Credibility & the Loch Ness Monster

Credibility is a much referenced and seemingly aspired to trait or characteristic and yet I wonder if it is the Loch Ness Monster of the world of work.

What do I mean by that?

Let’s look at Nessie:

People have been searching for her for years off the back of a myth and legend that she exists.
The investment (in terms of time and money) into getting credible evidence proving her existence is considerable.
We are at the least intrigued by and maybe even hope that Nessie is proved real so that we can say the investment was worth it.
The idea of Nessie; an enigma that is rumoured to show itself to the few and if you find her you will be championed.

You will no doubt see the comparisons I am making with the search for ‘Credibility’.

My three favourite words (aside from the ones I use with my wife) are:

Context is everything

This matters because I think there is a fundamental question rarely considered in the writing around Credibility, this is:

Who defines someone as being Credible?

This matters and matters a lot. Why? Because I may say that the way I am with my peers, my boss, my team(s) and my family is credible and that I am being wholly me. However, when my wife sees me with my colleagues she says (something like):

‘Who was that?’
‘That wasn’t you?’
‘Why did you act like that, you don’t do that?’

Similarly, if a member of my team attends a meeting between my peers and I, will they see the same ‘Credible’ me as they see each day? My argument is that no they won’t.

As an aside I think that is why there is a general reluctance to let ‘others’ (subordinates or otherwise) into meetings. Why? Because if ‘Jack’ sees me here doing X then that may undermine the credibility I (think I) have with ‘Jack’.

Context is such an important thing and defines an awful lot about how we see things, how we act, behave even ‘be’. When I say ‘we’ here I mean us as individuals and those we are interacting with. That’s the thing about ‘leaders’ they have to interact with others and both the self and others will create meaning.

Meaning is vital. In the workplace we look for meaning. More so we look for meaning and consistency. We look for things we want or expect to see (based on our previous experience) and when we don’t see it, we question as (I think) we doubt that individuals Credibility.

This takes us back to ‘me’ being (and/or believing) I am being Credible and yet when I am seen in these different contexts by different people, they see different things, get different ‘Credible’ versions of me and so then this begs the killer questions:

Am I Credible?
Who decides Credibility?
Is Credibility contextual?
Who gets or gives or maintains or threatens or destroys Credibility?

I also wonder, how the use of strategies to deliberately and purposefully manage (our) impression fits with this and then what that means for Credibility? Another blog me thinks.

In the mean time, good luck searching for Nessie


2 responses to “Credibility & the Loch Ness Monster

  1. Interesting read Simon thank you. Context certainly plays a part and who decides can be a lottery at times!
    I was left wondering however, if credibility is more solid than we think. Your points around being different for different people brought up questions of authenticity. I wonder if authenticity plays a part in credibility? Anyway, really enjoyed that. Keep them coming!

    • Hi Wayne, how are you? I hope you are well. It seems like ages ago that we were sat in All Bar One celebrating you finishing your cipd sessions. I think there is a link between Credibility and Authenticity as I suggest that if your not seen to be authentic you won’t be classed as credible. That said, there may be times you can be credible when authentcity is less of an issue, for example early in a relationship. Thanks for commenting and I will do my best to keep them coming. Take care, Phil

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