Credibility + Likability

Research Says… The most successful people in all industries possess both likability and credibility. Good news, those are learned skills! Imagine, when you learn a few simple skills, you can become wildly more influential, inspirational, motivating, charismatic and successful.

Deep Expertise! This is an area of business we’ve focused on since 1991. We’ve written two books and dozens of articles explaining the specific steps required to gain, improve and maintain likeability and credibility.

Along the way, we’ve discovered that many people possess those qualities in varying degrees. However, most don’t know how to demonstrate it. That is the same as not having it. And, once your own likeability and credibility become damaged or lost – it’s nearly impossible to get them back. Our suggestion – learn how to gain, improve and maintain your likeability and credibility now, so you won’t have to worry about losing it.

Change your posture, change your life

Mike and I have written a lot about body language and perception. Check out our book  Axis of Influence for lots of rich intel on this subject.

While you're at it, check out Harvard Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy. Amy's research on body language reveals that we can change other people’s perceptions — and even our own body chemistry — simply by changing body positions.

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    Has all this talking made us poor listeners?

    Social media makes it easy for everyone to talk, but I can't help but wonder if it's effecting our ability to listen.

    I recently found myself stressing over not being "out there" enough – not doing regular blog posts and tweets, not getting Likes for our Facebook page, not participating in Linked In group discussions, never mind the day-to-day responsibilities of keeping the website and newsletter fresh. I reached out to my friend Kelly Hewitt, marketing and advertising maven of nearly 40 years to ask how she handled it.  Her response was brilliant. Here's what she said:

    "When everyone else is busy talking, I choose to focus on listening.  That's what's made us successful all these years. If we lose sight of what that's all about and get caught up in rattling on about how smart we are or what we know, we won't have any time left to really listen and serve our clients."  

    I couldn't have said it better. Thanks Kelly! Find more about Kelly at Merge Marketing.

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      The Truth about what Your Prospects Want

      According to an article in Harvard Business Review:  "Most marketing and sales efforts focus on the wrong messaging and therefore do not stimulate the correct part of a prospect's brain. This idea is supported by Forrester Research, which found that 65% of high-level decision makers give their business to the company that creates the 'buying vision.'"  The "buying vision" is a presentation directed to the buyer's mind. 

      What do executives (your prospects) want?  They want companies to come in and tell them something they don't already know about a problem or missed opportunity — but instead, most only talk about themselves.

      Click here for the article:


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        What Is the Face of Trust?

        Pam's favorite researcher Alexander Todorov in conjunction with fellow Princeton researcher Nikolaas Oosterhof, have developed a computer program that allows scientists to analyze better than ever before what it is about certain human faces that makes them look either trustworthy or fearsome. In doing so, they have also found that the program allows them to construct computer-generated faces that display the most trustworthy or dominant faces possible.

        • A trustworthy face, at its most extreme, has a U-shaped mouth and eyes that form an almost surprised look.
        • An untrustworthy face, at its most extreme, is an angry one with the edges of the mouth curled down and eyebrows pointing down at the center.
        • The least dominant face possible is one resembling a baby's with a larger distance between the eyes and the eyebrows than other faces.
        • A threatening face can be obtained by averaging an untrustworthy and a dominant face.

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          Who cares whether the President is likeable? How about being a good leader?

          Last week I was interviewed by Sandra Fish for a Washington Post article called GOP’s Primary Problem: Would you want to have a beer with any of these guys?  Although honored by the request and thrilled with the resulting article, I kept wanting to say, “Yeah but…don’t forget the Credibility side of the equation.”

          Is Likability important?  Yes, of course it is! But it’s not enough, especially for a presidential candidate.  Years ago when we set out to write Axis of Influence, it wasn’t an axis because we were only writing about one thing – Credibility. We knew that Credibility was critically important to success.  We interviewed lots of credible people.  We dug deep into what made them credible and identified what credibility looks like and sounds like, how to gain it and how to lose it. Throughout the process, we kept thinking “there’s another dimension at play here.”  The most successful, most influential people are credible, but they’re also personable, real, honest, warm – what we now call “likable.”

          The point is, likability, though important, is not enough.  You can be successful if you’re likable. You can be successful if you’re credible, but the most successful in any field have both.  Hopefully we don’t have to choose one over the other, but if we did, then I think I’d rather have a Presidential candidate that was credible rather than one I wanted to have a beer with.

