I was preparing to deliver a workshop last week and started to think about credibility, as discussion of this term was part of a group exercise. I began to muse about how credibility and weight gain have inverse relationships with the speed of gains and losses. Weight is easy to gain and takes little effort to do it; yet it is very challenging to lose. Anyone who has done it knows it’s hard work. Credibility is the opposite. Credibility takes considerable time, effort and consistent focus to build. Trust must be present. Delivery must be consistent. Words need to match actions. One must be accountable for mistakes, and rectify them. Whether you are in a leadership position, or a staff position; a business owner or employee, this is a universal concept.
On the other hand, credibility that took weeks, months or years to build could be destroyed in an instant. With a forgotten return phone call; showing up late; missing an important detail; an error in judgment; an off-caliber performance; a thoughtless remark. You get the point.
I was in need of new specialist recently and decided to call on one whom a family had seen in the past. They are part of a large practice where I have been getting some of my medical care for fifteen years. I had a virtual visit scheduled for the afternoon. Fifteen minutes before the virtual visit, I started to prepare for the visit, just as I had done in the past. I made sure my video and audio were working and my phone was fully charged. When attempting to log onto the visit, I realized I had not received a link for the appointment. I searched my inbox and all of my spam files just in case I had missed something. I called the office and explained what was happening. The person on the other end sounded surprised that I had an appointment, and asked if she could transfer my call. Sure, no problem.
I spoke with a nice gentleman who was going to alert the physician’s staff that they had an appointment waiting, and someone would be sending me a link for the appointment momentarily. Again, no problem. Stuff happens, right?
Five minutes goes by. Then ten. Then twenty. Then a half hour. I was starting to lose my patience. I was now late for a business call that I probably was no longer going to be able to make. This was also not the experience I was accustomed to having at this practice. After an hour, I tried calling the practice back. I was looped into the “Your call is very important to us, please stay on the line” automated hold music. After four times of being thanked for holding, and being assured that my call was very important, I was sent to voice mail. I left a message describing the issue, and that I was still waiting for my appointment.
The rest of the afternoon went by without a return phone call. Between the time I made the initial phone call to inquire about what happened, and the end of the business day, my opinion of the practice and the physician went completely downhill. I went through a series of questions in my head. Was my call important? Did they care about me as a patient? What if this were an urgent situation? What were they doing over there that no one can return a phone call? Just tell me what’s going on! Tell me to take a hike or take a long walk off a short cliff. Tell me something!
My questions turned to statements. “These people don’t care. This new management company is terrible. There is no customer service. These people don’t know what they are doing.” Statements turned to conclusions: “These people are incompetent. I don’t trust this office. I’m going to try to find another doctor.”
Credibility. Built over fifteen years. Lost in an afternoon.
For me, credibility is the foundation of any business or personal brand. It’s when your words match your actions. People know you as reliable, accountable, dependable. You deliver each time; on time, and with excellence.
My top three components of credibility:
Accountability: I own my decisions and my choices. If I make a mistake, I acknowledge it, seek to understand why it happened and work to correct it right away.
Integrity: I say what I mean. I mean what I say. I do what I say.
Consistency: I deliver high quality services on time, each time. I follow through with my commitments. My customers and colleagues can count on me.
These three components build credibility, which is one of the rocks upon which trust is built. When your credibility gets hit, and that rock is removed, your foundation gets hit. Then your foundation may start to crumble.
To the leaders out there entrusting your employees with your and your organization’s credibility: How are you making sure credibility is being consistently maintained? One of my favorite Lean Six Sigma trainers used to say, “You get what you expect and what you inspect.” Are you doing walk rounds, ensuring that your teams are maintaining the brand, the image and the level of service you want?
On the flip side, leaders, are you cultivating the brand image you want to be known for as a leader? How do your employees see you? What about your customers? Are you trustworthy? Consistent? Do you lead with integrity?
Employees, how are you building your personal brand? What daily actions and behaviors are building your foundational wall? How do people see you?
Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/VN1YlrnHcq8