How to Build Credibility


how to build credibility

Just the other day, I was having a conversation with a reporter who asked me “how is it you’ve been able to build credibility at such a young age?”. Of course, initially I found this question to be a bit silly (meaning that I would have preferred to talk about how business leaders can improve their businesses rather than talk about myself).

However, after I had time to reflect on the question a bit more, I realized that it was actually a great question in regards to building better businesses. Businesses are built on trust and trust is directly linked to credibility and expertise.

With that being said, here are a few things that, in my experience, have typically led to greater credibility. Feel free to add your thoughts and insight to this list.

Quick Note: For specific actionable details, take a look at this article on improving business credibility with your website.

Know what you are talking about

If your car was broke, would you ask your dentist how to fix it? Of course not. That’s because your dentist probably wouldn’t know how to fix a car. Most likely, you would take your car into a mechanic and have them tell you how to fix it. Consider, though, what would happen if you took your car to the mechanic and he returned it to you in even worse shape. Would you take your car to him in the future? Probably not.

Just because someone sees you as a credible source once, doesn’t necessarily mean they will continue to view you that way; you actually need to know what you are talking about to remain credible.

Great ways to build on this concept:

  1. When people ask relevant questions, answer them…correctly.
  2. Produce valuable content on relevant topics and publish to relevant audiences.
  3. Have the formal education to back it up.
  4. Speak/present relevant information in your community.
  5. Volunteer at relevant events in your community.

Be willing to work hard

People respect people who work hard.

I once had an employee who actually suggested to me that we start earlier in the day so that we could get more work done. As you can imagine, I was amazed at his willingness to work hard. And even though we ended up not changing our work schedule, from that point on I knew that he took his work serious and I could trust him to get the job done.

Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that we work more hours. Often times we work too much as it is. What I’m suggesting is that, while we are at work, we be willing to put in a solid effort.

Great ways to build on this concept:

  1. Always be on time.
  2. If you have an unique skill, offer to solve relevant problems.
  3. Volunteer to head groups/committees that are relevant to your expertise.

Care about others

As you start to build credibility, you’ll notice that you have the ability to influence things around you a bit more. If you want to become a great leader, you’ll need to use your influence and power to help others. Ultimately, this builds on the credibility you have already established and will put you in situations in which you have the opportunity to become even more credible.

Consider how you can use your power and influence to accomplish the following:

  1. build relationships
  2. encourage active listening
  3. help others
  4. treat others fairly

It’s important to note that everyone has a certain level of power and influence. Just because you are not the CEO, doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference. In fact, I would argue that employees often time have much more power and influence over an organization’s actions than the executive team.

Figure out how you can make a difference and go do it.

Have relentless integrity

“Absolute power corrupts absolutely”

In business, sometimes people can be so focused on the bottom line that they losen their grip on ethics. Ethics can be tricky at times though; “the right thing to do” is not always so crystal clear. It’s important that you go into a situation knowing what you are willing to do and what lines you won’t cross. If a situation comes up and you don’t feel comfortable with it, express (in private) your concern with your boss.

From a leadership point of view, always take time to make it possible for your employees to express their concerns with you. Great leaders don’t force – they lead. Hire great people and create the best possible environment for them to work in.

Great ways to build on this idea:

  1. ALWAYS do what you say you are going to do.
  2. Be willing to say no.
  3. Position yourself in a way that gives you leverage to actually say no.

Be prepared

One thing that I hate more than anything, is when there is a planned meeting and those who come aren’t prepared enough to even talk about the subject. When you plan to do something, make sure that you are prepared to do it correctly.

Related thoughts:

  1. Schedule time to prepare.
  2. Determine what you don’t know and who does know it.
  3. Prepare in groups, if need be.
  4. Do NOT procrastinate.

Stay calm

Would Michael Jordan get mad when describing to someone how to dunk a basketball? Of course not; he knows what he is talking about. Credible people tend not to get flustered when talking about their area of expertise.

Keep immaculate records

The proof is in the numbers. Keeping good records gives you some added credibility when arguing your point. Always back up your presentations with numbers and keep good records of your actions.

Ideas for building on this concept and keeping immaculate records:

  1. Use Google docs to collaborate on projects.
  2. Email is better (in regards to records) than phone  or face-face conversations.
  3. Use Google calendar to keep track of your schedule.
  • Dan Fonseca

    A lot of great thoughts here. My father had a few rules for me when I was growing up but one seemed to encompass all of them. All he asked from me was that, in my deepest of hearts, I try my best. My real best. I think if people honestly always tried their best, then credibility, talent, success, and happiness would be sure to follow.

    Doing your “real” best means you learn from your mistakes and grow because of it. When I judge if someone is credible or not, I usually look at if I think they are doing their “real” best. It is usually a great indicator. I guess, it is similar to your point on the employee and his work ethic. Like they say, “a good name is the only thing you get for free in this world” so keep it credible!

    Have a great one Thom!


    • Thom Holland

      I’m with you Dan – credibility is something that happens (or doesn’t happen) as a result of our actions. If someone is willing to work hard, it speaks volumes for who they are as a person.

      Thanks for the insight Dan; it’s always a pleasure.

  • Chris Bradley

    Some really great advice, so many fundamental points that sound simple but make such a difference.
    To echo Dan and your post it really is all about work ethic, taking pride in what you do and giving it your all is not only the difference in personal success but also the difference to enjoying what you do.

    I currently live in Taiwan, and coming from the West it is eye opening to see how passionate people are here, even in roles that back home people would turn their noses up at. It’s great to see that individual passion really making a difference to the company, and customer interaction.

    • Thom Holland

      Hey Chris – thanks for the feedback and welcome to The Poised.

      You and Dan drive home a great point; taking pride in what you do speaks volumes for your character. It’s interesting to see how people value things differently. I suppose the more interesting question is “why” they value things differently.

      I’d certainly like to make it out to Asia one day.