Build Credibility, Career success will follow


In the first year of my career, I was working on a budget document and made a fairly significant error in some calculations. My manager took the document to present in a meeting and got a bit battered there, because of that particular error (I came to know this much later).

When we met the next day, he simply said ‘you should be more detail oriented’. I almost ignored it, but realised that there was deeper meaning to that feedback. I went back and checked the budget document, discovered the mistake, was ashamed and regretful. I apologised, and he did not say anything further. My manager and me never spoke about it ever again, but I took a great professional lesson out of it, which has served me well. That was an early and extremely useful lesson in helping build the foundation for a career.

Building a career is not only about aspirations, passion and dreams. The foundation is built on many small things that really matter — and all of them are in the execution or ‘doing’ space.

Professionals who want to be successful in a (long marathon like) career, in a sustainable way, will need to build a strong foundation, like muscles and stamina when running a real race.

One single professional goals statement is a good mantra to start:

“Becoming more credible as a professional so time and energy on collaboration, influencing, managing conflict and communication are significantly better utilised, making for significantly increased productivity and impact “

Often, as a leadership consultant and coach, I am asked about mid career success. There is a whole set of tips, techniques and methods which go with that. The biggest realisation with most people is ‘ I should have started thinking about it much earlier’.

The three not so new, and simple core principles for career strengthening are :

  1. Try to be the best true version of yourselves, and not be someone else

2. Focus on building credibility consistently through action, reputation will happen, and

3. It’s a little about style, but mostly about substance.

Here in this writeup, the focus is on the second point, building credibility. Credible professionals are respected and listened to, and influencing becomes easier for them. They do not need to work as hard at building a ‘style’ because people trust them inherently. They are also sought after for help, people collaborate with them more easily and they can get work done through others much more easily.

Building credibility requires a fundamental belief system and habits related to it. These execution habits need to be extremely consistent over time. Here are the ones which in my experience great professionals and leaders practice year after year, week after week, through their careers. But they started early, and stuck with them.

Paying attention to details: The devil is in the details, as is said. Whether it is spellings, grammar, calculations or spoken sentences, correctness and accuracy are valued. Any verbal or written matter which is to be consumed by someone other than you, creates some impact. Being mindful of details is important. Details show up the professional as focused, diligent and thorough, among other positives.

All human beings tend to remember negative experiences longer and deeper, so a single shabbily crafted sentence or power point presentation can be remembered in not so positive a light for a long time, even if is a slip or a genuine error of judgment.

Being sensitive to feedback, listening: There has been enough said on this aspect but it is still useful to underscore this one. The aspect which is critical is not just listening and taking in feedback but also responding.

By words and/or actions, it is important to verify that one has understood what is being communicated, either as feedback or otherwise.

Committing verbally or in writing to acting on feedback and then,

Following it up with action is one of the most powerful ways of establishing credibility.

If agreement and action on feedback are not feasible or doable, it is extremely important to communicate that as well, along with the reason for it.

This is one of the most powerful ways of establishing credibility.

Asking for help: There are no superwomen and supermen. Accepting that we need help periodically is human. Asking for help opens up several possibilities for the future. Opening up new connections for conversation, collaboration and mutual value add are just some of them.

Deeper inside, genuinely asking for help shows up our human values and vulnerabilities to others, and creates strong emotional connections. And by the way, asking for help would also mean that you are willing to reciprocate.

Having a meaningful viewpoint: Managers and Leaders are looking for individuals who have ideas and proposals that are of value to the business. Many of us have ideas but we do not work through it systematically to take it to a ‘workable’ idea level. It is not just about an opinion or a difference in the way of looking at things and articulating it. To share a meaningful viewpoint, the following aspects are relevant:

Understanding the context and content of the issue at hand

Developing a thought process that leads to constructive exploration and debate (needs data, analysis and pre-work, and some insights)

Communicating it in a collaborative manner and ensuring follow through work required to establish that viewpoint

There is also the issue of courage where many professionals fail to speak up when required. This is essential to be able to make a mark and be counted.

Closing the loop: Let us say that I ask for a proposal from three vendors and select one finally. What and how I communicate to the other two will often establish my credibility and long term reputation.

Closing the loop appears simple. It requires a shift in daily habits in behavioural terms where time, attention and energy are to be focused on this aspect.

Many of us ask for a proposal, an idea, help and sometimes just information from internal colleagues and external partners. After we get it, we forget them and the fact that they responded to our request. They are often left wondering as to what really did happen to the effort and time they put in on your behalf.

Any kind of response to one’s request from another person requires a closure, whether positive or negative. Some times just a simple thank you would do. The best professionals actually respond to almost every single (meaningful) communication to whoever reaches out, even if to tell them directly or indirectly that they would not like to engage further.

Many of us do not reply to mails, messages or even formal letters, except when they come from those in power or where we see a direct short term interest. Building credibility is about communicating for building bridges and relationships, one never knows when one will need that particular bridge. Also, positive professional behaviour carries forward immensely through word of mouth to others around.

There may be other aspects which are relevant as well. But to me, there is a deep meaning in each of the 5 doing habits above, and just practicing these consistently and building strong habits around them could do wonders for your credibility, and career.



Bimal Rath. A loving heart is the truest Wisdom.

Executive Coach. Student of Leadership in all walks of life. Loves uncovering potential in people. A helper.