No-Nonsense Reasons Why Your Words Matter

Smart leaders know they are scrutinized with every word and action taken. How and what you say has consequences. Words matter.

C’mon leaders, when are you going to get it? With position, power, and influence comes responsibility. We yearn for leaders we can believe in and trust. Let’s have a frank conversation why your words matter.

We cannot read minds

We want to know what you think. We want to know where you are taking us. We know you will make decisions and take actions in the future that will affect us. How you present your ideas persuade us to either follow or resist. Most of us are not in your circle of friends or influence. One of the ways to understand what you think is to pay attention to what you write or say. Your words matter to us.

Turn us into believers

You need to prove to us that you are trustworthy. We are skeptical of leadership. Before you open your mouth or hit send on your mobile device, please check your facts. Once it comes out of your mouth, you cannot take back what you said. Yes, you can spin a message or apologize for a misstatement but each time you do, you chip away at your credibility.

We connect with people who we believe are credible. We follow leaders we trust. Stephen M. R. Covey gave us a practical model for credibility. We look for all four of these characteristics to determine if a leader is credible: integrity, intent, capability, and results. We will assess your character (and whether we like it). We will look deep to understand your integrity and your intent. What you say gives us visibility and clarity to both.

Silence is acceptance

We evaluate leaders by what they say.  We evaluate leaders by what they don’t say. It troubles us when you do not call out bad performance or behavior. If my co-worker’s performance is below standards and you fail to address it, we think you are either showing favoritism, a hypocrite or a coward. We hold leaders to a high standard and we want you to live up to it.

Be careful of your timing and tone

Words can instantly inspire, inform, motivate, explain, upset, scare or divide. Words matter so does “when” and “how” you deliver your message.

We recognize it is difficult for you to determine the right time to comment on tough issues. However, in the absence of your statements, we make up stories in our heads. Science tells us that once we make up our minds, it is harder to move us in a different direction.

Your tone is important. We want to believe you are sincere and mean what you say. We see mixed messages when your tone and words do not match. Tone circles back to your credibility and believability.

Language makes us human. Words have power. They evoke thoughts, emotion, and reaction. Great leaders and communicators have a unique ability to use words to draw us toward them. We hope you take to heart what we have said. Our words matter too.

4 Must-Do’s to Build Your Credibility

Are you an individual contributor, an aspiring groundbreaker, or a tried-and-true leader? You can be any of these, yet, the quality that amplifies your success in all cases is credibility. Your path to career success is smoother when you are seen as “credible.”

What is Credibility?

When you are credible, others have confidence in you because they see you as believable, competent and trustworthy. Credibility is the main precursor to building trust. As we go through our day-to-day lives, we want friends we can trust. We do business with people we trust. We hire people we trust. We follow leaders we trust.

What happens when people see you as credible? To start, people are open to listen to your ideas and respect your expertise. From there on, your influence grows. The upshot of being credible is that you will be taken seriously.

What can you do every day to become more credible? The four must-dos are described in Covey’s four core principles of credibility. They are integrity, intent, capability and results. Let’s explore more how these principles work.

Integrity is More Than Honesty

The foundational core is integrity. People who work with integrity consistently do the right thing in just ways. Their behaviors consistently align with their values. They treat others with decency and fairness. Time and time again when you behave with integrity, you build your credibility.

On the flip side, violations of integrity are the biggest destroyers of credibility. In recent years, we’ve seen many cases of high-profile people who had major lapses in integrity. Remember these famous people who were on top of the world and fell hard and fast from grace? Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Anthony Weiner, and Martha Stewart. Even if you’re not famous, when your integrity is suspect, you may find yourself paying a heavy “trust tax.”

Intent is a Delicate Balancing Act

People are smart. Don’t be surprised when people scrutinize the intent behind your actions. Respect is gained when your intent includes bettering the people around you. Individuals whose intent is viewed as mutually beneficial will garner credibility and support.

Individuals who mostly look out for themselves, at the expense of others, will often lose credibility because of self-centered agendas.

Case in point, recently a coworker’s intent was questioned when he misled a senior executive team. It happened when John was a member of the company’s relocation committee. One day, John invited the committee to visit a new site he had located. When we arrived, members asked John why this site was south of our location when 80% of the employees lived north of our existing building. John admitted it was closer to his home. In one fell swoop, John’s agenda surfaced and his credibility was immediately compromised. The committee now distrusted him. Besides that, the incident spread through the company grapevine. John’s reputation turned into someone who only looked out for #1. His credibility was damaged by one poorly motivated decision.

On the other hand, women must be cognizant to their intent and the notion of being mutually beneficial. Women will sometimes put their own wants and needs behind those of others. For working women, altruism is a delicate balancing act. Women should develop personal strategies to ensure their visible intent is balanced and not skewed in one direction.

Are You Capable?

The third core is capability. It is the measurement of your ability to do your work well. Do you have the talent, attitude, knowledge and style to deliver competently on the tasks assigned to you? To gain credibility, you must also be competent.

Competence is enhanced by keeping yourself up to date on knowledge, skills, and trends in your area of expertise. If you’re not learning and keeping yourself up to date, know that your competition is.

There is a challenge for underrepresented groups in the workplace. For women, success can be undermined by unconscious gender bias or the expectations how women should act in the workplace. Ways to counteract these negative pressures are to:

  • Believe you are good.
  • Seek out and take high-profile, high-value assignments.
  • Take credit when it is due. Do not allow yourself or others to down play your work or position.
  • Watch for minimizing language. Remove lessening statements such as, “It was nothing.”
  • Know that your workplace is not a meritocracy. Hard work means nothing without visibility and acknowledgement.
  • Own and take credit for your ideas – do not give them away.
  • Learn the rules of your business’ game and learn to play them well.

