Checking Credentials: Are They Who They Say They Are?

This is a bit of a tangent for this blog, but I felt it was an important issue for business effectiveness and how the internet can help achieve this.  So please allow this indulgence…

Recently, I’ve noticed a trend by some to claim to have done surprisingly remarkable things, including speaking before vast audiences at elite schools or organizations.  When someone tells you they’ve spoken to hundreds of thousands of people, declare themselves expert on a given subject and have charisma, most of us, being trusting folks, are likely to believe.

That’s fine if you’re attending a seminar and they actually provide valuable insight.  However, it’s a different story if you are paying for this person’s expertise or thinking of hiring them.

The world is not dominated by charlatans, but there are plenty out there.  In the current economy, with stiffer competition and an increased need to stand out from the crowd, some people are taking liberties and engaging in hyperbole when presenting their “experience and expertise.”  (I’m being gracious here).

As a professional, who prides herself on honesty and integrity, I find this offensive and harmful—to me as a consultant and to businesses that fall prey to such lies.  Thankfully, the internet can help to sort a few things out.  People can claim many things, but how do you know if this is smoke and mirrors or the person is credible?

Simply begin with a Google search.  Carefully check the link.  Is it a LinkedIn profile, Facebook page or company website that is specifically geared to be self-promoting?

Allow me to give an example.  If I type in my name, company and the word speaker after, “Virginia Steinberg Opus speaker,” the only references that pop up are my professional networks.  That’s accurate.  I haven’t spoken publicly for some time.

Now let’s try something different.  If I type my colleague’s name, Opus and the word speaker, “David Leaver Opus speaker,” an entire page lists references to speaking engagements.  The first two are Opus Partners’ pages, but the third is a url for MENG.  There are also links to the IMC, the Institute of Management Consultants USA, and a Facebook recommendation by another individual for the insights David shared one evening.

Frankly, the more elite the claim, the more likely I want to confirm it.  Places like the Ivies, Seven Sisters, Oxford…you get the idea.  In fact, I know David spoke recently at a Wharton alumni function, so I tried “David Leaver Wharton.”  Viola!  The first is a link to the Wharton website.

I don’t tend to be a “glass is half empty” person, but having encountered this recently, I found this alarming and disturbing.  Be sure you know who you are dealing with, especially if the news seems sudden and somewhat implausible.  Let me finish by saying this:  I now check anyone wishing to speak before any organizations with which I am affiliated, and ask that other groups do the same.  You might be surprised at what you don’t find.

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