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How Strongly Do You Believe In Your People?

by David Brock on February 22nd, 2015

Do you believe in your people?  Do you believe in them, perhaps more strongly than they believe in themselves?

If you don’t believe more strongly than they do, you will never be able to maximize their performance or fulfill their potential.  At most, you’ll get some improvement, but probably not sustainable improvement.

Our jobs as leaders are to get our people to perform at the highest levels possible, fulfilling both their short and long term potential.

Sometimes, I think it’s this absence of belief that impacts our effectiveness as leaders and coaches.  If we are asking our people to change, to step up what they are doing, but if we don’t believe in their ability to do it, then they never will.  We’ve created a self fulfilling prophecy, and it’s not our people’s faults, it’s ours.  We become the weak link in driving performance improvement.

Coaching and developing our people is a “contact sport.”  (Figuratively, that is.)

It requires our full commitment and engagement in seeing our people succeed.

Improving performance, whether it’s taking someone who isn’t performing well and getting them to improve; or taking a strong performer and challenging them to stretch, is about change.  We are asking our people to change what they are doing.  Perhaps, they are doing something wrong.  Perhaps they can do something better.  Perhaps they need to do something different.  But to be effective, in getting our people to change and improve, we have to show them a clear path, we have to get them engaged both in understanding, but believing and owning the change.

To get them to see this, to give them the courage to step up to the change, we have to believe they can do it.  Otherwise we set them up for failure–wasting their time and ours.

This is particularly important with poor performers.  If we have given up on them, if we don’t believe they can fix their performance problems, then they never will.  And we may be cheating them because of our own beliefs.  If we can’t get our heads wrapped around believing they can improve, we might as well stop.  We are best having a heart to hear t with them, moving them into a role where both we and they believe they can achieve success.

Coaching and developing our people is the single highest leverage activity we can undertake as managers and leaders.  But regardless of how well we know how to coach.  Regardless of how skilled we might be in asking non-directive questions.  Regardless, how disciplined we are in investing the time in coaching.  Regardless of how well we execute the “mechanics” of coaching, we never achieve sustained success unless we believe in the ability and willingness of our people to do achieve the goals.

If we don’t believe in our people, if we don’t believe more strongly than they do, we will never help them change and achieve extraordinary goals.  We–our people and ourselves just end up going through the motions.  Our lack of belief holds them back from achieving what they could.

We can’t do this casually, we have to be fully engaged.  It’s not about cheerleading (though some amount of cheerleading helps), it’s about helping our people learn about themselves, helping them see a path to improving and growing.  It’s about getting them to believe in it, visualize, and take action.

Think back to the good managers and inspirational leaders you have had.  They probably had one thing in common, they believed in what you could do or what you could achieve more strongly than you believed it yourself.  They challenged you, inspired you.  They were disappointed when you didn’t challenge yourself to achieve your full potential.

As I reflect on my career, it’s been a number of key people–my parents, my wife, my family, some close friends, a few teachers, some inspirational managers, a few peers or colleagues.  All of these people knew I could achieve more.  They believed in me.  They challenged me — not to meet their expectations, but to fulfill my potential.  They are continuing to do this, because they know I can do more–because they believe that, I know I can do more.

Do you believe in your people?  Do you believe more strongly than they do?  Are you committed to their success?

If you are, both you and they will accomplish tremendous things.

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