Playing Nice in the Sandbox: Relationship Credibility

In Monday’s post, we discussed the first of two prerequisites for persuasion and influence as identified by Jay Conger in his 1998 article The Necessary Art of Persuasion which was published in the Harvard Business Review. The first prerequisite that we covered was expertise credibility – the necessity that others view you as having the knowledge, skills, and experience to know what you are talking about.

However, Conger argues that expertise credibility is wasted if it is not coupled relationship credibility. But, why are relationships important? Don’t we sometimes think that as long as we “do the job we are paid to do” that nothing else matters? Have you ever said, “They don’t pay me to be popular”? It seems that we often equate “building relationships” with smoozing, kissing up, or being manipulative. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Having relationship credibility does not necessarily mean that you are popular or have lots of friends at work. The first aspect of relationship credibility is that others in the organization trust you to listen and to work in the best interest of others. Instead of simply foisting your plans or priorities on others, you meet with them one one-on-one, get their views on initiatives you are pursuing, listen to their concerns and priorities, and find a way to help them with their top issues and projects.

The second aspect of relationship credibility is that others view you as having “consistently shown strong emotional character and integrity.” This means that you are consistent and not prone to emotional outbursts and mood swings. In the past, when I’ve asked groups whether they would prefer to work for someone who is a jerk everyday without fail versus a boss where you can never tell “which side of the bed they woke up on,” the group chooses the consistent jerk every time. Inconsistency in a relationship is a sure predictor of failure.

When you can establish yourself as trustworthy, consistent, and working in the best interest of the group, you have an edge in any negotiation, meeting, or persuasion situation. Others in the group, will want to help you them achieve your goals and will give you the benefit of the doubt. However, if people don’t trust you on a relationship level, your expertise is wasted and you will lose the ability to bring influence to your organization.

Remember, relationship credibility must go hand-in-hand with expertise credibility. Have you ever worked with someone where the common comment about him was, “He’s a nice guy, but he doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing”? That is not a recipe for success. Like so many things in life and work, you cannot depend on one “magic bullet” to make you successful.

Do you and your department have “relationship credibility” in your organization? Do you have it with certain functions or people but not others? For instance, do you have a strong relationship with the CFO, but not your head merchant or HR executive? Do you have some examples of successes you have had in establishing solid relationships credibility within your organization? If so, please share them and we can generate further dialogue.

In a future post, we will start to look at the issue of alignment and how misalignment derails the ability to build the case for the value loss prevention brings to the retail enterprise. As always, I welcome your views, thoughts, and insights into these issues.


Originally published in RILA Report – Asset Protection – December 2008

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