Project Management

Helping Project Managers to Help Themselves

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I'm all about Building Thriving Leaders™ This blog is based on over 35 years of project management and leadership successes and failures. Get practical, concise nuggets on both hard and soft skills to help you deliver projects successfully with minimal friction.

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Knowledge and Wisdom: What's the Difference?

I Just Wanna Be a PM!

The Straight A’s of Intentional Leadership

Ten Ways to Grow your Followers into Leaders

Ten Points to be a Better Up and Out Influencer

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Agile, Career Development, Communication, Decision Making, Disability Inclusion, Empowerment, Followership, Leadership, New Job, project execution, Project Management, project sponsorship, Social Media, Time Management, Upward Management, Work Life Balance, Working from Home, Writing

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Ten Ways to Grow your Followers into Leaders

The Scenario: 

Frank and his new boss Phil are discussing an upcoming major project that Ann, the CEO, has tagged Phil to own.

“Frank, we need to talk about Apollo. Ann is very focused on its delivery and has specifically asked me to be the project sponsor.

“OK,” Frank said confidently, expecting Phil to empower him to lead Apollo.

“I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and I’m going to ask Beth to lead Apollo.”

Frank’s heart sank. “Beth?”

“That’s right,” Phil said. “I know that you’ve been wanting to take on something big like this, but I just don’t think you’re ready for Apollo.”

“What do you mean?” Frank asked.

Phil leaned forward. “Frank, I’ve got no doubt that you’d burn the midnight oil to deliver Apollo. The truth is that I just don’t think your team is ready for it.”

“My team? How so?”

“Apollo is huge and it’s going to require a strong team to get it done. Beth has done an outstanding job of investing in her team and growing them to be able to take on challenges like Apollo.”

Frank tried to appeal. “But you know I’d put everything I’ve got into delivering Apollo.”

“Frank, that’s exactly the point. I believe you’d put your all into it. It’s not about just you, it’s about the team you’ve been entrusted to grow. They’re Just not ready for Apollo. There will be other big projects in the future; let’s work to help you get your team ready for them.”

The Message:

Perhaps you know a Frank (or maybe are one yourself); a leader who will work himself to the bone to get something done but fails to grow and leverage a team of followers to help deliver results. Common excuses like, “I’m the only one who can do it,” “My team doesn’t have the experience,” or “It’s quicker if I just do it myself,” may be true in the moment, but they do nothing to build and leverage the skills that the leader’s team can bring to the table. This is a primal failure of what I call followership stewardship; the cultivation of followers to help them grow into leaders so you as a leader can scale into a leader of leaders. It’s every leader’s responsibility to acknowledge that a core purpose of being a leader is delivering results and growing followers. A leader who isn’t intentional about both delivering results and growing followers won’t scale into a leader of leaders. At some point the leader will not be able to deliver on bigger problems because he lacks the leverage of well-equipped followers to deploy. Sadly, this usually becomes evident when a leader fails to solve a problem that is too big for him or her to solve.

Do you need to work on being a better followership steward to deliver results and grow followers? Here are ten nuggets to consider:

