Step Two: Control Yourself
The next step of the Four-Step Process for Mindful Credibility is to control yourself. If you are mindful of your strengths and your weaknesses, such as those associated with your social style, you give yourself the opportunity to make the most of who you are, maximizing your strengths and minimizing your weaknesses. When you control yourself, you are mindful not only of others’ reactions to your behavioral preferences, but also of your tolerance level for the behavioral preferences of others (Merrill and Reid, 1981). This requires you to be open, transparent, and patient with others, slow to judge and slow to react.
The credible leader is organized, a characteristic of the Analytical social style. The credible leader’s transparency enables him or her to build trusted relationships and to face and overcome mistakes. Being patient, slow to judge, and slow to react requires composure. How can you obtain such skills? Gain them by using self-talk to shape your self-image and your behavior. Let’s examine these ideas a little more closely.
The Organized Leader
Credible leaders are organized, which enables them to behave in a proactive manner. They don’t have to “play catch up” because they make an effort to stay ahead. Others take notice of their organization and conclude that the leader is credible. Allgeier provides recommendations on how to get and stay organized in Table 6-2.
Table 6-2 Habits of Organized and Credible Leaders
Organization for Credibility
Teresa Allen wrote in Common Sense Service, “Conflict often occurs not because of grievous error, but as the result of two individuals who meet on that somewhat stressful road of life. Small mistakes on such days can put us on dangerous ground. If, however, we are able to honestly admit our human weaknesses and mistakes, most customers will forgive us and move forward in a positive direction” (Allen, 2010).
This is the difference between perceived success and perceived failure. Successful people generally have the credibility to admit their mistakes; unsuccessful people generally do not. Successful people work with their stakeholders—their customers, leadership, and teammates—to overcome mistakes before they become failures. Unsuccessful people generally do not acknowledge their own mistakes; instead they blame others, blame the environment, blame leadership, and even blame the customer, instead of admitting their own faults and culpability and moving forward to correct problems. Many have a scotoma —a blind spot—to their own flaws. Either that or they know about them but choose not to face them.
If you and your team make too many mistakes, you put your credibility at risk. Consider the process in Figure 6-8 to maintain or repair your credibility.
During a conversation with a group of customer representatives for a large contract, I was leading a review of our continual service improvement plans. I went over my assessment of our quality management system and what I believed we needed to improve in order to enhance customer service and quality delivery. During this session, one of our customers said, “Your predecessor pretended everything was perfect. She never acknowledged having any concerns or problems, even though we clearly were not happy with the service provided.”
Figure 6-8 Repairing and maintaining credibility.
“IT service management is like tending a garden,” I said. “As soon as you think you have removed all of the weeds, new ones pop up out of nowhere, so you just have to keep at it.” Everyone got it immediately. “I just rip out the garden and pour concrete,” one of them joked. “Yes, but then I get cracks in the concrete and weeds grow in the cracks,” another responded.
You can’t keep your garden free of weeds unless you first acknowledge that you have them. Pretending you are perfect diminishes your credibility and the credibility of your team and organization. “So pity the poor perfectionist,” wrote Dr. Adrian Furnham, professor of psychology at University College London and the Norwegian Business School.
“They are driven by a fear of failure; a fear of making mistakes; and a fear of disapproval. They can easily self-destruct in a vicious cycle of their own making: 1) Set unreachable goals, 2) fail to reach them, 3) become depressed and lethargic, 4) have less energy and a deep sense of failure, 5) get lower self-esteem and high self-blame.” Th is is not the behavior of a leader—not a person people want to follow, and not a person with credibility. “There is nothing wrong with setting high standards,” Dr. Furnham continued, “but they need to be reachable with effort. It’s all about being okay; human not super-human; among the best, if not the best” (Furnham, 2014).
Once you have taken ownership for the responsibility of removing the weeds from your garden, for acknowledging and correcting your mistakes and those of your team, you are in a position to coordinate with your stakeholders to determine the best next action. All of these stakeholders need to hear from you about the issues you are facing and what you are doing to resolve them. None of them are perfect; they have weeds in their gardens too. Reasonable stakeholders understand that your garden will have weeds, that mistakes will be made, but they need to know that you are tending your garden, because they are impacted by the harvest your garden produces.
Not all stakeholders are reasonable or understanding about your mistakes. You have to manage your expectations concerning how they respond. Develop your corrective action plan as quickly as possible, making sure it is as sound as possible and that you have as much consensus as possible. This puts you in a defensible position against those who intend to politically harm you and your team members.
After you have addressed a mistake, share what you have learned with others in your environment. Many organizations have “lessons learned” databases and knowledge management systems for documenting and sharing experiences that will help others avoid mistakes in the future. Taking ownership of your mistakes and sharing how you resolved them allows you to leave the situation in the past. It enables you and your organization to grow and be more successful. Your leadership in this area can produce IT projects that are more successful—and an IT industry that is more credible.