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The Personal Credibility Factor Secret #1: Forget Power, Position, Status, and Other Such Nonsense

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There’s no lasting connection between higher status/power and personal credibility. Sandy Allgeier walks you through some examples.

Strong personal credibility is available for everyone—regardless of who you are and what you do. Your position, status, or role in life have nothing to do with your personal credibility factor. Different people play different roles in their careers, jobs, and other activities—and some are roles of very high authority—however, there’s no lasting connection between higher status/power and personal credibility. Let’s look at a few examples.

Same Ideas, But Very Different Results

“John” held a senior vice president position in a large Fortune 500 organization. John was a creative, likable, and bright executive. His staff and peers greatly enjoyed working with him and he inspired others to new and creative ways of thinking. As a member of the senior leadership team, John regularly presented suggestions, recommendations, and proposals for consideration with his fellow senior leaders. Unfortunately, the outcome of most of those recommendations was, “Uh, good idea, John. But we can’t implement that idea right now. Maybe we can reconsider later.” He was politely listened to and verbally patted on the head. John just did not have a good track record for gaining approval for his ideas.

This organization was growing, and as is customary when companies grow quickly, reorganization became necessary. “Alice,” another member of the senior management team, was asked to assume responsibility for a larger role in leadership, and as a result, John, along with two other colleagues, was now to report to Alice in her new role as chief administrative officer. John respected Alice and accepted this restructuring positively.

Then, an odd thing started to happen to John’s ideas and recommendations. Alice reviewed many of them personally and then worked with John and the other senior leaders to reconsider implementing those ideas. In about six weeks, approximately 80 percent of the recommendations John had previously made were funded and approved by the president and the other members of the leadership team. These were the same ideas that did not receive much positive attention previously. Why? Alice had personal credibility. John simply did not have it—or at least at the same level. Although John was liked, he did not have the strong respect of the other leaders. In Alice’s new position, she worked with John to have his ideas reevaluated and considered. Although the authority within John’s position was the same, under Alice’s leadership, the results were very different. You might be thinking that since Alice now had more authority within her newly established position that she was able to get more accomplished.

Actually, that had no real impact in this situation. The people on the leadership team who had shot down John’s ideas were the same people who later approved them. Alice held the same “rank” as the rest of the members of this team, no more or less positional power than others who were involved in the decision making. This group of leaders, however, believed that Alice would not make recommendations unless they were solid. They just did not have the same confidence in John. We’ll explore more about the specifics that impacted that later. But, the key point is that results did not occur as a result of the position Alice or John were in. Both of their positions had status and authority, but Alice was respected—she had stronger personal credibility. Naturally, John was mystified by Alice’s results and why they differed so much from his own. Why did Alice get more respect from the leadership team? Why did it matter that she was recommending the same basic concepts that he had previously and yet she received approval? Eventually, John asked Alice to explain how she was able to gain such different outcomes. At first, Alice wasn’t sure how to respond to John’s question. She needed to spend some time thinking about what she did and how she did it. Eventually, however, she was able to provide John with some very specific feedback about how she had learned to work hard in a few basic areas, and how that work had paid off for her. She realized she had learned to do certain things that would increase her opportunity to gain others’ trust and respect. She also assured John that he could choose to make a few simple changes that could significantly improve his results as well. In later chapters, you will discover more about Alice and what she did—and what John had been doing that was diminishing his success and decreasing his personal credibility with this team.

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