What You Are Doing (Unconsciously) To Hurt Your Credibility What You Are Doing (Unconsciously) To Hurt Your Credibility As a psychology major, a corporate executive, a coach and a Director Consultant for BNI I’ve gotten tons of training on building relationships and managing my reputation. I don’t always do it perfectly but I’m constantly learning and integrating this learning into my life and my business. Because of this training I’m also really good at identifying when others are doing things that hurt relationships and hurt their reputation. What also catches my attention is when they do these things oblivious to the consequences. I see it all the time and I know it’s hurting those people’s opportunities to grow in their career or grow their business. People want to do business with people they know, like and trust. The same is true within organizations. Managers want to promote those they know, like and trust. Treat trust like a valuable business asset, and protect it at all costs. 1 Delayed Response Time on Messages We’re all busy, right? Shouldn’t there be some slack granted? Sure, but then you end up in the category of busy people who are cracking under the pressure and I don’t think that’s what you want. Rather than being seen as successfully busy you’re seen as someone who has too much on their plate and should not take on more. Now you’re thinking, “But wait, I don’t want to be taking on more. I don’t need more busy work.” Right! You DO NOT want more needless busy work. However, this “more” also takes you out of the running for some really great opportunities: juicy projects, promotions and clients. I know many business owners whose prospective clients were referred to their competition because the perception was the busy business owner was too busy to take on any more clients. In regards to response time on messages there’s a magic number. It’s 24. After 24 business hours the person who sent or left the message starts to wonder. They are wondering if you got the message, they are wondering if you understood the message, they are wondering if you decided it wasn’t important, they are wondering if you are going to get back to them. They are wondering if they are going to have to take more time out of their busy day to reach out to you again. As human beings when we don’t have information we make stuff up and we tend to lean toward the negative. It’s the survivalist part of our brain that wants to protect us and is preparing for negative outcomes. Here’s a quick solution: send a quick note or voice message back letting them know you got their message and will be working on it in the next couple of days. This resets the expectation clock and reaffirms that you are responsible and professional. Now the sender is no longer left wondering…and making stuff up. 2 You Allow Yourself to Get Distracted We live in a world of bright shiny objects. Many things are pulling at our attention. But if you are not all in and focused on what is going on right now and the person right in front of you, you convey that something else is more important. This can manifest itself as starting a side conversation during a meeting when someone else is speaking, looking over someone’s shoulder while talking to them, checking your phone, or spending too much time taking breaks when works needs to get done, etc. And when people feel that they are not important or what you are doing for them is not important, they don’t trust you to take good care of them and all their “things.” I’ve had a business owner go on to me about how attentive they are to their clients and that listening was what people wanted. In our next conversation this person’s eyes kept darting over my shoulder to what was going on behind me. When I was in corporate I had someone on my team that wanted to be developed to be in management someday. Usually this is a great thing. Having someone who wants to prove they are ready for more responsibility makes work more engaging and life a little easier. However, this person felt their current tasks were beneath them and so did their tasks too quickly, without care, and mistakes were being made. They were so eager to move on they were proving themselves to be unreliable. Here’s my advice: be where you are right now. If you’re working your way up the ladder do your absolute best to prove that, even when a task is tedious, you can be relied upon to produce good work. If you cannot be where you are right now, literally or figuratively, make your apologies and go. But if you’re in, be in. And yes, there will be plenty to demand your attention after this conversation or this meeting or this project but give what you are doing now 100% of your attention. 