How do you feel about the credibility and influence you have as an engineer? Do people acknowledge your credibility? Are you gaining influence as your career progresses?
Influence is defined as “the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways.” If you have influence in the workplace, you have the ability to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of people.
You can find many references on influence in the workplace. Here’s a quote from entrepreneur.com:
“Becoming an influential leader has nothing to do with titles and everything to do with gaining the admiration, confidence and trust of those around you. It’s about how you engage with others and how your vision rallies people to you.”
Master-influencer.com says that you don’t influence people to make a decision based on reason. Influence is more of an emotional thing.
It says to connect with people first before making your request. If you align with them and mimic their emotional state, you’ll sway their decision. Then, after the fact, offer reasons they can use to justify it.
Merriam-Webster defines credibility as “the quality or power of inspiring belief.” And Google Dictionary calls it “The quality of being trusted and believed in.”
Your credibility reflects your value and your abilities. From an engineering perspective there’s personal credibility and technical credibility. And influence requires technical credibility.
For Engineers, Influence Requires Technical Credibility
In many ways you are building personal credibility. Such as by:
- Doing the right thing
- Saying what you mean and meaning what you say
- Knowing yourself and being authentic
- Being transparent
- Owning your mistakes and being accountable
- Taking a stance
- Fostering good communication skills [for example] by looking people in the eye and being a good listener
You’re building technical credibility based on your education and credentials, knowledge and experience, leadership qualities and engineering reputation.
You have a history of actions that created positive outcomes. You’ve made impactful decisions. Maybe you’ve led a notable team. Or you’ve created, invented or managed a product, process or approach that proved successful.
You’re gaining influence based on your personal rapport and the trust and confidence that people have in you. Your understanding of the needs and wants of others and how you engage with people all come into play.
The terms credibility and influence are often used interchangeably. In general that makes sense. There’s at least some overlap between how the 2 words are defined and used.
But they aren’t exactly the same. You can have credibility without influence. And you can have influence without credibility. In science and engineering and other technical fields, there’s more distinction between the 2 words. Ideally, as an engineer, you have both.
As an engineer you understand that professional respect comes not only from your expertise, but from how you communicate your expertise. How you interact with people in the context of your expertise.
But if there is no element of technical credibility, engineers tend to have less influence.
Engineering Credibility and the Importance of Honesty
A notable aspect of your Technical Credibility is honesty. If you have this element of credibility then you have built your reputation as someone who can be trusted to:
- Do what’s right. No matter what.
- Present your decisions, actions, and results completely and accurately.
- Clearly convey what you know and what you don’t know in your work or technical area.
Building credibility is a career-long endeavor. Trust in you is growing slowly, task by task, project by project. Your credibility is building as your career responsibilities and opportunities expand.
But with just one dishonest action, your credibility is lost instantaneously.
Ways Women Show That They’re Credible Engineers
As women engineers we all know that the credible engineers are usually assumed to be men. Still today there is a bias that women are less experienced, less capable, and therefore less credible.
How do you overcome this stereotype? How do you show that you’re a credible engineer?
Here are 3 tips for evincing credibility and gaining influence:
- Believe in yourself and your credibility. Because that will show as strong evidence in itself.
- Garner support from colleagues and your network. Because the people who truly know you can help assure others of your credibility.
- And talk about your experience and expertise. Because people need to know about your successes.
The following example will give you more ideas:
Let’s say you’re trying to convince someone – could be a customer, a client, a vendor, even a co-worker – of your credibility. Here is an approach you can take:
- First connect with them and align with their needs and wants.
- Have the mindset that they’re going to decide to work with you. And that it’s going to be a successful project and a great experience.
- Share your credentials and your relevant history. Include specific experiences and examples of when you successfully worked with other others like them.
- And be sure to convey this with an upbeat attitude, letting them know how happy you are to have the opportunity to work with them.
With this approach you are more likely to win over this person and convince them of your credibility.
One last thought: It’s not always important that everyone knows you’re credible. It is important that you know you’re credible.
Because when you know it, you show it. When you’re confident in your credibility, you’ll have influence. When you’re confident in your credibility, others will be too.
Next time on Her Engineering Career Podcast we’re going to revisit confidence, and a few more insights to help you build yours. Be sure to tune in for Episode 52.