  1. Watch the leader/follower skill gaps – Be mindful of having too large of a skill gap between you and your direct followers. Big gaps, even if the leader has high-potential followers, can cause the leader to take on more work by having to bridge the skill gap between the leader and follower.
  2. Have at least one follower who can do your job at a moment’s notice – Secure leaders don’t view followers as a threat. Quite the contrary; secure leaders cultivate followers who can fill the leader’s shoes with minimal business disruption. Have at least one follower who can fill your shoes in the event you are unexpectedly out of pocket.
  3. Find strengths that complement your weaknesses – Leaders who understand their own weaknesses need to seek out followers with strengths in the leaders’ weak areas. The leader not only supplements the team with strengths he or she doesn’t possess, but also provides an opportunity for both the leader and follower to learn from each other.
  4. Be disability inclusive – 26% of the US population has a documented disability. Only one in four working-age disabled people have jobs. Employee turnover is 48% less for those with a disability. Leaders need to actively look to the disability community for talent.
  5. Actively encourage being challenged – Leaders need to promote an environment where followers feel safe to challenge the leader’s thinking. Leaders don’t have a corner on the wisdom market and shouldn’t behave as if they do. Set and expect a respectful tone.  
  6. Call out “yes people” – Followers who simply agree with everything the leader says not only can be labeled as “sucking up to the boss” but also don’t get an opportunity to demonstrate critical thinking. Let followers know that you don’t want to build a team of brown-nosers; just make sure you follow up the words with actions and encourage being challenged (see point 5).
  7. Always have a succession slate – Leaders need to be intentional about having a candidate list of people who can take the leader’s job. Once you have the list, make sure you have a plan to cultivate your succession candidates to minimize disruption in the event you move on.
  8. Don’t make your job look so ugly no one would want it – Leaders who appear to work day and night, never take a peaceful vacation, or can’t enjoy their kid’s soccer game without being interrupted harm themselves in two ways. First, they become prime candidates for burnout. Second, they make their job look incredibly unattractive. Why would a follower who tries to keep balance want to be promoted into the leader’s 24/7 job?
  9. Promote “leverage a skill to learn a skill” – Leaders need to set a tone for followers to both bring a skill into an assignment and learn a skill from an assignment. Assignments that don’t have growth opportunities for followers are lost learning opportunities. Be deliberate about ensuring followers not only bring experience to a situation, but also gain experience from it.
  10. In-the-moment coaching while delivering – Leaders who combine the delivery of results along with in-the-moment coaching to followers provide far more value to the follower’s growth than any amount of sitting in a classroom. Capitalize on learning opportunities by providing timely and candid in-the-moment coaching.

The Consequences:  Not being an intentional followership steward can lead to the following:

  • Your followers won’t grow – When the leader doesn’t walk the talk on growing followers then – guess what – followers don’t grow. Imagine that.
  • You won’t grow – Stagnate followers mean stagnate leaders. Your growth comes in large part through the growth of your followers.
  • You won’t scale – When your growth is limited then your ability to take on larger and more complex areas of responsibility also becomes limited.

The Next Steps: 

  • Review the 10 tips to be a followership steward.
  • Decide which ones you need to improve.
  • For any tips you’ve identified as needing work, put an action plan together to address those followership steward areas.
  • Use a trusted advisor who can hold you accountable to be a better followership steward.
Posted on: August 18, 2022 12:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Giving Back to the Next Generation of Leaders

The Scenario: 

Miguel and Carol, two executives who retired from MilanCo last year, are having coffee.

“Miguel, what have you been doing with your time since MilanCo?” Carol asked.

“Oh, get up, watch the news, play a little golf, run some errands. How ‘bout you?”

“Gosh it’s so much fun. Some travel, seeing the grandkids, and I’ve got five women execs at MilanCo that I’m mentoring.”

“Really.” Miguel said.

“Most certainly.” Carol took a sip of coffee. “I’ve learned so much in my career, had some successes, and certainly some failures. I didn’t want all those learning opportunities to stay only with me, so I took it upon myself to reach out to HR and volunteer my time mentoring.”

“You volunteer your time?” Miguel asked.

“Sure do. It’s such a wonderful feeling to hear someone say, ‘Thanks Carol, you really helped me.’ More fulfilling than a paycheck. Have you considered doing something like that?”

Miguel looked down at his coffee. “Nah, my working days are over, time to let the younger ones rise up.”

“That’s exactly why I’m mentoring these women, Miguel. I want the younger ones to rise up; I’m just helping them rise up faster and with a greater likelihood of success.”

After a few more minutes of chatting Miguel looked at his watch.

“Well, gotta run Carol; was great catching up with you.”

“You too, take care Miguel. I’m meeting up with one of my mentees in a few so I’m just going to hang out here.”

“OK, bye,” Miguel said as he got up and left.

“Same selfish Miguel,” Carol thought as she watched Miguel leave the coffee shop.

The Message:

Carol’s view of Miguel’s selfishness was formed years earlier. They shared many similar leadership characteristics except for one; Carol intentionally sought to give back and grow younger leaders (who I will refer to as mentees) while Miguel did only what was required of him by his management. Half the time Miguel canceled mentee meetings last-minute because of some crisis; for those that he kept he appeared preoccupied. Word of how Miguel and Carol viewed their responsibility to scale leaders through giving back got around among the younger leaders, with many of Miguel’s mentees seeking out Carol as a mentor. While Carol wasn’t surprised with Miguel’s attitude during their coffee chat, she was disappointed that Miguel, with all his years of learning, still chose to keep things to himself versus helping others.

