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Credibility: The Critical Component


A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

—Solomon, Son of David, King of Israel, 700 BC



Ancient words and nevertheless, present truth. So then, what’s this article about? Let me sum it up: earning trust by developing credibility, and why you and or your business need to do it.

   

What follows applies to everyone from the new hire apprentice to the distinguished businessman, from the board room to the board installer and finisher. There are no exceptions. This principle works like gravity, everywhere on earth and all the time! Ignore it at your own peril. By doing so, you and your business/career may well, fall from the mountaintop (if you ever even get there) to the valley, even though you may not know it, until you eventually go splat.

   

Why is credibility so critical, what are its benefits, how is it developed, maintained, retained and recovered in the event of its unfortunate loss, both personally and professionally?

   

Dictionary.com defines credibility as “the quality of being believable or worthy of trust.”

   

Let’s begin by eliminating one of the primary obstacles to the development and retention of credibility.



It’s Not About the Money!

Solomon, considered by many to be a man of unique wisdom, chose to compare the credibility of “a good name” with wealth “silver or gold.” Why? In doing so, he identified a choice that is posed to all humanity. The implication is that we have a decision to make that is directly linked to the prioritization of our aspirations and values when it comes to reputation and wealth. Moreover, a choice to put wealth first and reputation second is a common mistake that needs to be avoided. In fact, wealth can be a direct competitor with reputation unless we get our priorities straight. Fact is, individuals consistently struggle to subordinate wealth to reputation. The delusion is that they think it’s too costly and can’t afford the seeming sacrifice. Actually, they can’t afford not to.

   

Solomon was a man of incalculable wealth who made his fair share of mistakes and perhaps even learned this lesson as most do—the hard way. As I’ve mentored numerous individuals over the years, many employees, colleagues, etc. some of whom are long gone, others who are managers now or in some cases, ultimately, became business owners, I’ve seen this dilemma time and time again. As a mentor, my endeavor oftentimes was to take them from nothing to something. In the process I typically found them to be conflicted, mistakenly making money the priority and the main driver in their decision-making.

   

Though they haven’t always listened, I’ve repeatedly reminded them of this pitfall, without exception, during both good times and bad. Don’t follow the money. Let the money follow you. If you chase it, it will run from you. Do the right thing and the money will follow. It will literally, eventually, chase you down.

   

For many that’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s good medicine. If they balk at it, that’s good news for you. Maybe? Maybe not! If you’re a short-term thinker, you’ll struggle with it, and there are far too many of them in today’s world. Not to worry. That just reduces competition for the individuals and businesses that “get it.”

   

Don’t doubt this for a single second. Eventually, something grows, and it’s going to be either weeds or flowers. Which it is, is up to you. It depends on what you’re planting and cultivating. What type of seed have you sown, and how quickly you deal with the weeds that sprout? You will harvest a reputation, good or bad, and a good reputation is much more valuable than the size of your bank account.

   

I am reminded of Aesop’s Fable, the goose that laid the golden eggs. The goose is the good reputation, or for our purposes, being credible. If you kill that goose, it won’t be the wealth producing machine it could have been. In fact, if you slay your own credibility, you will be worse off than ever. By the way, one lesson illustrated in the fable that you are going to hear in this article is to think long term. Don’t become myopic, go with the big picture, the view from 30,000 feet.

   

Far too many just don’t get it and remain skeptics. They are blinded by the almighty dollar, penny-wise and pound-foolish. They remain unconvinced even as you look them squarely in the eyes and try to persuade them in vain. They glance at you in stark unbelief like a bunny in the road just before it unavoidably becomes roadkill.

   

Usually, it translates into a constant search from greener grasses. That’s when I hit them with a few old-fashioned one-liner’s like, “If the grass looks greener on the other side, fertilize yours!” I finish up by warning them that the grass probably isn’t any greener on the other side, and you may well sacrifice everything you have built in your present role. Stay put since you are just looking at that grass sideways. Once you get over there, the chances are there will be plenty of bare patches and gopher holes.

   

Staying put as a business or as an employee usually pays off in the long run with both customers and employers. The reputation and relationships you build in the process can make a tremendous difference in your career, providing you act out of integrity, produce quality work and deliver on time. In a word, you must become credible. Not only will the money chase you down, customers and employers will too. Your challenge is simple: If you want to succeed in the truest sense of the word, develop credibility.

   

So then the question one must ask as an employer and/or employee is, How trustworthy am I? Am I credible? Do I qualify for that title? Imagine a business card, and underneath the name it simply says “credible.” How about the title of “Incredibly Credible”? That’s about as good as it gets and if true, it’s worth more than a fortune.



Credibility and Loyalty, Indispensability

Now that the economy has picked up and opportunity abounds, I still stick with the same advice. Meanwhile, statistics and my own experience in the workplace prove that more and more people are moving around in search of a better job, more benefits and increased compensation. The microwave mentality of short-term thinkers all too often prevails. Loyalty appears to be a vanishing virtue on several levels, and that’s not a good thing for anyone, anywhere.

   

Loyalty and credibility are inseparable. Yet it’s a two-way street and needs to be demonstrated by all stakeholders. Someone must take the high road; if you are reading this, it’s you. Employers do well to take good care of their employees and stay current with the market. Everyone involved has a lesson to learn here, and the deterrent is mostly fueled by short-term greed. Wisdom dictates that we take care of others and treat them as we ourselves would like to be treated. Take a walk in their shoes. In doing so, we lose the self-centered approach, which is another way we gain personal credibility.

