your gratitude, and to also practice it. We found these five gratitude habits and are reposting them in their entirety:
Five Gratitude Habits
1. Be positive. Choose your mood. Smile. Be sincere in showing your appreciation. Learn to show Gratitude as a way of connecting with your work team.
2. Use encouragement. Appreciate the things your team members or employees do best. When someone does something kind, amazing, or difficult for you or others on the team, recognize it and be specific. A generic “good job” doesn’t mean as much as, “the image you chose for slide four told the perfect story. It added so much value to the presentation.”
3. Be proactive. Model Gratitude in the workplace and encourage team members to do the same. If you’re part of running a meeting, keep it short and sweet to show others that you appreciate and respect their time. Be gracious when accepting Gratitude. This may take some practice. Simply saying, “Thank you” is often enough. Acknowledge your part and other’s in the bigger picture.
4. Use your words wisely. Compliment instead of complain. Focus on what was done well instead of what wasn’t. Appreciate intentions, even when the outcomes aren’t exactly what was expected.
5. Customize the Gratitude you show each individual. Some employees will like public praise or compliments; others will prefer tangible things, like a hand-written note or an email to senior leaders. Be specific and measurable in showing Gratitude to someone as there are all types of ways to do this genuinely and effectively.
In that article, we posit that “leadership” is a misused and misunderstood term with little mention of the importance of good management. There is a partiality towards leadership, even for basic supervisory and management situations, with statements to the effect that leading is more desirable than managing. In the workplace good management and good leadership are essential, and most of the time within the same position. Good management results in good leadership.