Middle school is awkward. Only one thing trumps the awkwardness of middle school: the Middle School Dance! Remember those? I know, I’ve tried to forget too. Sadly the terrible smell of a school gym wafting with the scents of body odor and way too much my Dad's Old Spice cologne is seared into my consciousness.
When I was in middle school there was one thing a guy could do to establish his credibility. The first guy to walk across that gym and ask a girl to slow dance was an instant legend. Forget the fact that the actual dancing was more awkward than just being alone. Never mind that no 7th grade girl really wanted to dance with a boy stuck in that strange phase of life that had us looking like a character from SNL. Simply making the ask set you apart.
Know what is equally as awkward? Watching a young leader attempt to “prove themselves.” Oh man it is painful! How many times have you seen that guy who’s only been on your team for 2 weeks try to introduce a change, only to have half the room wonder, “Now what is that guy’s name?” Or the girl who speaks up at the wrong moment in a meeting only to say something so off that it earns her new nickname? Worse yet...maybe you have been that guy or girl!
Here are three ways to gain instant credibility without seeming like you are trying.
Be a sponge.
Instead of trying to add value too early, learn what everyone else already values. Notice big things that other leaders on your team care about. Mine out the small things that are only picked up on when you listen in conversations. Here is something to listen for early on: What makes your leaders say "yes" and what makes them say "no." You want to watch as others pitch ideas that are accepted. You want to craft what you pitch in similar ways. Gain understanding about what garners an instant "no." Avoid those methods like the plague. This does not jeopardize your voice, it allows your voice to be heard in ways that gain support.
Check out THIS ARTICLE on how to sell your ideas.
Do what you say you will do.
Early on be a person of minimal words and maximum action. Treat the commitments you make like your baby, you have to take care of them. If you overcommit or flake out on promises, you will quickly earn a reputation as one who cannot be counted on. Be the opposite. Make so few commitments and overdeliver on them. If you say you'll call someone back, call them within 24 hours. If you recieve an email, respond quickly. If you have an appointment, arrive 10 mintues early. In your meetings, carry a notebook to take notes. Overdeliver in your role.
Connect with as many people as possible.
Relationships are the currency of change. Young leaders often attempt to force change without first doing the work of building into people. One simple way to connect with more people is to become a raving fan of others on social media. Sending tweets and Instagram images of other people doing something noteworthy opens the door for a face-to-face friendship. It gains you credibility with that person. Adjust your social media from being about you or your ideas to focusing on encouraging others.
There is no scarier walk for a 7th grade boy than across an empty gym floor to ask the girl of his dreams to dance. There is also no sweeter moment than when she says "yes" and you become an icon! Take the risk today to do these few things that will establish you quiet credibility in a noisy leadership world.