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            The Principles of Likeability

            What exactly makes a person likable?  One of the things we learned when researching Likeability is that there are five basic truths.  We refer to these as the Likeability Principles. They are:

            1. We like people who are similar to us in some way (Similarity)
            2. We like people who are familiar to us (Familiarity)
            3. We like people who like us (Reciprocity).
            4. We like people who are genuinely interested in us (Interest)
            5. We like people who are easy to like (i.e. demonstrate the qualities of likeability: empathetic, trustworthy, positive, non-judgmental, real).

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              Hidden Identity of Political Candidates

              Finding the simple truth about politicians is a fascinating game.  You take their look and their various messages.  Add them together and see what you end up with.  Most of the time (but not always) you get classically attractive people who deliver inconsistent or insincere messages.

              The difficult task is distilling all of that into a simple message, and not having to recite sections from positioning statements.  With that in mind…

              Pam has always used a strange expression to mean telling someone the truth. She'll say, "Jack told Beth how the cow ate the cabbage."  (Told you it was strange.)  She and I were discussing the likeability and credibility of the Republican candidates and used that expression as a tool to capture and encapsulate their messages.  Here's what we came up with.  Can you see the truth in these:

              • Newt will roll his eyes and tell you that it’s not a cabbage.
              • Santorum will tell you the cow should not be allowed to eat a cabbage.
              • Romney will smile and say that he plays polo with the owners of a corporate cabbage farm.
              • Ron Paul will explain that we don't need to get involved with cows eating cabbage.

              Politicians are like corporations in that they have an identity they want to popularize.  What most corporations and politicians fail to recognize is that they also popularize their "hidden identity," through their messages.  Finding those hidden identities is one of the most fun and fascinating things we do.

              More to follow…


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                Likeability and Credibility of Politicians

                You see them.  You hear them.  But, do you like them?  Do you respect them? Or something else?

                Politicians from any party are practiced actors.  Most know how to charm you without opening their mouths.  And, that’s important, because as soon as you hear their messages, you could see a totally different person.

                Our book Axis of Influence takes a look at candidates Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton.  We break down their looks and their messages using some specific criteria.  This year, we’re doing the same thing with the remaining contenders from the Republican party.

                Are they likeable?  Based on what?  Are they credible?  Based on what?

                What do you think?  Much more to follow in this space.

                – Mike

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                  What does influence look like? Is there a difference between influence and persuasion?

                  Connie Dieken penned an interesting post on influence versus persuasion. Actually the post, titled The Top Influencers Alive: 10 Breakout Influencers of 2011 focuses on Dieken’s Top 10 List, but what is equally intriguing is her definition of Influence.

                  Having worked in the “influence” space for many years now, I know how difficult it is to define things like this – Credibility, Impact, Influence, Emotional Intelligence.  These are all concepts that we know are important, but defining them is another matter.

                  One of the questions that continually comes up is – Is influence different from persuasion? Dieken’s maintains it is and I agree. She notes that “persuasion is a self-centered skill — it’s manipulation fueled by a personal agenda run amok. Influence is a balanced approach to changing hearts, minds and results.” She goes on to define the dimensions of influence as:

                  • Inner confidence (Influence begins within. You live your values with a defined sense of purpose. You’re courageous and driven by positive resolve, not fear.)
                  • Outer presence (Your presence is how you make others feel. People are drawn to you because they sense you have credibility, integrity, likeability and live with congruence.)
                  • Compelling communication (You deliver messages that connect with others’ values, convey with portion control to gain clarity, and convince others to commit to action.)

                  Based upon these three dimensions of true influence, here are Dieken’s picks of the year’s top influencers:

                  1. Tim Tebow, Quarterback, Denver Broncos. Tebow’s “flawed mechanics” and wobbly spiral are frequently criticized, but his authentic leadership is not. Tebow-mania has spiked the NFL’s ratings and elevated those around him, stirring his team from the cellar to playoff contention. His unwavering faith and never-say-never resolve have captivated the nation, even spurring new terms such as “Tebowing,” “Tebow-Time,” and “The Mile High Messiah.” Sure, religion polarizes. But Tebow demonstrates that integrity, confidence and humility are an influential combination.

                  2. Howard Schultz, Founder and CEO, Starbucks. Like the late Steve Jobs, Schultz returned to rescue the company he founded. The brand he built is once again soaring with record financial results. But Schultz morphed from business leader to social activist when he took a stand on Washington D.C.’s dysfunction. He influenced more than a 140 fellow chief executives to join him in a boycott on campaign contributions to incumbents, saying, “Business leaders cannot be bystanders.” He rouses the troops with his affability and passion for job creation and the economy.

