About six months ago, I was asked by a senior leader at a client company to help facilitate his regular leadership team meetings. The leader was concerned because recent meetings had not gone well, and he was troubled by his managers’ reluctance to speak up and offer insights on the different subjects under discussion. I agreed to help, and suggested that for the next meeting, I simply attend as an observer. Being an onlooker would give me an opportunity to watch team interactions and dynamics, and I hoped that it would give me some additional perspectives on what was going (and not going) well in the group. I observed one particular behaviour that I wanted to share in today’s blog post.
There was one manager on the team who had only been in the organization for just under a year, and who repeatedly used phrases such as:
“I have a lot more experience about this kind of scenario than you do.”
“This is my area of expertise so …”
“That’s why I studied this subject for over six years.”
All these and similar sentiments were verbalized with one singular objective – to let his colleagues know that because of his expertise, they were obliged to defer to his opinion and agree with his recommendations.
There was only one problem – as I observed the group dynamics, it was pretty clear to me that more he made these types of statements, the more his colleagues believed just the opposite -– by telling others that he had more expertise and experience than them, they actually took that to mean that he had very little. And it didn’t help that given his relatively recent arrival in the company, he really had no idea as to the history of most of his colleagues, and so he truly was in no position to make those claims.
The key point I want to highlight in today’s blog post is that the least effective way to convince and persuade others is to tell them how experienced you are. It’s far more effective to demonstrate your expertise and experience, and let others come to trust and rely on your knowledge and capabilities on their own. Credibility is not something that you can generate in isolation; credibility is created by others.
So have you seen situations in your organization similar to what I have just described? What should you do if, like this manager, you don’t have an existing track record of credibility that demonstrates your proficiency and skills?