Are You Trustworthy? 4 Ways to Demonstrate Credibility

This article originally appeared on Microlearning, our bite-sized online solution for leaders and individual contributors.

Attractive serious businesswoman wearing eyeglasses and blue blouse sitting at conference table with three male co-workers in front of large bright window

You can’t just say, “I have integrity! I mean well! I deliver!” and have other people see you as credible. Credibility is a reputation you build slowly over time, showing your colleagues through your everyday words and actions that you’re honest, you care, and you deliver results.

These behaviors can get you started.

1. Seek out new information and be willing to change your mind.

Many people hesitate to admit when they’re wrong, worried that they’ll look unreliable or seem wishy-washy if they change their mind. But the opposite is usually true — seeking out and acting on new information boosts your credibility because it demonstrates that you’re more interested in doing the right thing than in being right. And it paints you as an open collaborator willing to challenge your own thinking, which can encourage others to bring you important information in the future.

To do this:

  • Gather a range of perspectives before making an important decision. Get perspectives from people outside your usual circles, not just those you think will agree with you. Ask open-ended questions like these to surface new ideas and flaws in your plan:
    • “If you were in my position, how would you handle this?”
    • “You’ve dealt with this successfully in the past. What steps did you take?”
    • “Here’s what I’m thinking. Is my view correct? What information am I missing?”
    • “We’ve always done it this way. What drawbacks do you see to this approach? How could we do it better?”
  • When you’re wrong, admit it and explain what you learned and will change. Doing so shows that you’re open to new information and want to be sure that everyone understands the latest thinking. For example:
    • “I thought that very few people would read our holiday newsletter, but I was wrong. The traffic data show it was one of our most popular editions. In the future, I’ll put more time into our holiday newsletters.”

2. Share tough truths in the interest of helping others improve.

Being honest is easier said than done. If you’re so honest that you drop truth bombs wherever you see the need, people will likely get defensive and start to disregard your feedback. Instead, tell it like it is about the things that really matter — and explain your good intent when you share. This will help others see that you have their and your organization’s best interests at heart — even if what you have to say may be tough to hear.

To do this:

  • Before giving feedback, consider, Will this feedback help the person receiving it? This helps you clarify your intent — to help them improve a core aspect of their job or the way others perceive them and not just for your own benefit. For example, if you’re concerned that a teammate’s approach to a client call could backfire in a way that damages the client relationship, speak up. But if their approach is just different from yours or if your feedback doesn’t relate to their role or reputation, it may be best to let it go.
  • If you give the feedback, explain why you’re sharing so that others understand your good intent. Keep your tone considerate and your message clear and direct. For example:
    • “I want to let you know that you rambled in our last team meeting. It was difficult to understand your main point, and I noticed a couple of people getting distracted. I’m sharing this because you have really interesting information to contribute, and I don’t want people to start tuning you out.”
    • “I’m worried that our new campaign could be seen as offensive by some users because of X. I’m sharing this to help us avoid hurting the trust our users put in us.”

3. Use your strengths to help your team meet its biggest needs.

When you focus only on meeting your goals and looking out for yourself, people might see you as a high performer, but they won’t necessarily trust that you care about the team’s success. Instead, when you align your talents with what your team really needs, others will start to see you as a high-value contributor — even indispensable.

To do this:

  • Determine what your team needs most — and how you can contribute to this important work. For example, if you’re an expert project manager, you could raise your hand to manage your team’s big client initiative. If you’re not sure what your team needs, ask your peers and manager, “What are your top priorities right now?” and “What do you see on the horizon for our team?” And ask yourself, What’s slowing our team down? What needs more time or resources? and How can I use my strengths to help?
  • Use your skills and influence to help colleagues in a difficult situation. Maybe you have the editing expertise to quickly polish an important report before it goes to the VP. Or, maybe you know just the person on the engineering team to fix a vexing bug. Or, if you’re a leader, maybe you can reach out to a peer manager to get a key approval your team needs. Over time, you could build a reputation as a valuable go-to person for your specific skill or expertise.

Caution: Don’t prioritize helping your team to the point that you sacrifice your own goals and development. And don’t take on too much — or you risk burning out, damaging your credibility if you can’t follow through, and hurting your standing with your boss if your day-to-day work starts to slip.

4. Share your results in a way that bolsters your credibility.

Results don’t always speak for themselves. But if you simply shout your achievements from the rooftops, people will think you’re self-serving. Instead, own your successes as well as what you need to do better — so your co-workers see you as someone who follows through and always strives to improve. You’re not bragging — you’re keeping them informed about what they care about, uplifting your collaborators, and sharing your missteps and lessons learned that they can apply.

To do this:

  • Focus your updates on how you’ve impacted high-level goals or other things your recipients care about. For example:
    • “To help meet our store goal of attracting new customers, I refreshed the displays near the entrance. As a result, we drew in 15 percent more foot traffic.”
  • Include how others contributed. Sharing credit demonstrates that you understand you didn’t get there on your own — and that others deserve the spotlight, too. It can make your whole team look good by proxy. For example:
    • “And we couldn’t have done it without Cedric’s outstanding work on the new logo and visual design.”
  • Explain where you’ve fallen short — and what you’ll do differently next time. Don’t blame poor circumstances or other people when you miss a goal. Take responsibility and show what you’ve learned. Your example may also help your colleagues feel safe to share their own setbacks. For example:
    • “I missed my sales quota this quarter. In analyzing why, I realize that I didn’t source enough high-quality leads. Next quarter, I’m going to try a new, more targeted outreach approach.”