How to establish credibility in your new C-level position

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You’ve recently taken over in a C-level position at a new company.

In beginning your new role, you want to make sure you’re demonstrating who you are to your new team, as well as discussing your strategy for your new position with them.

What’s more, you want to get to know your colleagues so you can build your authority and establish credibility as a leader.

It may sound harsh when we say it bluntly, but don’t take it for granted that your new team will respect you.

Fewer than half of employees trust their senior managers, while only about 49 percent would recommend working at their companies. 

So, how can you be part of the half of C-suite leaders who have earned their colleagues’ trust?

Whether you’ve moved into a new role at your company or transitioned elsewhere, your first few months in the C-Suite are crucial to building a foundation for your leadership. 

Here’s how to build a reputable and trustworthy reputation in your new role. 

Demonstrate your willingness to learn.

One way leaders can hurt their reputation early on is if they act like they have nothing to learn. If you immediately swoop in and start changing long-held policies or announce your strategic plan on day one, your colleagues will feel like your subordinates, not your collaborators. 

Instead, take at least three months to learn about your company. Visit other departments and pore over documents that explain organizational structure and policy. Ask your colleagues questions about how the company functions and how their department operates within it. Outside of your role, learn all you can about your new field and your new position.

Follow the 30-60-90 rule.

This rule helps you establish credibility as a leader during your first three months on the job. 

The first month is for getting to know the company culture and your team members, focusing on learning, rather than making changes or developing strategy.

The next month – 60 days in your role – focuses on asking questions and figuring out how things are done. You also want to make sure you’re getting buy-in from your team by asking them question about what’s worked in the past and what hasn’t. 

By the third month – 90 days – you want to share your leadership philosophy, your goals, and your strategy for leading the team. This way, your team will understand that you have a vision for your role. 

“This process allots for 3 months of critical growth, understanding, and team cohesion. By taking this patient approach, you create a team that is bought in to change instead of swooping in from above and imposing them to inevitable resistance,” said leadership coach Jeff Clark. 

Get to know your team.

One of the worst things you can do to establish your credibility is connecting with senior leaders while only cursorily connecting with your team. Instead, the individuals you supervise are your greatest assets. Not only can they tell you about what has been working and what hasn’t, but the better you know them, the better you can motivate them.

Then, you can make individualized and group plans for success. Whatever your team tells you, remember and implement what they need for success. We’ve all had those bosses who ask a lot of questions and take copious notes – but never follow through on what they promise. Don’t be that person! 

Build transparency.

Once you have established your leadership style and strategy, you want to convey the practicalities of their implementation to your team. Be sure to share with them the responsibilities for each position, the channels of communication you’ll be using, and the expectations you have for collegiality and collaboration amongst colleagues. 

Remain honest and accountable.

One of the faux pas early C-suite leaders might make is trying to be too likeable. While you might want your team to like you, it’s even more important for them to respect you. This means being honest about your plans, even if they’re not going to like every aspect of what you’re proposing. If something isn’t working, you need to tell them the truth about the failure, even if it’s fully or partially your fault. 

It also means following through with the guidelines you’ve established. For instance, if you’ve said that your team should share project timelines with you every week, and one team member continues not to comply, you will have to meet to discuss their noncompliance. Even if tough conversations might temporarily dampen your likeability, they will build your credibility in the long haul. 

Connecting with Your Team in the First Three Months

If you want to establish credibility as a leader, you need to work quickly yet methodically. Certainly, you don’t want to swoop in and start make changes right away. Instead, you want to ask questions and get to know your team before even talking to them about what you envision for the position. 

Then, the real work begins. Over time, you want to establish and maintain transparency, staying open and honest even when you mess up. 

Ultimately, your team wants to see you as a real person with a clear vision. Understanding your organization and creating shared goals with your team goes a long way to building your reputation as a trustworthy leader.