The most powerful beliefs held by an individual are the ones they don’t even identify as “a belief”. They are the thoughts that they hold as indisputable fact- not as an individual belief. For instance, I would suggest that most of us believe that the sky is blue- well except for my nephew who living in Ohio believes the sky is grey! We don’t stop to question our belief about the color of the sky because we have accepted it as fact. As a leader it is critically important that you understand what beliefs the individuals on your team have accepted as facts because the results you deliver will come through those beliefs.
If you want to change or improve the results of your team then you must recognize that results (or lack of results) come from action (or lack of action) and that these actions are a result of thoughts and feelings that are influenced and sometimes initiated by belief. What is even more terrifying at times is that when an individual acts upon a belief, the results they get from that action reinforces that belief and it becomes even more strongly held- regardless of it’s ultimate truth. When we are experiencing something from a member of our team that doesn’t measure up to our expectations, we should ask ourselves, “What belief might be driving this result/ action/ behavior?” Once we think we know what the belief might be, then we have a starting point to influencing change. It is not important if the belief is TRUE or NOT. What is important, is how and why the person developed this belief. It is equally important that you believe that they believe it- it is a FACT to them. Arguing about the “fact” won’t change anything. When you genuinely understand how and why they formed a belief you possess the power to help them unwind the belief and you have the secret to change. You have the ability to coach them without judgement because you authentically understand how they came to be where they are. I work with many sales teams and so I’ve had the opportunity to notice how beliefs can impact results. Some beliefs a member of the sales team might have:
“Nobody notices hard work here anyways.”
“They don’t pay me enough.”
“Our product is to expensive/ doesn’t have the right features/ isn’t as innovative as our competition.”
“Phone prospecting doesn’t work.”
“They are micro-managers.”
“I have all the skills necessary to do the job.”
“I am a top-performer.”
“My activity level is sufficient.”
“If I call them again they’ll view me as a pest.”
“If I build a good enough relationship they’ll buy from me.”
The interesting thing is that most people that hold these beliefs wouldn’t even identify them as beliefs. They see them as FACT or don’t even see them, although they hold the belief. Your role as a leader is to correctly identify beliefs that are influencing actions and then to understand the why and how the person developed that belief. As example, someone who believes phone prospecting doesn’t work has likely experienced a lot of failure at it and it is much easier to believe that it doesn’t work than to believe it doesn’t work because you suck at it. Once I understand the belief, I can expose the person to great phone prospecting and once they see it work they can start to question their beliefs. They can start to be open to new beliefs- they can start to accept training and coaching. In this way, they’ll make fast progress. If I simply start with the training and coaching I’ll have an uphill battle because they “believe” as “fact” that phone prospecting doesn’t work so why waste time training?
I met with an old client of mine this week. We’d done some work together a number of years ago. The team’s results have declined. What’s caused it? Well, it didn’t take long to identify one of the issues. In talking to the team I could hear their beliefs had changed:
“The Industry has changed too much and our solution is now too expensive.”
“Our customers no longer need our help with XYZ like they did before.”
Is this belief true? Honestly, right now it doesn’t matter. It’s a fact to them. If we are going to get results we’ll need to understand what drove the change in beliefs and start helping them form new beliefs. Psychologists tell us of the phenomenon of Confirmation Bias, meaning that once we believe something, we tend to interpret things we see, hear and experience as proof that our belief is right. Right now, everything the team hears from the market will confirm their belief that they are too expensive. If we can start unraveling the belief, they can start to see different possibilities. Once they see different possibilities they can start to access different responses. Once they start responding differently they’ll get different results and different results will reinforce a better belief.
When you or someone on your team believes something as fact, sometimes it is helpful to simply ask, “If what you believe to be true couldn’t possibly be true- what might another possible explanation be?” Sometimes, just this simple mental exercise will open the door to change. Sometimes, you won’t even mention the belief- you’ll just institute a plan that starts to open the door for them to identify that they have the belief and perhaps surface some alternative beliefs for them to try on.
What beliefs do your team have that doesn’t serve them well in the pursuit of results? Start there and see how quickly you can influence real change. Oftentimes it is the difference between what you believe to be true and what the individuals on your team believe to be true that can account for why your team isn’t achieving the results you believe they should. Their beliefs will become your facts- or at least your results. Well, at least that’s what I believe.