The Impact Formula – Visibility, Credibility, Authority

impact-formula-visibility-credibility-authorityI learned a lot of valuable business lessons from one of my first managers – a Cranfield University MBA graduate – that helped shape my career as both a marketer and a writer.

Since then (it was over three years ago), I have thought a lot about his wisdom and teaching, applying my own experience and intuition to create what I am referring to today as The Impact Formula.

Have you ever figured out which of the 16 types of personality you are?

You really should.

I am an INF-P, or “liberator/mediator” personality type, which I did not know until, in a moment of weakness, I ran myself and a nemesis (he was an IST-J) through the Meyers Briggs personality test in order to better understand how to combat one of the few difficult people in my life.

I’d just completed my fourth day of optional training offered by my new employer; “Communicating with impact” – the others were emotional intelligence, influencing, building positive relationships – and I’d been thinking about what happens when we write like we talk, and vice versa.

Consistency is an important trust-builder in the work place, but how many keyboard warriors do you know, who melt at the first sign of conflict?

Something else I’ve been learning a lot about, is this idea of Emotional Intelligence and how it builds your personal brand. It’s hugely emphasised in American style multi-national companies, of which I’ve experience writing for two since embracing the lessons of my aforementioned first boss.

It has taken some time to realise that, as writers, we shouldn’t and simply CANNOT expect others to put the amount of effort into effectively communicating that we do. We’ve had a bit of a head-start, too, because to be a writer is to be a reader; a listener, and more.

Perhaps then, this is why sometimes at work, as in life, people can display powers of influence and persuasion beyond what their role or function usually bestows.

Call it whatever you like: gravitas, charisma, or animus – I like to think of it as impact.

And I’m very happy to say, creating an impact is something I’m getting better at.

My hypothesis is that once people have achieved actual authority, they forget about the other three tenets of impactful communication, whereas those lacking actual authority – myself included – will strive to push the boundaries of the former three.

This is why our impact can sometimes be three times as effective, despite lacking the “official” backing of role of function.

If you find you sometimes fail to make an impact either at home or in the office, have a think about these four points and try to rate yourself out of four.

Visibility:

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This is one that writers – classically the quiet, introverted type – struggle with.

It will often take quite a lot to force one of us to realise their visibility. I spent many years writing alone before joining teams, and even today take for granted that I am not visible – untrue.

For innumerable reasons, we are ALWAYS more visible than we think. People watch, people judge, they simply can’t help it.

We all want and desire to have an audience.

I can practically guarantee you already have one.

Awareness of this audience is the first step in the journey towards increasing your impact on those around you. If people are watching you, as they likely will be in an office environment, try to understand their motives; they’re interested.

With this in mind, if your visibility happens to be a blind spot of yours, it can be very easy to damage your…

(Give yourself a score of 1 or 0 if you think you have a good understanding of your own visibility. Ghoststorywriter gets a 1)

Credibility:

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When you are a visible person, and as we’ve already ascertained, you are: whether you’re a bus driver, a waiter or a full time writer – Everything you do either builds or reduces your credibility.

By credibility, I mean your ability to be believed, not necessarily truthfulness or authenticity.

Given that you have been visible for … well, forever, it is likely you have amassed some positive or negative credibility already. If you’ve consistently acted above-board and in a way that inspires others, well done, you’ve more credibility than most.

However, if you’ve been rude to a stranger, constantly negative, or otherwise unpleasant in front of your audience, your credibility will have been diminished.

It is often this obliviousness that affects our ability to get things done. People may not want to help you because your credibility has been damaged – by yourself or others – and it is likely you are not even aware.

Building credibility however, is relatively simple. Consistent behaviour, a willingness to talk as well as email, the ability to reveal personal information as and when the time is right and more will swell your credibility to no end. Behave like that, and people will want to trust you.

They might even want to do things to help you, once they realise you would likely do the same for them.

Acting credibly can be hard to do, and we all make mistakes, but it often involves fixing problems quickly and effectively through excellent communication.

Once you’ve visibly built credibility, you start to amass my favourite.

(give yourself a score of 0 or 1 if you understand the current status of your credibility. Ghoststorywriter gets a 1)

Perceived Authority:

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I heard a great story about authority once.

It was on the Copyblogger site, but I can’t remember the exact post. It’s ancient.

Anyway, imagine you’re in a plane crash but thankfully there are many survivors.

Amongst those survivors are the captain of the plane, your boss, your father and a plane-crash survival expert.

I’m not going to say any more about this, and instead let you think about how you perceive authority in your life.

Suffice to say, I know who I would lend my perceived authority to in this case.

Often, we can pile so much perceived authority onto people that they start to gain actual power and influence, look at criminals, policemen, minor politicians, religious leaders and more.

More often than not, perceived authority is what will win one candidate a promotion over another, in line with the “do the job for six months before you get the title or the pay check” quote we’ve all heard.

The ascending difficulty of scoring yourself in this formula means that it is possible you wouldn’t want to give yourself a point for perceived authority. GSW gets a point due to his work experience, not his writing experience.

Actual Authority:

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If you’re a Ricky Gervais fan like me, you’ve seen ‘The Office’,

Do you remember when Tim gets a promotion to “Senior Salesman”, and, along with an extra £500 a year, receives by way a commission a complete lack of EQ (Emotional Quotient) due to his new status.

He feels that thanks to his new role/function he has to act in a way that alienates his love interest Dawn. In doing so, thanks to his new actual authority, he visibly destroys his credibility by acting inconsistently. Thankfully, Tim recovers quickly.

In the real world, how often have we seen people find themselves placed into a position beyond their own self-perceived capabilities?

Often.

What results is a difficult to watch, total meltdown of someone’s emotional intelligence, often borne from a desire to take a top-performer and have them train underperformers to be like them – with or without their permission.

It is rare, that someone is able to move gracefully up the impact chain, but if you’ve amassed visibility, credibility and perceived authority first, it gets easier.

The worst-case scenario, and one I have to deal with every working day in an organisation that employs over 17,000 people, is that a new hire cares solely about their Actual Authority. It results in conversations and emails to the tune of “just get it done” and “I will do this” or “I have other priorities”, which can be really alienating to both established teams and other new starters who might be further down the food chain.

In my own experience, the hard work I have put in has created an impact rating of 2.5 or 3/4 and I am very happy with this, as my nemesis’ impact currently measures at a 1/4 due to his reliance on actual authority and unwillingness to build any of the attributes talked about in this article.

It is very tempting to give in to bravado and bullishness, and suggest that I am good at this: I’m not, but thanks to my experiences, I am hoping to give other writers like me a heads up that may save them some time and heartache.

You can skip being bad and go straight to mediocre!

Conclusion:

I am not a life coach, performance analyst, HR professional or anything else – just an observational person that is eager to learn, in an increasingly apathetic, unconcerned and selfish world.

I had some help launching my career, and I appreciate not everybody gets that, so this website is where I give something back.

If you like what you read here, please leave a comment, or, if you really want, check out one of my books on Amazon.

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