How do you get credibility when you don’t already have it, particularly when you are new to a group? One way is to use a closure conversation. One function of a closure conversation is to acknowledge the facts of a situation. In this case, it is used to let other people know that you know what they know – that you have no credibility.
Kouzes and Posner, in their book The Leadership Challenge, contend that credibility is the foundation of leadership. According to them, credibility is a result of doing what you said you would do when you said you would do it. But this definition creates a problem for anyone who is new to a situation and has no established history of doing what they said they would do when they said they would do it. What am I suppose to do if I don’t have any credibility with you and yet I need at least some in order for you to listen to what I have to say?
One way to obtain some immediate credibility is to use a closure conversation in which I acknowledge what you already know – that I have no credibility. I could do this by saying something like, “I have something to tell you that you may not believe coming from me since I am new to the group and don’t have any credibility with you. If I were you, I would probably be skeptical too and so I won’t take it personally if you doubt me. [Then proceed to deliver message.]”.
Making such a statement is both authentic (i.e., I am not pretending I have credibility) and courageous. How many people do you know are willing to admit they have no credibility to a group of people with whom they need credibility? The result is that people will listen to you, at least for the moment. Of course, you can only do this once, so you better be sure that what you say is easily and quickly verified.