Results are Valued More Than Effort

The cold, hard fact in the business world is that you will be judged on results; not on effort. Your results build credibility and trust. You are evaluated on your accomplishment track record. Here are a few helpful hacks to guide you on your road to results.

  • Set your standards to deliver good results, but do not delay trying to achieve perfect results.

Although it may not be fair, women sometimes need to meet higher standards than men. Women are judged more harshly than men on both sides of the success-and-failure yardstick. Keep records, data and facts at your deposal. When results go well, you can take credit based on the facts. Likewise, when things do not go well, you have the evidence of how you are going to address it.

Women need to have strategies to overcome everyday workplace challenges and gender bias. A key strategy is to build (and maintain) credibility. Credibility builds influence and trust. In turn when you are influential and trusted, your professional and personal power become formidable.

Originally published on Huffington Post and Ellevate Network.

Game-Changing Strategies to Become More Influential at Work

Whether you are at the top of the corporate ladder or just want to be heard in a meeting, influencing skills are vital for anyone to be successful. Moreover, those skills are vital for a leader, whose job it is to move people forward.

What is influence? At work, influence is the capacity or power someone has to be persuasive or a compelling force to produce effects on the actions, behavior, or opinions of others. Or, put simply, it is getting someone to go from Point A to Point B. Influence can come with a position and title but it is not guaranteed. In fact, people can be influential in any role, whatever their station.

Women, however, continue to struggle while they search for ways to become more influential at work. Sometimes they toil just to have their ideas heard or valued. (Stories abound about men and women who independently present the same material and are often treated differently.)

Here are 8 strategies women can do to raise their level of influence at work.

Develop your drive to become more influential. First, you have to want to improve. Becoming more influential takes desire and effort. If it doesn’t matter to you, then figure out why it doesn’t matter!

Remember that your workplace is not a meritocracy. Be careful not to get caught up in the notion that if you work hard, you will be justly and fairly rewarded. Real competition exists in the workplace. Yes, competence and results are essential for your growth. You still must learn how to promote yourself and bring attention to your excellent work.woman-hand-smartphone-desk-medium

Keep your skills and knowledge up to date. It is so easy nowadays to keep your skills current and continue to learn. Online courses, MOOCs, blogs, books, podcasts, seminars and even YouTube are easily accessible learning resources. If you’re not learning and keeping yourself up to date, know that your coworker or competitor is.

Believe in yourself or what you know. When you’ve done #3, you have laid a strong foundation to be credible with coworkers and bosses. The next step is to have the courage to show what you know and to be as smart as anyone on the team. Women repeatedly underestimate their competence. An HRB article notes that a woman will apply for a job when she meets 100% of the job requirements whereas a man will apply even if he has met only 60% of the requirements.

Solve “important” problems. Women sometimes pride themselves at being good multitaskers, getting things done, and helping others. It’s useful to know that if you are particularly good at these traits that you also run the risk of being given lots of insignificant tasks to finish. You are not rising in the influencing ranks if you are only doing tasks to just “check the boxes.” While you may not be in a position to say “no” when given these requests, you should also look for “important” problems to solve. Do all you can to understand your boss’ or the business’ pain points and then help solve them. When you start to solve your business’ real problems, your level of influence will skyrocket.

Know when to show your agentic (masculine) and communal (feminine) communication styles. This balancing act is also called the Goldilocks Dilemma. A woman’s communication style is constantly being judged. Your style may be seen as too aggressive, demanding, competitive or too warm, caring and soft but never just right. too hot too cold just right

In the work world, it is detrimental for a woman to outwardly show anger. On the other hand, men are given a greater pass when they show aggression, disgust or anger. So the communication playing field is uneven. What do you do?

You take incremental steps to bring your authentic communication style in line with what works for you and your environment. Start with self-awareness then make small changes that enhance your agentic and communal communication techniques. Knowing when and which communication style to show in a particular context will increase your influence.

woman_celebration_arms_up_800_clr_11340Next, heighten your self-awareness around your nonverbal communication. Your nonverbal communication sends many messages about you that your audience is implicitly deciphering. Nonverbal qualities for you to consider are your appearance, demeanor, posture, language and speaking style, room positioning, body language, voice and diction. (This list can go on and on!) Seek to understand how your own components are affecting your credibility; the right nonverbal communication can positively affect your influencing ability when you are able to project confidence, approachability, professionalism, and yes, the right amount of power.

Prep and Practice makes perfect. Like an athlete, prep and practice of a newly learned skill are important to change habits and outcomes. Self-awareness will uncover areas you want to adjust. Practice will allow you to test your new behaviors. When you experience small wins along the way, your confidence and influence will grow.

Hold up others. Make every effort to recognize and acknowledge others at work. Research indicates that greater benefit is gained when a woman receives accolades or is promoted by others than when she self-promotes. This does not mean that you should not learn more effective ways to (professionally and prudently) self-promote, but it does mean that you should find cohorts and champions who are willing to tout how great you are.

With certainty, if you start to employ these strategies you will enhance and improve your influencing capabilities. No matter what role you have in your organization, your ability to influence will be key to your continued growth and success.

Originally published on http://www.sharpheels.com

Also seen on EllevateNetwork, Chicago Tribune, and Business Insider UK