The Day Credibility Workers Lost Credibility

in Worker

My oft-quoted professor, the late Peter F. Drucker, popularized the phrase "knowledge workers" to define that subset of the service economy's participants, those of us that labor with ideas, instead of bending sheet metal or pasta noodles to our will.

But there is even a narrower guild of toilers to which I belong: "credibility workers."

Not only do we use our minds, as credibility workers. We deploy our credentials, many of them bestowed by universities, degrees that distinguish us and have, historically given us much of our clout and a competitive edge.

We are "faith healers" of a sort, especially those of us that consult. Some of our impact comes from a placebo effect. Clients believe in us and in our advice, and they trust it is superior to what they would have developed for themselves.

And of course, they have confidence our suggestions and strategies will work, will pay-off.

Mere ideas do not garner acceptance, by themselves. Knowledge workers spawn ideas aplenty.

Ideas and concepts need to be promoted, they require charismatic champions, and they must be packaged, attractively. Knowledge workers are notoriously poor self-promoters. (How else can we explain the anomaly of the perennially underpaid teacher?)

Credibility workers, on the other hand, appreciate the wisdom contained in the Cape Cod conversation we had, a number of successful consultants working together on a mammoth and historic U.S. Navy training contract.

The team leader, a seasoned advisor in his own right, declared: "Most consultants are equally competent. The difference is in our marketing skills."

I quibbled when I first heard this remark. But over time, I came to see he was close to the mark. Marketing is crucial to a credibility worker's success.

Which brings me to my point: Today, with the economy in turmoil, credibility workers are in crisis. Unlike any time that I can recall over the past few decades, the attitude toward consultants and advisors of all kinds, lawyers and CPA's included, is one of deep suspicion and even outright contempt.

The bubble of credibility in which so many of us have enveloped and insulated ourselves, has burst.

Let me tell you precisely when this occurred. It was the moment former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan conceded that he was "shocked" over the suddenness and severity of the economic meltdown that became apparent in October, 2008.

Dr. Greenspan was one of the most credible economists and public servants America ever saw, and we saw him a lot, testifying to Congress about monetary policy. A word from this most esteemed source, literally, moved markets up and down.

So, for him to admit he was surprised, flummoxed, and out of his depth in witnessing a historic economic event, cast a pall on all advisors, I would argue. Once that happened, Americans seemed rudderless and without a captain and crew; abandoned to the tempests and to the tumultuous tides.

Watching their retirement portfolios sink, and a series of financial gurus being indicted for fraud, they felt not only that they were equally competent to steer their ships, but they were they only ones that truly cared about them.

"Nobody knows anything I don't know," has become a tacit mantra.

Add to this the ease of obtaining online and upstart university degrees, and you can see that a huge revaluation is underway regarding what it is that credibility workers actually know, apart from self-promotion.

President Obama, a former law professor, has noted that degrees no longer signify common standards of knowledge or competence. He recalls how his grandmother's writing, having been learned at the high school level, was vastly superior to the abilities demonstrated by many of his law students, who held undergraduate degrees, many from prestigious institutions.

The crack in Dr. Greenspan's credibility is spreading like fissures from the San Andreas Fault. While he is to be commended for his candor, for admitting he was clueless, he has started a reappraisal that is forcing the rest of us to explain we really DO know more, and what we know, really matters.

Suddenly, credentials and credibility have parted company.

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Dr. Gary S. Goodman has 1 articles online

Dr. Gary S. Goodman is a top speaker, negotiation consultant, attorney, real estate broker, TV and radio commentator and the best-selling author of 12 books, including SIX-FIGURE CONSULTING: HOW TO HAVE A GREAT SECOND CAREER. He is the creator of Nightingale-Conant's successful audio seminar: THE LAW OF LARGE NUMBERS: HOW TO MAKE SUCCESS INEVITABLE. He conducts seminars and convention presentations around the world and can be reached at: gary@customersatisfaction.com

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The Day Credibility Workers Lost Credibility

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This article was published on 2010/04/03