The last thing a CEO (or any other high level executive) needs in pushing goals, objectives and action plans all the way through the ranks of a company is to literally “feel” the skepticism as the messages are delivered – that collective vibe from the other team members that they really aren’t believing much of what the leader says.
It’s nearly impossible for someone to really move the dial when mistrust of leadership is so high, because it is such a powerful destructive force in the workplace.
To successfully overcome this force, high-level executives need to build what I call a “Fortress of Credibility”, one that can easily withstand any future attempts to tear it down, taking into account all the differing reasons why mistrust occurs in the first place.
This Fortress is made of 6 “building blocks”:
1) Make sure they know you
2) Make sure you know them
3) Be seen as a “Doer”, not a “Talker”
4) Over-communicate (use Terry’s Rule)
5) Keep your promises (or don’t make them if you can’t keep them)
6) Be a truth-teller
First, your teammates simply need to know who you are. Now I know that sounds painfully obvious, but have you been watching this new reality show “Undercover Boss”? How can leaders build any credibility if the rank and file doesn’t even know their names, or what they look like? What’s more, you can’t assume they know you just because your picture is on your company’s web site. Credibility is never nameless.
Next, a leader must get out of the ivory tower and into the places where the business gets done – that kind of visibility is critical. I realize as the companies get larger it gets harder and harder to meet teammates, but getting to know as many of them as possible at least can create good word of mouth (the “wow, at least this person goes out into the field” vibe can get around very fast).
It’s also very effective to get a reputation as a “doer”, rather than someone who just talks at people. The best complement I ever overheard from someone after I made a field visit was “I like him – he gets things done”.
And then there’s hearsay. Many a credibility reputation has been harmed by third and fourth-hand information being distorted and mangled. The antidote is over communicating – that’s why I came up with “Terry’s Rule”, which is communicating the same thing at least 15 times to make sure it is properly understood.
Lastly, there are the obvious building blocks, but ones that absolutely, positively can’t be ignored - honesty, transparency, and keeping promises. Or more importantly, showing restraint when you’re tempted to throw out a bunch of promises as temporary “band-aids” for morale issues, while at the same time knowing that you can’t possibly keep all of them.
If you can build this Fortress of Credibility successfully with these 6 blocks, then the next time you deliver your goals and objectives, the vibe will be far different. The audience will be with you inside the fortress, fending off any attempts to knock it down by any lingering disbelievers. The message will be well received, and understood. You and your team now have the proper momentum to execute.
Go for it!