   

In my view, the employees’ goal is to make the employer a complete fool if the employer doesn’t take exceptional care of them in terms of compensation and consideration. You could also apply that to companies and customers. The goal is to do such an incredible job for them, they shudder at the thought of losing you. Consequently, they value you appropriately and voluntarily. It shouldn’t require force. Forcing or demanding it undermines your credibility. Treat your employer/employee and/or customer, respectfully. That’s the credible thing to do. Appeal to them when necessary, avoiding the slightest hint of an ultimatum. Don’t push it. It is likely to require patience as your credibility grows, and your value becomes unmistakably obvious. Focus on making that a reality.

   

Although I have always insisted that there isn’t anyone in any organization who is indispensable, an employee’s personal credibility increases what I call your indispensability level. The credible participants absence creates more hardship on the company proportionate to their level of credibility. Credible participants are hard to come by, always in demand and their critical contribution is extremely valuable. The more credible they are, the more valuable they are to the organization. They are the least dispensable contributor to the success of any organization. If the decisionmakers of any organization has their head on straight they will take exceptional care of them.



Getting Micromanaged?

Credibility causes your employer and/or customers and colleagues to relax and rely on you instead of micromanaging you and/or your business. If you are getting micromanaged your credibility could be the problem or, at the very least, a contributing factor. Step up your game. Prove yourself.

   

Having recently started work for a new customer, they were all over us about the schedule. They felt we were off to a poor start, and we were putting the projects schedule in jeopardy. From their perspective we hadn’t done quite enough yet, and we were undermanned. However, with labor being tight, we were focused on critical path priorities and all about fully utilizing our existing workforce to make numerous schedules work on the 40-plus projects we had underway.

   

They began demanding more manpower than we knew was necessary. “What about this, what about that?” Cynical in their insistence. Nitpicking became a regular practice, challenging us on every detail. They were micromanaging us to death. The only real issue was our lack of credibility. Not because we weren’t credible but because we hadn’t had the opportunity to develop credibility yet. Eventually they let up on us. Why? We consistently met our goals and earned their trust.

   

New customers need to be handled with care until they learn that we are trustworthy and will deliver a quality product on time. In the meanwhile, communicating well, initiating contact, proactively telling the customers everything they need to know, before they even ask, is necessary if we are to prove ourselves. The proving period is made up of keeping each commitment every step of the way.



Remaining Credible When Failure Occurs

Unless you completely fail, failing consecutively, particularly in the same areas, you can fail and remain credible. Let’s face it. All of us fail from time to time. Nobody, no business, is perfect. Oftentimes you can provide some remedy to those impacted negatively. I’ll offer three suggestions when it comes to business.

   

First, own the failure. Take responsibility and confront the situation head-on. Whatever you do, don’t play hide-and-seek with customers. Don’t make excuses or blame others. Suck it up! If something is supposed to happen and it isn’t going to, notify them, preferably in person.

   

Second, absorb the failure internally. A quick example of this might be an inspection failure that costs a few days. Your customer winces in disappointment. Tell him you will absorb that loss and still complete on time and deliver on that commitment. Yes, even if you must pay overtime to do it.

   

Finally, give them something they value. You have a few options if you have the authority to do so, Offer them some no-charge hours or waive a small change order. You get the idea. Get creative and ease the pain. Get yourself back in their good graces, that’s the credible thing to do.

   

Whenever you take responsibility for your failures, you are being credible, and it’s hard to take a hard line with someone who fesses up and does everything possible to turn a wrong into a right.

   

I’m not condoning failure; it should be rare. But eventually you and your organization will fail. It’s all about how you handle it.



Recovering from a Loss of Credibility

A significant loss of credibility could take years, or even decades to recover. That’s the sad fact. But if you are determined to do so, it can be done. Fortunately, a major failure doesn’t have to be fatal in the long run.

   

It is an incredible journey and mammoth undertaking for the healthiest human specimen to scale Mount Everest. One simple misstep can send you tumbling to your death, if the elements themselves don’t kill you first. So, it is with your reputation that credibility must be earned, through a painful long-term struggle, one step at a time, minute by minute, day by day, year after year. It takes years to fully establish oneself or a business’s impeccable credibility, but once its accomplished, as I’ve emphasized, the benefits are priceless.

   

The failure to do so, or the inability to continuously live up to it when facing the numerous challenges of consistent quality, on-time delivery, reliable warranty and customer service, day in and day out without exception, is nothing short of perilous. Repeated or significant failures quickly undermine credibility and can easily destroy years of hard work spent developing this virtue of virtues.

   

When we are severely strained manpower-wise, we lean on our past performance and consequent credibility with our customers. We assure them as if to say “not to worry, we’ve got this.” Meanwhile, we remind everyone internally involved just how critical it is to maintain that credibility. If we don’t deliver, we will lose the ability to push back and/or assure them going forward.

   

If we fail, the consequences to our credibility are devastating and we won’t be able to take a firm stance and assure them with mere words. Hence, that opens the door to all the harassment that’s involved as they endeavor to micromanage us in the future.

   

If they believe we are credible, they back off and everything is fine and dandy, if (which is the biggest little word in the world) we consistently make whatever it is we’ve committed to, happen. Remember the phrase “Relax and Rely.” That’s what you want those you work with in any capacity to do. We have a saying, when it comes to our customers: “Leave the drywall to us.” And you know what? Customers who work with us over time do exactly that.



Doug Bellamy is former president of Innovative Drywall Systems Inc. dba Alta Drywall, Escondido, Calif. Contact him at doug@altadrywall.com.

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