Five ways to build credibility as a new leader

Recently, I started working with a new client who had a great problem. She had just been promoted. She worked for years to build up her experience, knowledge and skills to win this promotion. It was the director of sales position at a large telecommunication company. She was going to have a new staff, bigger projects and a larger budget. She would answer directly to the executive vice president of her division and she was ready for all of it. Her only concern was starting on the right foot. How could she win over so many players right from the start and then keep the momentum going?

She needed to build credibility and trust fast with a group of people she did not know very well, but who also depended on her, not only for her success but for their success, as well. With some leadership development and executive coaching, here’s how she did it.

Leadership Development

Find your alliances: Of course, your most important alliance is with your boss. This is the person who took a chance on promoting you, or hiring you. This is also the person who is waiting to be “wowed” by you, and the one who will give you the benefit of the doubt when things get tough. Find out what his priorities are and make sure to align your strategy with his expectations.

Create a strategy: This is about creating a quick win. Strategize by identifying key problems or opportunities you could tackle quickly to deliver visible results. Keep in mind; it should be a win that creates value for the organization, so look for something that directly impacts the bottom line. Make sure it’s measurable so that you can easily demonstrate progress.

Focus your attention: As a new leader, it’s an easy trap to fall into – taking on too much too soon is a recipe for disaster (or certainly burnout).  To do it right, make sure to focus on the most important things in front of you and do not overcommit. To start, this typically means taking on only two or three new projects. This will give you the chance to get used to your new team, figure out existing processes already in place, and understand the reasoning behind some of the choices your team makes. You’re here to make an impact so make sure you study what’s working first before you start making changes.  

Develop a plan: Once you’ve taken the time to observe what’s working and what’s not, it’s time to develop a plan for tackling what’s on your plate. If you don’t already have an effective project management plan in place, now is the time to craft one. To begin, you want to ask yourself some basic questions. How much budget will I need? Who will be on my team? How often are we checking in? What are the main steps involved in completing this project? How long will this project take? The more structure you have in the beginning, the easier it is to course correct down the line, if necessary.

Build genuine relationships: Your team wants to know that you care. As I mentioned earlier, they want you to succeed, but they also want that to be a reflection on their success, as well. Get to know your team individually, as well as a group. Make an effort to collect their feedback, opinions and ideas and get a feel for how they work collectively. You could very well have inherited a team that runs like a well-oiled machine. More than likely, though, you will have an opportunity to make some changes and create better alliances.

Don’t forget to think creatively. As a person in a new environment with a new role, some of the steps I outlined might seem unnatural to you, so take the opportunity to experiment with different approaches. Sometimes the most effective way to make an impression is to use methods and approaches that don’t come naturally to you. Hold on to what works and discard what doesn’t so that you keep evolving until you get comfortable in your new role.

Your goal as a leader in a new position is to show that you’re making a positive difference in this role. You want to secure wins early and build energy and excitement, not only for the people who work for you, but also for the people who work around you. And that’s the point. Your goal is to create value for your organization by empowering those around you to trust you through your leadership development skills. Sometimes it needs to happen fast, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

If building credibility quickly is a priority for you, check out my Leadership Breakthrough Session  to take the next step and book a free consultation with me.

Christina Holloway