As a leader of an organization or a team, you will make mistakes. No one is perfect. But, how do you ensure that those mistakes don’t hurt your credibility as a leader? Once perceptions settle in, they can be difficult to dislodge. If you are finding that your leadership abilities are in doubt and you want to take steps to regain your credibility and reset perceptions, try the following:
If it was a mistake, own it. Be specific in your understanding of the problem. Being clear about the steps that were involved sometimes requires distance. But once you embrace failure and gain objectivity, you can then start taking the steps to avoid similar problems. If it is not a specific mistake, but a cumulative effect, you will want to take a deep dive into the factors that are creating doubt in your leadership.
Start by getting on the same page as your colleagues, partners, or board members. Identify where you have struggled as a leader and explore why expectations have not been met.
Step back and conduct an honest assessment of the factors that have hindered your performance and determine which are in and outside of your control.
This is not an exercise to beat yourself up but to confront that which can be painful. The goal is to learn where and how you have lost credibility.
Once you can confront your challenges, you can then break them down and ask yourself the following questions: Was there clarity on the desired outcome(s)? What were the key decision points and what might be done differently next time and why? What’s your bet that if you did X (the factor that could make a difference), it would have changed the outcome? Give it a percentage (e.g. 60%, 90%). Do this for every step in the decision-making process. Identify those areas with the least certainty and the steps you might take next time to increase the likelihood of a better outcome.
If it’s your communication, then identify what aspects of your communication. Is it your delivery, the content, the frequency, or gaps in who is receiving information and when? Communication also involves listening. What aspects of your listening may be compromised?
Once you have conducted this self-assessment, you will be ready for the next step, learning from those with whom you work closely.
Being open to criticism is being vulnerable. Reach out to your colleagues and let them know that you’re committed to improving your leadership skills. Listen to their feedback without being defensive and take their advice to heart. Being open involves truly listening to what they have to say, no matter how difficult, and doing so without being defensive.
When someone shares an honest opinion in response to your request, ask them if they could provide a couple of examples where the behavior was exhibited. You can even go a little further and ask, “What would you advise that I could have done differently”. Most people love to give advice. Think of your role as an objective fact-finder and avoid letting your emotions take control.
If this step makes you truly uncomfortable, you can work with a coach who can independently survey your colleagues and then share this information in a constructive way.
Take the insights you’ve gained and develop a plan to regain the confidence of others. Identify actions that will have the highest impact and determine who will be involved and when change will be experienced. Share your assessment and plans with others and ask for their support and feedback
Next, take the insights you have gained and develop a plan to regain the confidence of others. Identify actions you can take that will have the highest impact. Who will be involved that will witness these action(s) or change? What is the timeframe that change will be experienced? How will you measure success?
Give some thought to these questions as you develop your plan. The goal is to have measurable change in those areas which have negatively impacted others’ perceptions of you.
After this step, you will want to share your assessment of where you believe change is needed and the actions you plan to take. Give people a chance to respond and share their thoughts. If they are supportive of your goals, ask them if they could provide feedback on your progress within a certain period (3-5 months).
By being authentic and letting people know your plan of action, you are demonstrating that you are serious about building your leadership skills and have begun the process of resetting their perceptions.
I would be remised if I did not mention the role of culture. Some work cultures are motivated by potential risks and ‘what could go wrong’. The motivation for risk aversion is so great that it affects decision-making habits. There is a strict follow-through style. Whereas other cultures embrace ambiguity and risk. As Peter Drucker, a renowned management consultant stated “Culture- no matter how defined – is singularly persistent” In other words, culture eats strategy for lunch and a plan to reset perspectives of your leadership may be a difficult road.
In conclusion, regaining credibility as a leader requires a combination of self-awareness, vulnerability, and a commitment to improvement. By taking these steps, you can reset perceptions and regain the confidence of others