Change and Credibility

You need to be aware of how constant change can impact your credibility as a leader.

Think about how change typically occurs in the workplace. Day one, leadership announces some rather significant change the organization will be undergoing. They explain it as best they can, including the reasons it is necessary. There is the usual amount of shock, awe, wonder, angst, and grumbling.

Sometime later, as progress on the change is being made, leadership announces another change, once again explaining all the details (including the why) as clearly as possible. There is probably slightly more surprise and grumbling. People begin to wonder if leadership knows what it is doing.

Sometime later as progress continues on the latest change, leadership announces yet another change in course. By now it is no secret about how people are feeling and their thoughts about the total incompetence of leadership. And unfortunately, the process continues forward in the same pattern. My guess is you have lived through one or more of these situations.

One of the basic requirements for leaders is they must follow through on their promises and commitments. Without predictable and visible delivery of commitments, people will naturally lose trust in their leaders. “They say one thing but do something else. What am I supposed to believe!” If people do not believe you, they will follow you. Credibility means to be believed. Therefore, you lose credibility when others stop believing in you and your messages.

Remember that you are accountable for the commitments you make, even during major change. One thing which will help, at least a little, is to bring closure to your original change initiatives. Report what you did accomplish and why you cannot continue on the same path. People may not like it, but they will likely understand. They know the world outside your control is constantly shifting and so must the organization.

At the same time report on your other promised deliverables … such as your frequency of communications, commitment to address peoples’ questions, visible actions showing genuine concern for their well-being, etc.  These are things which you as a leader do have control over. The bad news is that people are much less forgiving when controllable promises go unfulfilled, and they should be. And, it is these misses (more than the shortcomings of the large-scale change initiatives) which more frequently lead to the loss in trust and credibility. The good news is that you have the ability to make good on all of them and preserve peoples’ faith in you.

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