L&D, Credibility and Knowledge

We have a tough old battle in L&D when it comes to establishing credibility. If you’re an internal practitioner, are you meant to be credible in L&D management, delivery, design, evaluation, or procurement? If you’re an external practitioner are you meant to be expert in certain topics, jack of all trades, or have had internal experience gone external? Mix into both of those, and what about skillsets around technology for learning, facilitation methodologies, creative thinking and other theories and models of personal development.

Sure there’s context wrapped around all of that too. What does the business need? Is the time right for it now? is L&D best placed to provide the solution? Does that person have the right skills?

For me, a constant challenge I place on myself is to be knowledgeable about a lot. I don’t want to be caught out with not knowing about certain parts of L&D because I didn’t bother taking the time to learn about them. There’s a lot to learn about the human condition, and it offers massive insight into human behaviour.

The fundamentals don’t change in the workplace. People are there to do a job. They want to be paid well. They want to feel good about what they do. They want to have some influence as to the outcome of what they’re doing. It’s the nuances that slide and slip between those factors that fascinate me.

But I have a belief, and one that I am very careful not to impose on others, that in order for me to have credibility I need to know what’s being said in this space. It means I come across information which resonates with me, that I am indifferent to, or that I have a firm view against.

Personally, I find doing this has made me fundamentally more liberal and inclusive in my thoughts and my practice. As I learn more about various models of human development, I learn that there is so very little that makes us different and yet so much that makes us unique. That’s truly humbling.

So we’re back at that challenge up above. What does it mean to be credible? Big question.

What is it that you think helps you be credible in your practice?

Published by

Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

6 thoughts on “L&D, Credibility and Knowledge”

  1. I think I tend to go with Albert Einstein who you will be aware said ‘I don’t need to know everything, I just need to know where to find it, when I need it’

    If I find myself needing to add to my sum of knowledge for a specific project or activity then it’s an opportunity to learn. I don’t think we should ever be afraid of saying “sorry I don’t know the details of that but I will come back to you very shortly.”

  2. Cripes, that’s a big question for a Monday. Perhaps knowing enough to be OK with not knowing? Got me to thinking, but it’s a thinking kind of morning already.

    I think that there is something about the body of knowledge, experience, qualifications etc that perhaps offers credibility.

    At the heart though, in all worlds and in L&D of all things it’s congruency. We can all sniff out a trainer/facilitator/coach who thinks they are somehow superior, or not particularly interested, or that they have some sort of power that they enjoy exerting. Just cos I might know a theory, it doesn’t mean I apply it. You may not know a theory but you may live it.

    Loving Carl Rogers’ work as I do – here’s something he said that I like

    “I have gradually come to one negative conclusion about the good life. It seems to me that the good life is not any fixed state. It is not, in my estimation, a state of virtue, or contentment, or nirvana, or happiness. It is not a condition in which the individual is adjusted or fulfilled or actualized”

    (ps, could credibility be a construct that comes from within ourselves and what we project out is what people see?)

  3. It’s an odd concept, as I imagine credibility is measured differently depending on your perspective. I probably feel most credible when I’m getting to show off my subject matter expertise, other folks may think I’m most credible when asking the right questions about their work.

    If I stopped a conversation and said ‘just like to check you are finding me credible?’ I imagine my credibility would evaporate very quickly.

    Two other angles – when do you feel least credible? What makes you feel other people are credible?

  4. Hi Sukh,

    My take on this is that acquiring new knowledge simply makes us more knowledgeable. It doesn’t actually do anything more than that.

    And I think we should acquire knowledge to feed our curiosity.

    Not knowing is okay too. Because we’re resourceful enough to find what we need to know when we need to know it. (Good to be agreeing with Paul and Einstein!)

    I don’t believe that there’s a correlation between how much we know and how credible we are because the amount of credibility we have is a judgement that happens inside someone else’s head. I can’t be certain about how I affect the thinking that goes on in someone else’s head to reach a judgment.

    The other thought that does occur to me though is the gap between knowing and doing. Having knowledge is one thing, doing good with that knowledge is another and I think that’s perhaps part if this discussion. Do people value us because we know lots of good stuff or because we can apply it in the real world?

    Thanks for kicking off an interesting discussion Sukh.

  5. Hi Sukh

    A timely blog as have been doing a lot of reflection on my own hunger to acquire and soak up knowledge (which can be time consuming!)

    I have to admit to thinking that I needed vast knowledge, be in the know, have a set qualifications…. to come across as being credible. This was especially so when I went freelance 6 years ago….it was something to show, something tangible – be it a certificate, an article, blog…that I can show my ‘expertise’

    Now I have been pondering that trying to acquire and having too much knowledge is maybe slowing me down – advances in technology, knowledge is progressing so rapidly that what was ‘in’ last year has now been superseded.

    To meet this, there is an need to be responsive, adaptive…and this comes from within and not from a book/ reference – being curious, emergent, generative, developmental…

    Does knowledge add to credibility…I think it is a foundation, however it needs to be applied, shared, put into practice….and we need to remain curious and hold the space open to co- create and generate new knowledge

    Back to pondering…

  6. I think that credibility is both linked to our own sense of confidence and is also a perception of other people, as has been previously mentioned.

    When we lose credibility in others’ eyes, it is often because there is gap between the way we have portrayed ourselves and the reality they experience from us in person – somehow we aren’t living up to what we have said. Perhaps our actions don’t match the values we espouse. Or our expertise turns out to be more meringue than substance.

    Because of this sometimes we are more concerned about our credibility than perhaps we need to be. When we are in roles that carry the expectations of ‘expertise’ that many in L&D and consultancy do – if we have any sort of self-awareness, then we will be only be too aware of the gaps in our knowledge, of the mistakes we daily make, of our own frailties. As well as our own strengths.

    Perhaps we need to place more emphasis on being ‘fellow’ learners than on being experts?

    A very thought-provoking article, Sukh. Thank you.

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