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A lot of people are confused. They think that the business world is like school.
They think that the way to become credible as a business person is to get the higher-ups to confer credibility on them. They don’t understand that credibility comes from inside you.
You can tell how they think about professional credibility because of the things they say.
People at meetings will say “I will stop you right there and remind you that I have sixteen years of experience in this field!”
Somebody challenged them on some point or other and they wanted to set the record straight. They have crossed the border into Righteous Indig Nation.
“I appreciate your perspective, but I happen to have completed a certificate program in this very field of study!”
You want to hug the poor little pumpkins when they start to throw down the external cred points because they are obviously upset.
They think their years of experience and their formal education say it all. If they have a big title, they think their big title says it all.
In the real world we know better. Just because someone has a big title does not mean they are smart or wise, and I do not say that to slur anyone.
We all know it is true. Sometimes the people at the top of an organization got where they are because their sole focus was on pleasing and kowtowing to the people above them.
They have executive titles and large offices, but that doesn’t make them credible.
Since human beings are animals, we can tell when someone is real and when they are not. We can feel their fear or their confidence (trust in themselves, that is) in their presence. In that respect I doubt that humans have changed much over the millennia.
In school you study hard and get good grades, thereby pleasing the grownups around you (parents, teachers and community members). At an early age we associate getting good grades and pleasing people in authority with being good and righteous.
This is a dangerous association to put into a kid’s head!
In the business world, lots of people are likewise more strongly attracted to external trophies (degrees, certificates, committee seats and awards) and political pats on the head than to any internal reward.
They strive to be in front of and influential to the top dogs in their organizations.
In some companies you could create a private stock exchange and track your own and your teammates’ values on the day’s internal stock index.
Charlie is up! He had a private meeting with Gloria yesterday afternoon and they talked about the Penske account.
Martina is down! She was out again yesterday and everybody assumes she’s job-hunting.
There is no point in striving to climb up the internal stock index to please people above you if your plan is to tie your own credibility to those folks.’ They cannot bestow credibility on you.
That’s the one thing a higher-up can’t give you, no matter how many titles he or she puts on your business card.
Your credibility is in you. It’s not in your connections, and the tired wheeze “It’s all about who you know” as guidance for business people is insulting and false.
We can all meet people now. If you don’t have connections, you can establish them.
There’s nothing wrong with family connections except that like all advantages in life that you didn’t earn, your family connections can weaken you. Family connections can make you believe you have muscles that you don’t really have.
That’s why we sometimes meet lofty people who turn out not to have core beliefs, a backbone or even their own ideas.
They think their surname is their whole story.
You have to really feel sorry for them.
There are a lot of strive-y people around doing two jobs at once. One job is their actual job.
The other job is the job of following who’s up and who’s down in their organization and investing every possible millisecond and brain cell in getting in good with the right people and/or proclaiming their own expertise to anyone who will listen.
They are looking for credibility in the wrong places.
There is nothing wrong with degrees and certificates. Ongoing learning is a great thing.
The problem comes in when people get a certificate or degree and think it confers magical powers on them.
We hear from folks every day who ask us “Is my MBA worthless? It hasn’t gotten me a job!”
They don’t understand what the MBA is. It’s not a talisman they can wear around their necks to ward off evil. It’s a set of tools and the knowledge of how to use them.
Hammers and wrenches, tools to build a career! They don’t understand.
They misunderstand. They think that the real world is like school. Schools can unfortunately reinforce that mistaken idea.