B is forÉ Beliefs
"Whether you believe you can or you believe you canÕt, youÕre right." [Henry
One of our tasks as Leaders is to create positive beliefs about whatÕs possible for
the organisation and for the people in it. Why? Because positive beliefs lead to
positive action, which leads to achievement.
How do beliefs work?
Beliefs are essential for us to function as human beings. We form beliefs to give
our world some structure - so that, for example, if we put a cup of coffee down on
a table we can be confident that the cup isnÕt going to fall through the table-top
on to the floor. If we didnÕt have a general belief that all table-tops are solid, weÕd
have to test each one before putting anything down, which would be a bit
These kinds of beliefs are pretty solid - thereÕs lots of evidence to support them -
so we call them "knowledge".
WhatÕs interesting, though, is that even things we "know" can change. At different
times, it has been "known" that the Earth is flatÉ that the Sun revolves around
the EarthÉ that itÕs impossible to build a heavier-than-air flying machineÉ that
bees canÕt flyÉthat itÕs impossible to run a mile in less than 4 minutes.
Reality never changesÉ except when it does!
On May 6 th 1954, when Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile, he
not only broke the four-minute barrier but he shattered the belief that it couldnÕt
be done. Within 2 months another athlete - John Landy - equalled BannisterÕs
achievement and the following year a further 6 athletes achieved times of under
"IÕll see it when I believe it"
Our perception - what we choose to see - is filtered through our beliefs. Do you
believe in God? You do? Then you can probably look around you and see
evidence of God everywhere. You donÕt? Then you can probably look around
you and see proof everywhere that God doesnÕt exist. Or, at least, see no
evidence that He/She does exist.
The belief comes first. Then we notice the things that fit our belief, and
conveniently discard the things that donÕt.
WhatÕs more, once a belief takes hold we go to extraordinary lengths to hang on
to it even in the face of powerful evidence to the contrary.
Beliefs are only in your headÉ
My close friend, Jon, is someone IÕve known since school days. After so many
years, we know each other pretty well. Several times heÕs said to me "You know,
you havenÕt really changed since we were at school."
My friend Hilary, whom IÕve known for about 8 years, is a close friend and
colleague who also knows me very well. About a year ago she told me "You
know, youÕre a completely different person from when I first met you."
WhoÕs right? Well, they both are - in the subjective world of their beliefs. You
see, JonÕs belief is that people donÕt change. So when someone does change,
he just filters out the pieces of information that donÕt fit.
If you "knew" you could succeed, what would you do today?
So letÕs come back to Henry Ford and his quote about beliefs and achievement.
As Leaders, itÕs important we understand that beliefs arenÕt necessarily right or
wrong - but they can be either useful and empowering, or limiting and therefore
Do you believe you can make a difference in your organisation? Yes? Then go
ahead and do it. (Actually, if you believe you can then youÕre probably already
No? Then try this: If you did believe it, what would you do? What action would
you take to make a difference? OK, now, just pretend that you can make a
difference. And go ahead and take that action. You see, you donÕt even have to
believe you can make a difference -- you just act as if you can and nobody will
know the difference!
Building positive belief
If we want to achieve something for ourselves or for our organisation, we need to
make sure that we have beliefs in place that support what we want -- beliefs that
itÕs possible, that we have the capability, and that itÕs worth the effort.
HereÕs an exercise that I found in Alpha Leadership, an excellent book by Julian
Russell, Anne Deering and Robert Dilts. IÕve used it with groups and with
individuals in my 1-to-1 coaching, not so much to create new beliefs but to
remind people of what they are capable of.
Whether you use this solo or with your team, itÕs a great exercise for building
motivation and commitment to a vision or goal. ItÕs called the Belief Audit and its
purpose is to surface the resources that are available to you or your team to
achieve what you want.
This MonthÕs Exercise (if you choose to accept itÉ)
1. Write down your Vision or Goal in one sentence. (DonÕt forget to state it in the
positive, that is, state what you want, not what you donÕt want!)
2. Take each of these sentences in turn and complete it in as many ways as you
can, expanding it as fully as possible. If youÕre working on a personal goal, write
it all down. If youÕre working in a team, use a flip-chart so everyone can see the
I/We have the capabilities necessary to achieve the goal because I/we É
I/We have the capabilities necessary to achieve the goal therefore I/weÉ
I/We have the capabilities necessary to achieve the goal while I/we É
I/We have the capabilities necessary to achieve the goal after I/we É
I/We have the capabilities necessary to achieve the goal whenever I/we É
I/We have the capabilities necessary to achieve the goal so that I/we É
I/We have the capabilities necessary to achieve the goal if I/we É
I/We have the capabilities necessary to achieve the goal in the same way that
3. Now read through what youÕve written, deleting the first half of the sentence
("I/We have the capabilitiesÉ" etc). Now you have a list of everything youÕve got
going for you, soÉ
4. FinallyÉ go do it!
Personal Leadership A-Z - Develop your presence as a Leader.
A series of E-reminders with tips, techniques, stories and insight from Rob
Mottram. Rob is a skilled coach and team builder who brings extensive
organisational experience to his work with leaders.