Want to be less of a Miguel and more of a Carol? Give this baker's dozen of tips a look:

  1. Wisdom sharing doesn’t stop at retirement – Just because you may have wrapped up your career doesn’t mean all of the great learnings you’ve had should die on the golf course. Be intentional about sharing your wisdom with those still in the workforce. You’ve still got something to contribute; so do it.
  2. Sharing wisdom is a responsibility and an honor – Being in a position to help grow future leaders is truly something that experienced leaders need to prioritize. The wisdom you can transfer to others can save time, money, and even a career. It’s your duty to share; joyfully embrace it.
  3. Courageously and candidly share your wisdom – A mentee shouldn’t just hear about your successes; he or she should also hear about your spectacular failures. That’s where some of the greatest learnings happen; don’t filter things to make yourself look good to the mentee.
  4. Allocate time in your calendar – Set realistic recurring time in your calendar to invest in your mentees and share your wisdom. Resist the temptation to chronically schedule other demands over your wisdom-sharing time.
  5. Know what your mentee needs and help him or her get it -  Maybe your mentee needs better life balance; or perhaps he or she needs help with calendar management. Take the time to truly understand what your mentee needs to scale up and help him or her get there.
  6. Don’t mentor an unwilling mentee – A mentee must want to be mentored. Trying to mentor an unwilling mentee is just a waste of time. Take the time to assess whether the mentee is interested or just going through the motions, then decide if it’s worth your time to invest in the mentee.
  7. Call out boasters – A boaster is a mentee who tries to learn about your experiences to prove his or her own superiority. The boaster mentee will tell you why what you did was wrong and what he or she did was right.
  8. Don’t let pontificators pontificate – A pontificator will use any experience to prove relevance. A pontificator mentee isn’t interested in hearing what you have to say as a mentor; he only wants to talk about experiences to demonstrate wisdom.
  9. Watch the poser – A poser really has no practical experience but will try to impress you with things she might have read or heard about. A poser mentee might be genuinely interested in learning or may simply want to dazzle you with factoids and sound bites.
  10. Don’t project a leader caste system – Some may aspire to be great people leaders, others may find a niche as a thought leader, and some may not want to be a leader at all. Don’t project to a mentee that people leadership is somehow more important than other types. Explore with the mentee where his or her strengths and desires are and assist on the journey.
  11. Don’t be afraid to pull the plug – Sometimes a relationship either was never meant to be or the relationship has run its course. Evaluate the relationship with the mentee and agree when and if it’s time to part ways.
  12. Don’t embellish your experience – So maybe you have a lot of experience in a particular discipline; that doesn’t mean your wisdom automatically transcends to other areas. Stick to your expertise areas and don’t be afraid to admit when discussions drift outside of your subject matter expertise areas.
  13. Be mentally and physically present – Taking phone calls, checking email, or appearing preoccupied when in a discussion with a mentee projects that you’re really not interested in the relationship. Make the mentee feel as if he or she is the most important person you could be focusing on.

The Consequences:  Hoarding all that wisdom and not giving back by growing future leaders could lead to the following:

  • You can lose a sense of purpose – I’ve known many people who have graduated from their career only to find that they have lost a sense of professional purpose and are quite frankly bored.
  • Someone who failed could have succeeded – A potential mentee who could have benefited from your wisdom had to experience a failure that could have been avoided had you taken the time to share your wisdom.
  • You squandered the opportunity to advance your legacy – You won’t be remembered as someone who not only had tons of experience but willingly shared his or her wisdom with others.

The Next Steps: 

  • Review the 13 tips to use your wisdom to grow future leaders.
  • Decide which ones you need to improve.
  • For any tips you’ve identified as needing work, put an action plan together to address those areas on how to grow future leaders.
  • Use a trusted advisor who can hold you accountable to be more effective at growing future leaders.
Posted on: July 28, 2022 12:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Having the Courage to Call Out Balderdash

The Scenario: 

  • Sue and Tran are talking after leaving Rob’s team meeting.
  • “Can you believe what Jim just got away with?” Sue asks.
  • “I know, Rob must be blind. Didn’t even question it.”
  • “Same thing happened last week when Pete presented that bogus plan that looked like he spent ten minutes putting together.”
  • Tran shakes his head in disgust. “I’ve only been on Rob’s team for a few months, but I’m already seeing a pattern of him either not calling out balderdash or not recognizing it. Is he afraid or just incompetent?”
  • Sue just shrugged her shoulders as the two entered the elevator.

