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Do You Have the Character to Lead Change? 7 exercises to work out your credibility core

If you are finding influencing others difficult, then it might be because you aren’t confident of the ground you are standing on yourself. Influence starts with trust and trust starts with ourselves. The value of self-trust is that brings clarity, decisiveness and confidence that speed up the journey to influence and impact.

This is the first of two blogs exploring the components of self-trust and what it takes to build the core muscles in the self-trust group.

How many times have you made a commitment to do something new, differently or better and given up a few days off the starting block? Have you ever been in the middle of a situation where you are supposed to lead with purpose and direction, but each conversation you have causes you to pivot in a different direction? Or maybe you have quizzed a colleague to gather intelligence for your own cause and withheld why you were asking? And what about telling a little white lie to get you off the hook in an awkward situation?

I admit to being human, and recall a strategy decision where the way wasn’t clear, the opinions were many and pressure for a decision was on. Instead of consulting widely and holding out until I could clearly articulate a path I believed in, I took the expedient route and aligned with the stakeholder who was shouting loudest. That decision came back to bite me later, when I was finding it hard to rally others to the cause, was challenged on the path I had chosen and importantly, found it difficult not to agree with alternative views.

These questions are about integrity and intent - our character - or in this case where our character might be called in to question. They are the first two muscles in the self-trust muscle group, all four being integrity, intent, capability and results. I’ll talk more about capability and results in the second of this two-part blog, but all four together make up what Stephen R Covey (2006) calls the first wave of trust: self trust; and self trust has to be strong before we have any hope of anyone else trusting us.

“One of the best tests of integrity is blunt refusal to be compromised”

(China Achebe)

Strong self-trust is a vital for change leadership. Without it, it’s like going to the gym for the first time and trying to lift the heaviest weights. In change leadership, it’s the groundwork that enables you to know what right looks like, hold your own and influence others. Whatever the merits of the alternative strategies were in my story doesn’t matter, the point is that I was blowing with the wind. I didn’t trust my own decision because I hadn’t found where it fit with my BASKET (beliefs, attitudes, skills, knowledge, experience, talent), and because that was obvious to my stakeholders I looked weak and indecisive. I wasn't credible.

“The most important persuasion tool you have in your entire arsenal is integrity”

(Zig Ziglar)

I imagine that unless you have life completely nailed, that you answered yes to at least one of those earlier questions about yourself too, that your feelings weren’t entirely positive and your self confidence was at least temporarily depleted. Equally, if you recalled a time when someone else behaved this way, your opinion of their leadership qualities might lead you to think twice before aligning behind or alongside them.

The good news is that the personal credibility that comes from self-trust is a muscle we can build up. We might have to work a little harder, but it is absolutely worth it if we want to feel congruent with ourselves, confident of ourselves and earn the right to influence and lead others through change.

Depending on your starting point, you might have to work-out a little or a lot to build your self-trust. The key is to make small improvements gradually. Start with a micro-experiment and either finish it or carry on (if it works) or until it becomes a habit. Then start a new micro-experiment, try a different one (if it didn't work), or build up the established one. You are more likely to succeed if you don’t over commit and eventually you will reach a tipping point where you feel your character is a driving force that you can rely on.

Here are a few work-out ideas to build your character through integrity and intent:

  1. Make and keep commitments to yourself - try one or two micro-experiments at a time. I believe this is the most important exercise. Personal growth is key to survival, but a key side benefit it provides is the evidence we need to believe that we can rely on ourselves

  2. Clarify your BASKET - beliefs, attitudes, skills, knowledge, experience and talent. These drive your actions and behaviours so you have to be able to connect with them clearly to form opinions and know what right looks like to you

  3. Define your purpose - if you don’t know where you are going then how can you expect others to follow? Define the problem in the world are you trying to solve and how are you contributing to it, then use this to steer your decisions, priorities and actions

  4. Be courageous - remain true to your purpose and BASKET in every situation. Your reward will be greater confidence, self-esteem and satisfaction with life

  5. Be open and curious - ask questions about others’ underlying beliefs and assumptions and pay attention if something jars with your purpose or BASKET. You might discover something you need to modify about your BASKET and purpose to orient it more clearly or congruently

  6. Be transparent - declare your intent honestly and openly in your relations with others. It requires you to be clear on your motives and saves a lot of misunderstanding

  7. Show that you care - work for win-win outcomes. Choosing an attitude of abundance (enough for everyone) is personally rewarding and increases personal credibility

If you have found this article interesting, then book your place on our FREE Transforming Change Management Knowledge Pod webinars and Change Cafes being held on the first and last Wednesday of the month from January to April 2021.

Have you been struck?

If you have been struck by the content of this article and would like to collaborate or partner with us, contact eva@evalutioncoach.com or david@k3cubed.com