Hello C Factor Community,
It is June and this month we want to talk about (drum roll please) CREDIBILITY.
Building confidence as a leader includes a number of different areas, one being your credibility.
For me, I operationalize credibility with a simple question. “Who are you to tell me about __________?”
Credibility is often defined through one’s expertise: title, degrees, and experience all add up to make you someone who knows what they are talking about.
As someone who spent many years in the classroom earning degrees and then teaching college for a decade, I value expertise. Knowing what you are talking about matters. But that doesn’t always come from our education.
There is another dimension of credibility that we often overlook when it comes to leadership: your humanity. A leader may be the most credentialed person in the room, but lack any signs of life.
“Are you human or are you a robot?” is something we are all asking ourselves (unconsciously most of the time).
One weekend home while I was in graduate school, I attended Sunday morning church services at the church I grew up. Raised in a VERY conservative religious tradition, my experience with the term “pastor” was an old man who had many degrees in theology and their job on Sunday morning was to pick something from the Bible, stand on a stage and break it down for us. In my mind, pastor = perfection. This was (always) a man who had it all figured out. They had never screwed up and done really dumb things like the rest of us.
On this particular Sunday morning, I was introduced to their new pastor, Rische. He was about 50 years old at the time, and I immediately noticed there was something different about this guy.
What was it?
I couldn’t put my finger on it, but he would answer the question for me. A few minutes into his sermon he mentioned being a recovering alcoholic.
Excuse me, what?
Yep, this guy was a recovering alcoholic and he was on stage talking about it. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Never, and I mean never, had I seen someone in this position of authority admit to not being perfect. I looked around to see if anyone else in the audience was having a strong reaction to this revelation, but they all just sat there and listened.
I didn’t know it at the time, but this wonderful man (we ended up having a friendship and he officiated the wedding of my then-husband and I three years later) was showing me a new dimension of credibility: Your humanity gives you insight and experience that a degree will never give you.
As a leader, people long to know who you are as a person, with flaws and lessons learned.
Leaders who reveal they are human and don’t operate from a place of perfection instead share some of what they know about the world through having screwed up, sometimes royally.
When I coach leaders to become better storytellers, one of the categories I tell them they need a story for is the “epic fail”. An epic fail is a story where you messed it up big time.
It cannot be you faking it either; it has to be a real screw-up.
Because that is where some of our greatest learning and insights come from. We are shaped by the highs and the lows, and every single one of us has them.
Fast forward twenty-something years after having seen Rische talk about his recovery. I have a thriving and successful business training professionals to be confident leaders. I cover every aspect of how we use communication to have successful and mutually satisfying relationships. I coach leaders to be confident.
Then, in 2019 my marriage ended.
I had a crisis of confidence, forgetting pretty much everything I teach on the subject of credibility.
“How will people take me seriously if I can’t even keep my marriage together?” I wondered.
I felt like a fraud, surely this meant I was only good at showing others how to do this thing called confidence. In my case, I was a loser.
I felt humiliated and embarrassed initially, not wanting anyone to know about my failure*(my ex-husband factored into A LOT of my storytelling in the classroom and on stage)*.
Three years later, this experience of leaving a marriage and making a life for myself as a single Pringle (Tiktok reference) has been the path to my own transformation as a human generally and a consultant and coach specifically. I have learned the depths of credibility always include moments of what looks like a failure but ultimately is a part of your hero’s journey (we will talk about that later this month).
How do you define your own credibility?
- I am credible because I have accumulated degrees, titles, knowledge, expertise.
- I am credible because I am a three-dimensional human being who has learned hard lessons along the way.
When you allow both dimensions to inform the way you lead, you inspire others to follow you.
We want to follow the lead of people who have struggled and persevered through the hard times. It is OK to be vulnerable enough to share with those you lead that you are “not just the president of the hair club for men, you are a member”.
This week as you focus on your credibility, a few action items worth investing in.
- Make a list of the leaders you admire the most and ask yourself about their credibility—what is about them that you admire and respect?
- Make a list of life lessons that have shaped who you are as a person generally and a leader specifically. How many are connected to struggle and learning to persevere?
You are on your way to building your confidence as a leader by addressing your credibility. Bravo!