The Message:

Dictionary.com defines the world balderdash as “senseless, stupid, or exaggerated talk or writing; nonsense.” It’s likely you’ve been in a meeting where a colleague, supplier, leader, or maybe even you, presented something that just didn’t make sense. Strong, competent leaders don’t let those skim by; they usually start out with, “help me understand . . .” then precision question the presenter to determine if it’s a communication issue or if the presenter is speaking balderdash. When it becomes evident it’s balderdash, the leader’s next actions reveal his true stripes. Some leaders shy away from confrontation altogether, others may gossip about it with a colleague, some may throw a temper tantrum, or even mentally save the event only to bring it up again in a performance appraisal. The intentional leader doesn’t do any of these; he calls it out, realigns on what needs to be done, helps with corrective action, and follows through to ensure the corrective action is taken. The intentional leader isn’t concerned about being right and doesn’t gloat over a victory; but is concerned about doing the right thing for the business. Calling out balderdash isn’t comfortable; it’s not supposed to be. It’s a necessary part of the job. However, intentional leaders need to know how to do it to get the ship righted and preserve everyone’s dignity.

Need to learn how to better call out balderdash and get things moving on the right path again? Give these ten tips a peek:

  1. Focus on the behavior, not the follower – Focus on the follower’s actions and why they were wrong; don’t attack the follower. Focusing on the follower versus the action implies that the behavior would be the same regardless of the situation and it attacks their character. Stick to the action, why it was wrong, and the consequence of the action.
  2. Make it about the team, not the follower – Focus on the action’s consequence to the team and what the tangible impact means to the team because of the action. Don’t make the follower feel as if she is alone in the battle. Stand arm in arm with the follower.
  3. Call out evasiveness – If a follower is giving vague answers or trying to answer a question that wasn’t asked, call it out. Followers need to know that they can’t pull the wool over the leader’s eyes. Expect direct answers to direct questions.
  4. Set expectations of what and when – If there is corrective action needed, get agreement with the follower on what needs to be done and when it needs to be done by. Don’t allow for ambiguity on what the follower needs to do next, no TBD or ASAP.
  5. Don’t go on and on – Calling out actions doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out exercise. The follower will likely get the point after a couple of minutes. Be clear, concise, and brief; don’t make an uncomfortable situation go on any longer than necessary.
  6. Be firm, not angry – Followers need to know that you’re serious when calling out actions. Do so with a firm voice and controlled language; yelling or throwing a tantrum not only isn’t necessary but it labels you as a leader who becomes unhinged when problems occur. Followers will avoid giving bad news for fear of an angry reaction. It also can brand you as unable to control yourself when things go south. Not a good image to project, not only to followers but to your boss.
  7. Offer help – Be prepared to offer help to the follower to rectify the action. Help could come from either you as the leader or another person with the experience to help. Be ready to make yourself and others available for help.
  8. Have a quick 1:1 chat afterward – Take a couple of minutes with the follower afterward, through email/chat/direct conversation to underscore that you believe in them and are there to help correct the action. The follower needs to hear your support and encouragement. The quick chat will help ease any angst and focus more on the problem to solve versus whether or not they will still have a job.
  9. Set a follow-up discussion – After setting the what and when expectation, ask the follower to schedule a follow-up discussion with you to provide an update on the corrective action. The follow-up not only ensures corrective action is in progress, it also instills accountability in the follower to do what needs to be done by when.
  10. Acknowledge successful corrective action – When a follower successfully navigates through a corrective action, be intentional about acknowledgment. The follower needs to see you as a fair and balanced leader; one who praises good actions and calls out not-so-good actions.

