Your credibility is on the line: Protect it now

Perhaps you remember the Ghostbuster movies. You may remember their theme song as well, a song that kept asking, “Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!”

These days, we are forced to ask a much more serious question. And that is, “Who you gonna trust?” It’s quite a challenge.

In the course of my research on trust, truth, and honesty, I made a special point to attend a presentation by one of the top foreign policy advisors in the Obama administration. On another occasion, I attended a presentation by the highest-ranking female advisor in the Reagan administration. Interestingly enough, they both made the same point: you have to be very careful about where you get your information and who you trust.

After their formal presentations, the audience members were allowed to ask questions. I stood up, commended each of them on their plea for truth, said I agreed with them on being careful about where you get your information, and then asked a question. I asked them which news source they trusted to tell the truth. They both answered, “There isn’t any.”

Wow! What a sad commentary on our state of affairs. It’s no wonder that the credibility of all our leaders of all political persuasions is on the line.

The good news, however, is that you can do a lot to protect your own credibility. You can do things that make you trustworthy.

► 1. Do what’s right.

It’s one thing to know what’s right. It’s another thing to do what’s right.

And if you want to be a credible person who is trusted, you’ve got to do what’s right, in public and in private. As former Congressman J. C. Watts put it, “Character is doing what’s right when nobody’s looking.”

Unfortunately, there are some people who want to look good in the public eye but act quite differently when no one’s looking. It’s the person, for example, who goofs off when the boss is gone, thinking there’s nothing wrong with that if they don’t get caught.

No! No! No! If something is wrong, it’s wrong. Period! So please don’t act that way because you will destroy your credibility. People won’t trust you.

Michael Volkeman, the chairman of The Herman Miller Furniture Company, preaches that. He says, “Leadership (and trust building) is about doing the right thing, not the easy thing.”

You can’t be like the sly country grocer who had a homely dog tied to a stake outside his store. He was letting the dog drink from a rare china saucer when an equally sly antique dealer walked by and asked, “How much for the dog?”

“He’s not for sale,” said the grocer.

“I had a pup just like that when I was a lad. Seeing your dog is bringing back loads of wonderful memories. Is there anything I can do to change your mind?” begged the antique dealer.

The grocer sighed as he continued sweeping the steps to his shop, ignoring the man. “I’ll give you $75,” the dealer exclaimed. “I simply must have that dog.”

“For $75 bucks you’ve got yourself a deal,” said the grocer.

Then the antique dealer added, “Well, I’m sure you wouldn’t mind parting with that saucer, too. The dog seems so fond of it. I wouldn’t want him to miss it.”

“Absolutely not!” cried the grocer. “That’s my lucky saucer. I’ve been able to pawn off every stray dog hanging around my store because of that dish.”

We can laugh at a story like that. But we also realize we couldn’t trust that grocer in the future because he was not doing what was right.

Let me in!

If you want to protect your credibility as a leader, as a parent, as a spouse, as a friend, or anything else, you’ve got to do what’s right, even when no one is looking. That’s a key ingredient in the trust-building process.

F.Y.I. A year ago I offered a new program called THE TRUST CONNECTION: How To Build Stronger, Empathic, Engaged Relationships. Ever since that time, people have been asking me to offer it again. Here’s your chance.

► 2. Walk your talk.

In the work world, employees are professional boss watchers. They listen to and watch everything the boss says and does to see if they’re congruent. In other words, the boss who says one thing and does another doesn’t have any credibility. They can’t be trusted. And neither can you if you act that way.

So ask yourself, “What do people say about you? That you walk your talk? Or that you’re big on words but short on action?”

I encourage you to follow Socrates’ advice. He said, “The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.”

In a day where cancel culture threatens to destroy you if you don’t obey their dogma, it takes guts to walk your talk. As former Senator Barbara Boxer put it, “If all you do is take the path of least resistance, because you’re afraid of not being loved, then you don’t really stand for much.”

When you walk your talk, people may not always like you or agree with you. But at the very least they know your credibility is intact and that you can be trusted.

► 3. Keep your promises.

The latest research on emotional intelligence affirms the power of a promise. As Dr. Dan Hill reports in Emotionomics, “A CEO must protect his or her credibility above all else.” And nothing builds up or shoots down credibility quicker than keeping or not keeping your promises.

People used to say things like, “His word is his bond. You can take it to the bank. It’s as good as gold.” That might sound old-fashioned these days, but it still protects your credibility. DWYSYWD. Do what you say you will do.

Put another way, put your money where your mouth is. As one woman told her husband, “Don’t write a check with your mouth. Pay cash.”

To build trust, to keep the trust, you must keep your promises. Anything less than that endangers your relationships.