Oh credibility, how you have haunted my dreams and occupied my thoughts. So many young people seeking to grow their careers are seeking to be seen as credible. They often ask me, how I make myself credible? How do I PROVE myself?
It’s a daunting thought to believe that you walk into your workplace every day having to prove you are credible. It’s overwhelming actually. It’s often completely ambiguous as to:
1. Whether or not the question of your credibility is even real.
2. Whether or not there is anything you can tactically do to prove yourself.
Here is what I say. Start with the truth. Explore the truth of your current credibility situation. What problem are you actually trying to solve?
1. Write down the five behaviors you are doing that you believe are causing you to “lack credibility”.
2. Next, write down five behaviors from others that make you feel like your credibility is being questioned.
3. Pause with the two lists.
4. Draw lines between the behaviors you believe make you less credible to the behaviors you believe others do that make you feel less credible.
For example, I have opinions about everything and often speak up in meetings about everything. I feel like I lack credibility when people ignore what I say and gloss over it.
In cases where your behavior may be driving the behaviors of others towards you, develop a plan to address it. In my example, my plan is to make sure that I use my voice more intentionally in meetings. People may be glossing over my opinions because I have so many of them. It’s my responsibility to choose when I really feel strongly about something and need to be heard. I can let others talk without injecting my opinion when I don’t feel strongly about the outcome. This will help me with my credibility.
If some or all of your behaviors do not match the behaviors of others, your perspective of whether or not you are credible might be clouded by insecurities that preexisted your current job. Likely, you will have some matches and some not. In the case of no matches, try to write down five things that you may be insecure about, that are being triggered when others behave in the ways that make you feel like you are not credible.
For example, I have always carried an insecurity about being the youngest executive. When people talk about my age, I can feel the defensiveness raise in me. In those moments, I feel like I have no credibility and I am frustrated with the person making the comments. The reality is, I am young, likely much younger than the person talking, and their statements are usually not tied to how they feel about my work product or ability to do the job. Even if it was their intention, I can never adjust my behavior to be older, have more years of experience or require other people to share my experiences of being the youngest. It’s these triggers that get us stuck in the loop of needing to prove ourselves. It’s a loop because it’s either not real or not fixable.
Do this exercise any time you are feeling stuck. The cycle can be daunting. We can spend a lot of time trying to fix things in ourselves that are not real about us, which makes us feel crazy. We have to become credible without falling into the trap of our own insecurities. It’s important to know how you might be getting in your way. Seek advice from those you trust if you need help understanding the truth of it. It’s also a great conversation for a mentor or coach. Ask them how you might be showing up in a way that hurts your credibility and ask your friends what insecurities might be getting in your way. If nobody can help, I’ve discovered your first credibility problem. You don’t have a network that is helping you grow and helping to echo your brand. Start there if you can’t find anywhere else to start.
You’ve got this! Avoid the spin and avoid that which is not real about you. Make a plan to address five tactical behaviors at a time to close any gaps that exist. Most importantly, stop telling yourself that you are not credible. If you don’t believe you are credible, nobody else will either.