The Consequences:  Not being intentional about calling out balderdash can result in the following consequences:

  • You’ll be viewed as a weak leader – When others see a problem and see you not calling out the action, you’ll be seen as afraid to confront others and lacking courage.
  • Your credibility will be challenged – Not calling out actions could cause others to wonder if you have the wisdom to know when something is wrong. Followers will likely wonder if you’ve got the experience to do the job.
  • Your team’s overall quality of work can decline – If followers know you can be fleeced, you can unwittingly set a low-quality bar of work. Followers will perform to your expectation level; if you demonstrate lowered expectations by not calling out balderdash, followers will meet your lowered expectations.

The Next Steps: 

  • Review the 10 tips for calling out balderdash.
  • Decide which ones you need to improve.
  • For any tips you’ve identified as needing work, put an action plan together to address those calling-out areas.
  • Use a trusted advisor who can hold you accountable to show courage in calling out balderdash.
Posted on: July 15, 2022 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Intentional Trust

The Scenario: 

Sean, a new leader of a small team of experienced project managers, shows up for his weekly 1:1 with his manager, Annette.

“Sean, you look really tired.”

“Yeah, a late night.”

“Why?”

“I was working on the Artemis project plan.”

“Isn’t Artemis Jac’s project?” Annette asked.

“Yup.”

“Why are you working on Jac’s plan?”

“Well, Jac isn’t doing it the way I’d do it, so I told Jac I’d take a cut at it.”

“Jac is really competent, what’s wrong with her plan?”

“Well, it’s…” Sean fumbled for words that would justify his action.

“Sean, do you trust Jac?”

“Of course I do.”

“Really?” Annette asked.

“Um, yeah.”

“Sean, I’m not sure that your words match your actions.”

The Message:

You’ve likely known a Sean (or are a Sean yourself)--a leader who believes he can do things better than his followers and, rather than trusting his followers to get things done, will burn the midnight oil doing it himself. “I can get it done by myself faster,” “I understand the problem better,” “I know what management is expecting,” are all common excuses as to why a leader does work that his or her followers could (and should) be doing. Sure, there may be some truth to each excuse, but there’s a massive problem for those leaders looking to grow.

It doesn’t scale and your upward mobility as a leader will be limited.

Leaders are in leadership roles for a reason, to deliver more results with a team than the leader could do alone. Crucial to making this happen is the leader’s ability to trust his or her followers. Trust more and you get more done, have a happier team, and achieve better life balance. Trust less and, well, you get the point.

Think you’re struggling with trusting your followers? Look at these 12 intentional trust tips and see if any of these resonate:

  1. Be intentional about your starting position – Some leaders take an initial position of assuming trust, while others take the position that trust must be earned. Neither is particularly good or bad, but be honest with yourself about your position and be open with followers about whether you trust is assumed or it must be earned.
  2. Be thoughtful about changing your position – Your trust in followers can change based on actions. A follower can start in a more trusted relationship but do things that erode the trust; similarly, trust can increase when actions that enhance trust occur. Observe recent actions and take them into account when assessing your degree of trust in a follower.
  3. Guidance follows trust – You can trust a follower but if the follower is new in a job, it’s your responsibility to ensure the follower has commensurate guidance to help him succeed. Confusing trust and guidance is a recipe for setting an inexperienced follower up for failure.
  4. Intentional empowerment helps right-size trust – In my intentional empowerment model I talk about four steps to empowerment: defining the problem to be solved and the owner, articulating guiding principles, ensuring agreement on key dates, and establishing a follow-up cadence. Someone still climbing the trust curve may be given a smaller problem to solve, more guiding principles, and a more frequent follow-up rhythm. Practice empowerment, but right-size the problem, your involvement and guidance.
  5. Trust doesn’t mean you relax accountability – While you can give followers latitude on execution, you need to ensure there is clear accountability for what needs to be done, who needs to do it, and when it needs to be done by. Also remember to put a mutually understood follow-up rhythm in place (see point 4).
  6. Lean in more when you need to – When a crisis hits, the team needs to benefit from your experience. A follower who’s not well-equipped to manage through the crisis will need your wisdom to help navigate it, chart out a plan, and drive accountability. Also, you don’t want to have to explain to your boss why you didn’t engage more to prevent the crisis from escalating.
  7. Align on the what, advise on the how – Having a trusting relationship with your followers means you have clarity on what needs to be done but you don’t get dictatorial about how it needs to be done, unless there is a policy or regulatory reason that dictates the how. Usually there is more than one way to address a problem, and someone choosing a different path doesn’t make it wrong. Depending on the follower’s experience level, your degree of guidance might vary, so make the guidance commensurate with experience.
  8. Sometimes you have to let followers touch the stove – A huge component of the growth experience is failure, particularly with a follower who may have an unrealistic view of her capabilities. Be prepared with a teachable moment when you see a mistake coming to fruition. Then give the follower an opportunity to put the learning to use on future assignments.
  9. Trust doesn’t correlate to superiority – Being the leader doesn’t mean you necessarily know best about what needs to be done or how to do it. Be open to views that may be counter to yours and be thoughtful about the viability of alternate points of view. Do be cautious of extremes where you always or never accept alternate points of view. Always accepting other points of view can cause others to question your competence; never accepting other points of view can brand you as stubborn.
  10. Stay aligned on expectations – Maintaining trust means there is intentional expectation alignment. Both you and the follower need to keep in close communication when a change occurs which can impact current work. Neither leaders nor followers like to be surprised; your job is to establish an “early warning” culture where anyone can see something going awry which could cause expectation alignment. Don’t create an environment where followers avoid bringing issues to you that can impact expectations.
  11. Make changes when trust isn’t going to happen – Despite a leader’s best intentions to trust, some followers just never earn a leader’s trust. It may mean removing a project manager from a project, reducing his or her responsibilities, placing the follower on a performance improvement plan, or if all else fails, separation. Just remember that other followers are watching your actions, so being indecisive could erode your credibility with the rest of your team.
  12. Model the behavior – Building a trusting relationship means that you not only trust your followers but they trust you. If you want to build your trust in others, make sure you’re building your own trustworthiness and not doing anything that would cause others to be hesitant in trusting you.

