Many of us feverishly working on programs or projects find ourselves somewhere in “the middle” of the decision-making hierarchy. Often, we have great ideas in how to solve a problem, improve a process or plan for the next project, but seem to be paralyzed in influencing the decision makers in our way of thought. So time and again we take a deep breath, bring our ideas up to leadership, but they seem never to mature or even leave our desks. What can we do?
The first thing we have to realize, and believe, is leading from the middle is possible. In his book, “The Science of Persuasion,” Kevin Hogan stated his opinion that one of the most crucial pieces, if not the center point itself, to being able to lead from the middle is credibility. Why would leadership even begin to listen to anyone if they are not credible?
Mr. Hogan, a persuasion expert, calculated a formula for credibility:
Experience + Trustworthiness = Credibility
The first thing to point out is you need both experience and trustworthiness to be credible. If you are missing one, you are out of luck. Let’s think about this and relate it to our workplace. You know people who have 17 years of experience, a Master’s degree in “muckitemuck”, and an opinion on everything that is going on. But, for whatever reason you just don’t trust them. Those individuals have a hard time getting ideas through. Let’s look at it the other way. There is Joe who you have lunch with everyday. He soft spoken, normally sits and waits for direction, is one year out of college, nice wife and family, and he even bailed you out of jail last year and did not tell anybody. To you, he is the most trustworthy guy in the building but, his experience is lacking. Once again, his ideas get no traction.
When we get up in the morning and our brushing our teeth looking in the mirror, how do we think we perform in the credibility formula? One other very important issue Mr. Hogan argues is it’s not what we think about ourselves; it is how others perceive us and these two maybe different. In the examples given, it was your perception of somebody else: are they credible or not? Weather we realize it or not, we are under the same scrutiny by our peers and yes, our leadership. Experience + Trustworthiness = Credibility. How is your credibility perceived by others?
The Science of Influence: How to get anyone to say yes in 8 minutes or less. Kevin Hogan. Wiley; Hoboken, NJ. 304 pages.