ATD Blog

Importance of Credibility for Managers

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The ability to influence others is essential to a manager’s success, because she needs to motivate her team, build consensus, and sway skeptics. 

It requires more than a being compelling speaker or writer. It also requires what Aristotle said was fundamental to persuasion: credibility. According to Aristotle, for a communicator to influence an audience, he or she must be viewed as a person good character. 

Credibility is a judgment that the audience makes about how believable the communicator is, adds psychologist Dan O’Keefe. And it’s important because people often choose to respond to a persuasive message based not on the content but on their perception of the communicator. 

Here are the most important ways in which people judge credibility, and what managers can do to strengthen their credibility.



  • Be a voracious reader to learn as much as you can about your field.
  • Volunteer for projects or other assignments that will deepen your knowledge
  • Ask thought-provoking questions that others are not asking. To ask good questions, you need expertise.
  • Cite credible sources. It lends a sense of authority to your argument.


  • Be fair.
  • Be honest.
  • Treat your audience with respect.
  • Offer suggestions that will benefit the audience, even if the suggestions are not in your best interests.


James McCroskey, a communications professor at West Virginia, said maintaining goodwill with an audience “is a meaningfull predictor of believability” because the communicator is viewed as more caring. He broke goodwill into three categories: 

  1. Understanding.

    When a manager is “tuned in” to employees, that is, he knows what they are thinking, knows when we have a problem, and is sensitive to our feelings, we feel closer to the person because we think he cares about us.

  2. Empathy.

     When someone understands our views, accepts them as valid even if they don’t agree, we feel closer to them because that goodwill tells us they care about us.

  3. Responsiveness. This judgment is based on how attentive a communicator is to the audience, how well the person listens, and how quickly she responds to an employee’s attempts to communicate with her.


Persuasion is about more than the message. The ability to speak and write well is important, but a persuader’s likelihood that a person will influence an audience might have already been determined before they write the first word.

About the Author

Ken O’Quinn is a professional writing coach who has helped thousands of business professionals worldwide improve their ability to craft clear, compelling messages. He started Writing With Clarity following a long journalism career with the Associated Press and now conducts corporate workshops and provides one-on-one coaching. He is the author of Perfect Phrases for Business Letters (McGraw-Hill). His clients include Facebook, GE, Dell, Chevron, Cisco, Georgia-Pacific, KPMG, Campbell’s Soup, Oracle, Motorola, Reebok, Dow Chemical (China), SAP (Singapore), and Vale Mining Corp. (Brazil).

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