Originally published with the Forbes Coaches Council, July 2018.
Showing your audience respect has a lot of great payoffs. It makes your audience feel engaged and positive, it can enable a culture of buy-in, in which people feel committed not only to execute a plan or implement a new product but to make it succeed, and it can make you a more specific, persuasive presenter.
But perhaps the greatest payoff is long-term, compounding over time and not only making you a more persuasive speaker but someone who is perceived as a leader. That’s because when you demonstrate respect — when you listen carefully and know your audience — you build credibility.
The three building blocks of showing respect and building credibility are listening carefully, taking the time to know your audience and identifying opportunities to either negotiate or build consensus.
But there are a few other strategies that are key to building credibility and demonstrating leadership, both externally and internally:
1. Manage your time.
- Give your team (and yourself) time between meetings. This lets you all feel less frazzled and more focused and helps you go into the next meeting clear-headed and refreshed. When you show your team or your client that you respect their time and their well-being, they will be in a better frame of mind to be persuaded by you.
- Prepare. It’s hard to be focused on others when you are feeling unprepared. When you feel anxious because you haven’t spent enough time getting comfortable with your material, you’ll be too caught up in your own emotions to think about others.
- Make meetings efficient and well-organized. When your audience sees that you respect their time enough to make your points quickly and clearly, they’ll respect you more.
2. Communicate clearly and follow through. Nothing conveys respect for your audience like saying directly what you mean and doing what you say you will.
3. Be dependable. Meet your deadlines and arrive on time. Let others know that they can rely on you.
4. Give constructive, thoughtful feedback. If you don’t agree with a proposal or you aren’t satisfied with someone’s work, take the time to tell them specifically what you think needs to change. A knee-jerk reaction of “I don’t like this” doesn’t help your report or colleague improve and can create a culture of distrust and fear, which stymies innovation. If people fear being insulted, they’ll be less likely to risk proposing something new or distinctive.
5. Be patient. Don’t expect things to change overnight. When we try to change our habits, cultivate a new reputation or affect organizational change, it takes time. Be patient with yourself and others.
6. Follow the Golden Rule. It’s pretty simple: treat others as you’d want to be treated.
7. Be self-aware. This one is the obverse of the golden rule: Hold yourself to the same standards as you hold others. If you don’t follow the same rules and standards you set, your team will notice, and they’ll resent it.
8. Admit when you don’t know something. Not only will you learn, but you’ll signal that it is okay to ask questions. That helps create a culture of curiosity, honesty and innovation.
9. Cultivate influence. Don’t rely on authority to make things happen. When people choose to work with you, want to help you execute your ideas and feel confident in your ability and expertise, they’ll want to help you succeed — and they’ll be more likely to go above and beyond what you need from them. When people have to do what you need them to do because of your title or position but don’t feel influenced by you, there’s little incentive to do more than the required work.
Building credibility is a powerful tool in both persuasion and leadership. When you show that you care for, think about and respect your audience, your persuasive ability skyrockets. And that means that your ideas are more likely to be implemented, your abilities will be admired, and you’ll be more likely to become a leader and an influencer.