                  3. Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona Congresswoman. As a politician, Giffords has long fought for her constituents. But it’s her personal fight after a bullet pierced her brain that has influenced the nation. Gifford’s sheer determination and upbeat attitude inspire millions. Due to damage in her language pathways, her vocabulary is limited and she struggles to form sentences, but she makes it crystal clear that she’s committed to rebuilding the connections in her brain and her community. Giffords’ story connects with everyone – inner resolve trumps evil acts.

                  4. Hamdi Ulukaya, Founder and CEO, Chobani Yogurt. In just a few short years, Ulakaya’s Greek-style yogurt company vaulted from nowhere to everywhere to become the third largest yogurt maker in the market. This modern day dairy king came to the U.S from a Turkish sheep and cow farming family to attend business school, but didn’t finish. Instead, he bought a yogurt plant a competitor was closing and launched Chobani, which means “shepherd.” He’s committed to listening to customers and staying true to the vision to provide nutritious products at fair prices.

                  5. Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO, Amazon. Bezos’ company is on fire with his new product, Kindle Fire. The man with the distinctive laugh took the company from Seattle’s skid row to a gleaming headquarters on Puget Sound where, despite the company’s enormous size, working teams stay small. Bezos masterminded the idea of the “two pizza team.” He has said if you can’t feed a team with two pizzas, it’s too big to do amazing work. Part of Amazon’s influence lies in creating consumer demand for additional product sales with personalized recommendations.

                  6. Jim Skinner, Vice Chairman and CEO, McDonald’s. McDonald’s has been on a tear since Skinner took over in 2004. Stock appreciation is soaring, same-store sales are rising and the company continues to create jobs in a down economy. It added 62,000 new jobs in its McJob fair earlier this year. Skinner also spearheaded healthier menu choices and customers the world over who are “lovin’ it.” Smoothies, wraps, parfaits and salads are a hit, let alone the new McCafé coffees, which are giving Starbucks a run for the money.

                  7. Oprah Winfrey, Media Mogul. Winfrey made a daring move this year, ending her long running syndicated talk show and launching her OWN cable network. She created a strong bond of trust with her followers by modeling authenticity and openness, without the trap of over-merchandizing herself. Unlike Martha Stewart, Winfrey has kept control of her image. While the new network is struggling in the ratings, she’s launched many successful careers and shows leadership by juggling television, radio, a leadership academy for girls, a magazine and philanthropy.

                  8. Liz Strauss, Founder of Successful Blog and CEO, SOBCon. Strauss is a social web strategist and one of the most thoughtful, prolific bloggers on the planet. Her blog posts on leadership and life garner tens of thousands of comments. A teacher and community builder at heart, Strauss is all about interconnectedness, bringing great people and great ideas together. The blogosphere is her classroom, although she hosts an annual high touch summit where as she says, “the virtual meets concrete” bringing top bloggers together to share their influence.

                  9. Warren Buffett, CEO Berkshire Hathaway. The legendary investor from Omaha created a buzz this year by arguing that the rich should pay higher taxes. He wants those who make more than a million dollars a year to pay the same percentage of their income as others in the middle class. Washington latched on, deeming his idea the “Buffett Rule.” As an investor, Buffett moved back into technology, buying more than ten billion in shares of IBM. Others followed suit. Simply put, when Buffet talks, others take action.

                  10. John Mackey, Founder and Co-CEO, Whole Foods Market. Mackey launched his first grocery in 1980 and has since grown it into the country’s top natural and organic food vendor. Profits are up more than forty percent this year. He’s a visionary and outspoken leader, unafraid of taking on subjects he’s passionate about such as healthcare. Mackey believes in conscious leadership, and is keenly aware that being the most visible person in an organization is a responsibility. As a result, he has created a high trust organization.

                  2011 was a bonfire of the vanities of leaders losing influence. Dieken’s picks of the 10 least influential leaders of 2011 are attached or can be found here: Connie Dieken’s Influence Blog

                  Connie Dieken is the founder and president of onPoint Communication and the author of the bestseller, Talk Less, Say More. She can be reached at Connie(at)ConnieDieken(dot)com or by phone at (800) 505-9480.

                  –Pam Holloway

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                    Get no respect? Could be a credibility problem!

                    During our years of research, we found that highly placed professionals do not appreciate being approached by people they see as having a lower grade or rank.  And, they resent lower-level people giving them advice.  We also found a simple solution that often works really well.  Change the title on your business card.  Give yourself a more important sounding title.

                    Another technique we teach our clients is a process for asking questions to demonstrate your credibility.  Credibility has value only if it's relevant.  So, first, ask questions intended to elicit a short answer.  Write the questions to show that you know what you're talking about.  Then, move into questions that require a longer answer.  People who ask long-answer questions in the beginning will often hit resistance because they have not yet earned the right to ask those questions.


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