5 Tips to Enhance Your Split-Second Credibility

It’s often said that we make assumptions about people the moment we meet them.  We make these assumptions unconsciously, and they might very well affect the way that we feel, interact or work with the individuals in question.  It might affect our initial ability to trust them.

Smiling Clown

First impressions count!

Imagine the scenario:  You enter a top-class private medical clinic to meet with a doctor.  You are shown to the consultation room, and are met by a “doctor” wearing ripped jeans, a shirt covered in engine oil, who speaks to you whilst quaffing down a hamburger.  The guy looks like he should be fixing an old Chevy, not diagnosing patients! Would you trust that doctor to diagnose and treat you?

Odds are you wouldn’t.  The reality is that the clothes a doctor wears won’t impact their ability to do their job. It might introduce contamination hazards; but far more importantly it affects our perceptionsThe same is true for change professionals and business analysts.  However, it’s not something that is often considered!

As a BA, you need credibility. Quickly

As a BA, you’ll no doubt find yourself working on various projects, perhaps for different businesses or business units.  A key unspoken skill for BAs is the ability to gain credibility fast.   The way that you start to build credibility is with that split-second when you meet a stakeholder.  The only information they’ll have to base their assumption on you is:

  • What they have heard about you in advance (your reputation)
  • What they can see (your appearance and personal presence)
  • How you greet them (your voice and outward attitude)

So when starting new assignments and engagements gaining split-second credibility is key.  This is a firm foundation for longer-lasting credibility to be built. What can you do to enhance this split second credibility?  In this article I’m going to focus on a few tips that’ll help to turbo-charge your appearance and personal presence:

1. Do your research

You will feel and appear much more confident if you have carried out research before a meeting.  Find out who you’re meeting, what their role is.  Research the domain.  This will help with that split-second credibility snapshot and it’ll also help you as the meeting progresses.

2. Outward Appearance: Dress for the environment

Make no mistake: Appearance matters.  Part of  your appearance is determined by how you look on the day.  This is a thorny subject, and one that’s often overlooked! If you dress too informally, you’ll look out of place and some people may perceive you as unprofessional.  You’ll become the doctor who is dressed in shorts and a vest.   The challenge is that if you dress too formally you’ll also look out of place, and some people will consider you “stuffy and outdated”.   It would be like wearing a tuxedo to a fast food restaurant!

The key here is to understand the culture of the organization that you’re going to be working in and find an appropriate balance.  A great rule principle which I try to stick to is dress one notch more formally than you think you need to.  For example, for organizations that are fairly formal, I always wear a tie – even though is rarely required.  (You can always take a tie off!)

As well as clothing, remember that your stationery and accessories matter too.  A colleague of mine recently noticed that I was using a notepad that was about 100 years old, and looked like it had spent most of its life submerged under the Atlantic.  I changed it quickly after that!

3. Research and remember cultural norms

If you’re working in an organization outside your home country, make sure you research the cultural norms.  Knowing whether to shake hands or kiss as a greeting is extremely important.

4. Maintain eye contact, smile, keep a good posture and speak with confidence and authority

As analysts, we tend to introduce doubt when we talk.  We like to be 110% certain before we commit.  It’s a natural logical tendancy.  However when first meeting be positive, confident and speak with authority. This will help give the stakeholder confidence in the value you will add!   Maintain good eye contact (as appropriate for the local culture) and keep a positive posture.  A first meeting isn’t normally the time to slouch back!

5. Be present

I’m sure we’ve all met people who act like they’re not actually listening.  This creates a terrible first impression.  Be attentive, be “present” and engage with the stakeholder.

This article has really only skimmed the surface of the issue, but hopefully it has given you some useful ideas!


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  2. Linda Rathburn says

    The two things that always helped me (which Adrian didn’t mention) are being polite and respecting the other person. “Please” and “thank you” and not stepping on anyone’s toes (literally or figuratively) always help. I respect others by being polite but also by recognizing within my own mind that everyone I meet knows more than I do about something related to the meeting or the business or the process. That recognition affects my attitude and helps keep me from being patronizing even when I’m “the expert”.

    Victor – nothing in the article was new to me either but “common sense” is becoming less common all the time so reminders are never out of place.

  3. Victor Gleim says

    Nothing new in this article for me. All of the items can be marked with “Common sense” label.

    • Hi Victor,

      Thanks very much for your comment.

      “Common sense” is such an interesting term — often people perceive things slightly differently, which is why there is value in online resources and communities like this one, for people to discuss, enhance and elaborate on ideas. In fact, what is “common sense” often varies depending on the national culture, corporate culture and the experience of the individual.

      For example, when I worked on a particular project in Spain, it was “common sense” that everyone would be on vacation in August. Not a problem, we thought, in the UK people often take a week off in August too. What we learned, however, was that it was customary (in this organisation) for people to take the *whole* of August off! I was glad that someone took the time to discuss and signpost this “common sense” item to me.

      I’m really glad that you agree the tips in this article are sensible, and I look forward to seeing your future contributions within the BA community.

      Best wishes, Adrian.

  4. Indeed, something we know but often overlooked. Great article 🙂

  5. Linda Rathburn says

    I would suggest adding “Be polite” to your points. While the definition may change with the culture, the basics should be universal. To me, the basics include “Please” and “Thank you” and not trying to speak while others are talking. The last may not apply when trying to regain control of a meeting.

  6. Lovely article,Thanks for the quick tips.

  7. Great tips! The picture really hits home. 🙂

  8. Krish Mandal says

    First, I have to agree on all your points and I’ll add that this is not necessarily specific to a BA role. This is very general material that every person doing a serious job should be practiced in. If you’re not, there’s not much help for you.

    • Krish, You are absolutely correct. These tips would apply to many roles. However, the reason that they are particularly relevant for BAs (and related professions) is that we may often be parachuted into hostile territory! We might be working with people who don’t know what a BA is, or why they need one. In situations like that, first impressions *really* count.

      However, your observation is completely valid, and this would apply to many roles.

      Thanks again for the comment — Adrian.

  9. Suman Manoharan says

    Very Useful Adrian. Thank you for the article. :

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