The Consequences:  Not practicing intentional trust with your followers can lead to these consequences:

  • You’re more likely to micromanage – Not trusting followers means that you’ll likely over-function and do the job your followers should be doing.
  • You’ll frustrate your followers – Not demonstrating intentional trust means followers will be frustrated by your unwillingness to trust and will be less likely to want to follow you.
  • You won’t scale – Your lacking trust in followers means you’ll take more on yourself because you believe no one could get something done better than you, even if it means you’re chronically burning the midnight oil.  

The Next Steps: 

  • Review the above 12 tips on intentional trust.
  • Think about prior situations where you might have fallen short on any of the tips.
  • For any tips you’ve identified as needing work, put an action plan together to address those trust areas.
  • Use a trusted advisor to keep you accountable.
Posted on: July 08, 2022 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

12 Tips to Build Sustainable Credibility

Categories: Followership, Leadership

The Scenario: 

  1. Bert was an external hire with an impressive resume showing how he managed a team of individual contributors.
  2. Wanting to make a good impression, in his first few team meetings, Bert tried hard to befriend the team, using humor and self-deprecating comments to appeal to them. Things started off great.
  3. After a month on the job, the team started seeing inconsistencies with what Bert had on his LinkedIn profile and how he verbally described his experience.
  4. The team started asking him questions about how he handled situations in his last job, but many of Bert’s answers were evasive and vague.
  5. Bert missed a crucial deadline from his boss Eva. He never notified her that he would miss the deadline and she had to press him for the status.
  6. Bert’s interaction with his team became less frequent and more evasive.
  7. Eva grew increasingly concerned with Bert’s lack of credibility and started having skip level discussions with Bert’s team.
  8. After three months of giving Bert an opportunity to establish credibility, Eva acknowledged that she made a mistake in hiring Bert. He was moved to an individual contributor role to give him a chance to turn things around.
  9. Bert was eventually terminated, having never gotten over the credibility hump.
  10. Five years later, one of Bert’s former team members was a manager at a new company. Bert’s resume came across her desk. “No way,” she thought as she moved on to the next resume.

The Message:

Earlier in my career, I attributed credibility primarily to what I knew and how I could demonstrate my knowledge to those around me. As I experienced the hard knocks of becoming a leader, I came to realize that my knowledge was only a small part of building my credibility. Having sustainable credibility as a leader means:

  • Knowing what you are expected to know and admitting when you don’t know something
  • Walking the credibility talk with customers, colleagues, leaders, and followers
  • Delivering what you say when you say it will be delivered

As a scaled-up leader, you’ll be assessing the credibility of your followers to ensure they can drive results. This means you have internalized what makes a person credible. Internalizing the credibility characteristics means you practice them yourself. Assessing the credibility of others when you yourself have credibility issues is like the person who lives in a glass house throwing stones at others. Leaders are expected to be sustainably credible if they want to be followed.

