Begin by clarifying your values.
What makes us trust one person but not another? When we say someone is “credible” but another person isn’t, what has either of them done to secure those titles? Is credibility something that can be leveraged and transferred, or is it more of a fixed trait?
Building credibility is on the minds of all leaders, particularly since the advent of social media moved referrals and endorsements from letters of recommendation and word-of-mouth to online reviews and testimonial. Now, with the stroke of a key, someone can either reinforce our market positioning or try to destroy it. Today, the need for our leaders and teams to be credible and trustworthy is at an all-time high.
When someone is said to be credible, it means we believe what they say, we refer and endorse them to others, we’re proud to be associated with them, and we believe their intentions are in alignment with ours.
Credibility Starts With Values
Building a reputation today requires credibility. Simply promoting your name and services, without credibility, ensures your offer will fall on skeptical ears. Instead, aligning your value to credibility confirms you’ll continue to scale into new markets seamlessly and build loyalty in existing relationships. For leaders, personal brands must be credible to ensure followers wholeheartedly believe in the message and vision being shared.
The formula for credibility starts with values. Not just any values—your deepest values. The values that anchor your moral operating system. The ones that you hold so dear that if they were stripped away from you, you wouldn’t be yourself. Those values.
Clarifying your values might seem simple, on the surface. But if you’re truthful then you know that the values you claim may be heavily influenced by your parents or spouse or friends. Instead, your values are the ones that you personally draw upon to make bold decisions, the ones that help you determine right from wrong, and yes from no. Those values.
Once you have your values clear – and this can take time and effort, trust me – the next step is looking at the actions and behavior you exhibit to reinforce those values. Do you “walk the talk”? Can others see evidence (or proof) of the values you claim to hold so dear? Do you demonstrate consistency with the values you live your life by? If so, then you’re in good shape. If not, then re-examine your list of values or how you’re acting: Something isn’t aligned.
Why the Formula Is So Hard
When presented with the question of values, most of us list values that we’d aspire to live by (in an ideal world) or ones we believe are acceptable (if we’re asked to list them in a group setting) or ones we’ve been taught to promote (well-meaning parents everywhere are shuddering now). But getting clear on your true values may be a fluid and ongoing process.
The second reason this formula is challenging is because many of us are living our actions—doing good things, showing up with integrity, operating from a place of intention and passion—but we fail to connect those actions directly to our values. Thus, we leave the interpretation of those actions open to misunderstanding. Unless we clearly and consistently tell people why we do what we do, we may be misunderstood or not given credibility.
In my latest book, Control the Narrative: The Executive’s Guide to Building, Pivoting and Repairing Your Reputation, I point out:
We seek proof and evidence through actions, but most target audiences aren’t expecting heroic or extreme displays of this commitment. If you say you stand behind your employee’s actions, we expect to see you back them up when there’s a problem. If you pledge to return exponential value to shareholders, we assume you’ll make fiscally sound decisions which support their investment in you and the business…
When your actions align with your values, you build credibility and people can trust you. Without action, values are hollow, they appear to be “lip service.”
In all we do, always, when we are clear about what we stand for (values) and show evidence of living consistent (actions) with what we hold dear, we enable those around us to see us as credible. There is simply no way to shortcut the process, despite our tendency sometimes to wish it so. Perhaps this is why credibility is so precious and important to attain. When something is easy or common, it’s perceived to have lower value. Something that requires clarity, vigor and confidence to articulate and then defend—like credibility—is perceived as very, very high value.
Lida Citroën is an award-winning branding and reputation management expert, and author of Control the Narrative: The Executive’s Guide To Building, Pivoting, And Repairing Your Reputation.