3 You Share Mistakes You’ve Made without Highlighting the Lesson Learned We are in a new era of business where we should be sharing ourselves more with our co-workers and clients, to build stronger teams and solidify relationships. Sharing our failures can create stronger bonds than sharing our successes. The compassion and empathy we feel when someone talks about their struggles adds emotion to the equation forming closer ties. The caveat is if you don’t finish the story with what you learned or what you’ve put in place to make sure it never happens again, you leave people with the impression that you’re failure did not lead to learning. There’s no sense that you’ve taken any responsibility for what happened or that you know how to prevent it in the future. You may have in fact put a system in place to correct the problem but if you don’t mention it, the other party is left to assume the problem could happen again. Here’s how to do it right: always finish your story by highlighting what you’ve learned from your mistake, what systems and safety nets you have put in place to make sure it will never happen again. For me, that builds trust. When I hear the solution they have come up with I know this person has made mistakes but has become stronger and wiser from them. 4 You Share Stories of Other People’s Mistakes for Entertainment I know you are a good person. I know you mean no harm. I get it. We’ve all done this and it feels great in the moment. It lightens the mood. But at the end of it all you’ve just earned yourself the reputation of a gossip. If you’re lucky the other person will never find out what you’ve done but they often do…days, weeks, months or even years later. Oftentimes we do this when tension has built and we need to let off some steam. A comical story seems the way to go. When we gossip we give unconscious permission to those listening to gossip about us. We teach people how to treat us. Remember the golden rule? Treat others as you want to be treated. This rule exists because it’s true, what you give is what you get. Also, no one will want to work closely (or refer those they know) to work closely with someone who would use their mistakes for the amusement of others. Remember, this also pertains to listening to gossip. By listening and laughing along, you will become guilty by association. It won’t matter that you were not the one actually gossiping. How to avoid being associated with those who engage in gossipy mean girl behavior? For starters, do not share stories that put other people in a bad light. Furthermore, when gossip starts, find an excuse to leave the conversation or change the subject. Oddly enough, intolerance for gossip solidifies your reputation for being kind, professional and a person of integrity. It may annoying in the short-term to those who would like to initiate it, but they will come to respect your stance, because they will trust that you won’t gossip about them. If you want to get promoted, if you want to grow your business, guard your reputation as a person who has compassion and can keep confidentiality, no matter how funny or juicy the information that crosses your path may be. When the urge to share information about a coworker comes up let it pass and then pat yourself on the back. You are building the confidentiality muscle. This is priceless! Instead of sharing gossip, make the conversation about the people in the room and leave the people out of the room, out of the room. Your offer of support will also pay off in the long run. 5 You Let the Fact That You Know Better Leak Out You have worked hard to be where you are and your level of earned expertise shows you where others are making mistakes. Your natural reflex is to offer suggestions. Helping peers identify and correct their mistakes will likely make a significant improvement in their health, wealth and happiness. However, somewhere between identifying the problem and the other person executing that perfect resolution something happens in the communication. Something that turns good intentions into preachiness. Rather than considering you an expert, your audience perceives you as one or more of the following: an interloper, a critic, a know-it-all, the judge, a complainer, the do-right, the fun police, the Kool-Aid drinker, a dictator, the hall monitor, or just “that annoying person.” What you don’t realize (and what I didn’t at the time) is what you are “leaking” is your attitude. “I know better than you” comes out in your facial expression, your tone of voice, and the words you choose in your communication. It’s a delicate science to give criticism without coming off this way. No one likes to be considered less than. No one appreciates having flaws pointed out, so even with the best of intentions, you’re left with a bad reputation. Before you speak, check and re-calibrate your attitude. Remind yourself why you are trying to help the other person. Come from a place of compassion, offering up your insights as merely one solution, as a gift without strings attached, and leave it up to the other person to agree or not agree. Jodi Flynn Jodi Flynn spent the early part of her career in senior management in the financial services industry. Using the confidence she developed during her work in Mutual Fund Operations, she found she flourished in the areas of supervising/mentoring, project management and team building. It was during this time that she discovered her calling – to listen for, nurture and bring out the very best in people. She knew she wanted to focus her career on helping others discover success and fulfillment in their own lives and careers. She is also the host of Women Taking The Lead Podcast, which focuses on inspiring women from humble beginnings to overcome self-doubt so they can lead with confidence, integrity and a sense of humor.