Hitting targets is great, missing them is bad! Performance incentives improve results! Holding my staff accountable improves their performance!
Probably sound familiar. So familiar we take these business concepts for granted. Some introspection please… how well are they serving you and those you work with now? And you’re probably wondering what that question even means. I’ll elaborate. You examine plans, strategy, actions and results. But how often have you questioned your beliefs, such as these about business and management? Which of the beliefs about running a business that you’ve held ever so dearly are now baggage that’s holding you back from real innovation?
Beliefs are not truths
We hold thousands of beliefs, most unconsciously, we’ve acquired throughout our lives. How creative are you? How smart are you? How resourceful are you? How good a golfer are you? Discouraged by early frustration, criticism or the absence of support from others often leads to paralyzing beliefs such as “I’m not creative”, “I’m not very resourceful”, or “I’m not good enough” (aka atelophobia or the fear of doing it wrong, very popular and a topic for another post). Equally restrictive are the apparent positive beliefs such as “I’m clumsy” or “I need regular support”.
Over time with repetition, reinforcement, or evidence, our adopted beliefs like trees grow deep roots. To us they cease to be beliefs, morphing into truths. Like possessions, we cling to beliefs, unwilling to part with even the most painful or crippling. When confronted with any idea or concept, our beliefs intervene as a filter. If the new idea supports our belief(s) it’s welcomed. If not, beliefs first as body armour repel the new idea outright, or challenge it through scepticism or playing devil’s advocate. Then with sword firmly in hand our beliefs defend themselves through logical and/or emotional argument.
How are you open-minded?
We live in a very diverse society. Those around us, especially our colleagues in arms are different. Physically, culturally, intellectually, behaviourally. And often they hold different beliefs on how work is done. What direction does the door of your open-mindedness open? Outward we acknowledge the differences, and practice flexibility. That’s tolerance.
“Not I” you boldly declare. With confidence and curiosity you explore their ideas, concepts and suggested approaches. The hinges of the door pivot for a panoramic view. That’s acceptance. Not bad so far.
Now replace the hinges on your open-mindedness door to swing internally at your own beliefs. You’re confronted by ideas or concepts that clash with your beliefs. But rather than defending, challenging and discarding, what if YOUR beliefs came under the microscope? Imagine others’ apparently conflicting views and beliefs mingling with yours… what would grow in that petri dish? New ideas germinate when you view through a different lens and see things differently.
Explore your beliefs
Where to start? Adopt a new belief such as “My beliefs and I have a casual relationship. I refuse to let them define me, rather to serve me and others”. Or deciding “what I believe is a belief and not decidedly true”.
Follow up instantly with a generous dose of objectivity. Suspend all judgement about your belief being “right” or “best”, the other’s “wrong”. Graduate to and apply the Socratic Method… cooperative dialogue with questions that stimulate critical thinking to draw out ideas and assumptions. And it won’t happen when your beliefs imprison you to viewing situations through the same lens.
Beliefs influence perspective, creating attitudes, leading to actions. So back to the 3 beliefs from my opening paragraph, what new beliefs would serve me and those I serve better? Rather than “hitting targets is great, missing them is bad”. How about “effectively managing the sales process improves chances of success”? Rather than “performance incentives improve results”. How about “stimulating peoples’ creativity reveal powerful new ideas”. Rather than “holding my staff accountable improves their performance”. How about “asking my staff many questions and building on their ideas, engages and inspires them”. Your 3-step homework to changing how you look at things so the things you look at change.
- Accept the belief that your beliefs are only beliefs. They don’t define you, they’re intended to serve.
- Notice the lens you’re looking through. Declare the beliefs you hold.
- Apply the Socratic Method. Be a student of learning and exploration. Be courageous and embrace what you didn’t before.
Are you reconsidering some time-honoured beliefs? Excellent! Let’s talk about your new lens.