Need to work on your credibility? See which of these 12 tips might help you get over the credibility hump:

  1. Match actions to words – There’s a reason this is first on the list. People watch what you do and listen to what you say. If there’s a mismatch, your actions will be believed over your words. This is a huge credibility killer. Always ensure words match actions.
  2. If you don’t know something, say so – It’s cringing to watch someone be evasive or try to guess their way through an unfamiliar topic. If you don’t know something, say, “I don’t know, but here’s when I’ll follow up with the answer.”
  3. Think and act “win-win” with colleagues – Colleagues want to trust you. If you look at your interactions as, “for me to win you have to lose,” then others will view you as untrustworthy regardless of your command of the subject matter.
  4. Don’t position yourself as least-worst – There are times, like competing for a job, when you do want to win over colleagues. Winning doesn’t mean berating others to make yourself look better—that says, “I may be bad, but he’s worse.” By all means, note bad behavior when you see it; just don’t use it to make yourself look good.
  5. Don’t oversell what you know or what you’ve done – I’ve seen many resumes where someone has oversold themselves, but when talking with them I saw a cavernous gap between reality and resume. Be accurate in what you know, what you’ve done, and results you’ve delivered.
  6. Don’t confuse credibility with charisma – Great leaders typically possess charisma that enhances their credibility. Not-so-great leaders rely on charisma to cover up credibility gaps. Charisma is great, but don’t let it take the place of credibility. You’ll get found out over time.
  7. Don’t let a due date silently slip by – Being credible means you do what you say, when you say you’ll do it. Going silent on an expected action raises questions about whether you’ll do what you said. Don’t underestimate this trait; it’s crucial not only for you to do but also for you to hold others accountable when they promise something by a certain date.
  8. Explain the why – As a leader, followers want to know the rationale behind your thinking, particularly when you’re making a potentially unpopular decision. Get used to asking yourself why you’re taking a particular action, even if you don’t have to explain it to others. Building this habit will be helpful when you have to expose your decision rationale to others.
  9. Be the same persona all the time – Are you an in-person Jekyll and a social media Hyde? While you may think it’s safe to express yourself freely online, colleagues, customers and followers will see your online comments and extrapolate them to predict how they may be treated by you. Don’t think for a minute you can keep your personas separate.
  10. Admit it when you’re wrong – Credible people not only freely admit when they’re wrong about something, but they can learn from it. Mistakes are going to happen; those who can’t admit it or make the same mistake over and over again never get over the credibility hump.
  11. Plan and deliver results realistically – At the end of the day, credible people plan and deliver results based on reality. Note I’m not using the “under-commit-and-over-deliver” baloney mantra that weak leaders use. Plan to reality, manage risks and issues, ask for help when necessary, and deliver.   
  12. Don’t undercut your own credibility – Poking a bit of fun at yourself or admitting shortcomings are good signs of a confident leader. However, when overdone you could inadvertently convince others you might not have the credibility to be followed. If it looks like you’re not confident in your own ability, why would others view you as confident?

The Consequences:  By not taking intentional action to build your credibility, your consequences could include:

  • You won’t be believed – No amount of words can make a non-credible person credible. Colleagues, customers and followers simply won’t believe what you have to say.
  • Your opportunities will be limited – A leader won’t give you a big problem to solve if they don’t think you have the credibility to solve it.  
  • Your non-credibility ghosts will follow you – Simply put, people have very long memories, particularly when those who are expected to be credible fall short. Today’s colleague or follower could be tomorrow’s potential customer or boss.

The Next Steps: 

  1. Look through the 12 tips and decide on your three greatest opportunity areas.
  2. Review your assessment with a trusted advisor who is willing to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.
  3. Commit to being held accountable by your advisor.
  4. Put actions in place to address your top three.
  5. Review your progress with your advisor.
  6. After you’ve put new habits in place to address your top three, pick the next three, and so on.
Posted on: June 17, 2022 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (23)
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