Developing a lasting culture using the three C's of Credibility
Very few pictured their business careers including the uncertainty and intensity of a global pandemic. Most went from being in the office every day to their worlds being turned upside down. On top of that, many of those same people had to figure out how to hold their teams accountable and keep morale high, while going years without seeing them face-to-face. Culture is a buzzword in all business circles but is often misunderstood. Culture is extremely difficult to develop and maintain if a very intentional and methodical approach is not taken each and every day. That intentionality is even more important when establishing a culture in a remote environment.
Many times, as business owners or managers approach a stage of change, they have a hard time transitioning into the type of leaders who will ultimately lead their teams successfully toward the next steps in an evolving business. That change could include a time of growth, a strategic alteration, or something more dramatic like being forced to work remotely for an indefinite period of time. Most people do not have leadership education or training to handle change — and it ultimately shows.
Business owners or those in leadership positions often have many of the skills needed to become great leaders. Still, they don’t know how to harness those skills to create a company culture that influences and empowers employees to contribute value in taking a business to the next level. Leaders are not born they are developed. Some leadership skills may be more natural than others, but they all need to be understood, developed, and nurtured.
Since the skills required to become a great leader are things that can be learned and improved upon, it’s natural that engaging in proactive education and training strengthens and sharpens those skills. In my experience, improving upon those skills will not only prove helpful in the workplace, but they will make you more effective in all of life’s arenas. I have had the great pleasure of researching the efficacy of leadership principles in an academic setting and applying a novel leadership philosophy in my business, while remaining committed to core values and company culture above all else. This has led to building a totally remote, international company that has experienced explosive growth. What follows is a small sample of the philosophy that now permeates throughout the incredible leaders in that business.
Becoming An Effective Leader
Once you’ve decided to take your leadership development seriously, the first thing you need to know is what leadership looks like. Some well-meaning but misguided entrepreneurs think that by simply getting people to do what they want them to do, they are effective leaders. That’s not entirely correct. Leadership is as much about understanding the perception team members have of you and creating a sense of autonomy, as it is about utilizing certain skills.
An excellent leader uses personal traits and skills that motivate team members to want what is best for themselves and those around them. A good leader empowers them to succeed by creating an environment that allows them to understand and excel in their positions, knowing they have the support of a great team. Having the theoretical understanding of how to implement this culture, methodically implementing the principles, and being genuine in your relationships will make all the difference.
Let’s look at how to create that kind of culture for any organization in any industry, in-person or remote.
The Three C’s Of Credibility
Aristotle’s Rhetoric is the earliest introduction to credibility, or "ethos" as he called it. He was the first to understand that the purveyor of the message, the message, and the audience all play a role in the communication process. Aristotle’s ethos had three dimensions: intelligence, character, and goodwill. It is not coincidental that The Three C’s of Credibility parallel Aristotle’s ethos.
Credibility research has demonstrated that people subconsciously judge the credibility of people by looking for three things: competence, character and caring. The best leaders possess all three traits.
The only true way to create a culture of excellence in any business is for those in leadership positions to impact their team members’ lives in meaningful ways, and not just play the role of boss. In order to do that, we must focus on the skills that create the perception of high credibility.
People seek out the guidance of those who know what they are doing. We also need to know that the people guiding us are trustworthy and genuinely care about our success. When we find someone who checks off all these boxes, we perceive them, consciously or unconsciously, as being credible. We will gladly follow their leadership, knowing that they deliver the best advice they can, based on their extensive knowledge in the field and their respect for those around them. What most individuals miss is that all three aspects are equally important. If any single trait is missing, competence, character, or caring, you will be perceived as less credible.
When most think of credibility, they think of competence. In simple terms, does the leader know what they are doing? We simply don’t want anyone leading us if we see them as incompetent. Have you ever had a boss who “didn’t know what they were talking about”? Were they effective team leaders? Probably not. When the leader is competent, that knowledge translates into confidence, which is then passed on to the team. When your team is skilled and confident, the business is in good hands.
People throw around the term “moral compass” a lot and for a good reason. Our moral compasses, or core values, drive everything we do. When we choose to follow any leader, we want to know that they possess the qualities that we find good and true and awe-inspiring. We want to follow leaders with character.
When a team doesn’t believe the leader or owner is straightforward or trustworthy, they put up protective barriers of their own. These barriers cut off communication and lead to ineffectual relationships between colleagues.
The simple act of showing kindness and concern goes a long way toward gaining people’s trust. Showing empathy allows team members to understand that you want the same end result as they do. It is paramount that a leader is perceived as caring more about individuals than numbers or results. In order to become a great leader, those you are leading need to think you genuinely care.
Culture starts at the top and when a leader shows generosity, gratitude and humility, it connects us all on a very human level that creates a desire in employees to do their best for themselves and their teams. Culture is your ultimate competitive advantage. You can copy a company’s systems and processes, but you can’t copy its heart and soul.