‘Beliefs driving behaviours’ is something that I come back to again and again, as it is so important to understand. It was a very long time into my life before I really began to really ‘get it’. It is probably a sentence or saying that you have said or heard often, but understanding it at a deep enough level for it to have real meaning certainly took me considerably longer.
Firstly, let me give you the dictionary (or one of them!) definition of belief:-
1 An acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.
2 Something one accepts as true or real; a firmly held opinion or conviction.
A belief is no more than that, and to demonstrate this let me give you a couple of examples. Let’s say that you have a group of friends and you get together for a fun evening once a month at different houses. You dearly love them all, but one of them really irritates you – the way she invariably parks her car making it difficult for everyone else; the fact that she is always late and has a different excuse; because she takes such ages making a decision on what to eat and then wishes she had something different when she see other peoples’ food arrive; how she talks too much at the lunch table and then ends up keeping everyone waiting; ………… and so on. She now cannot open her mouth to say ‘good evening’ without it irritating you! Now you share some of your irritation with your other friends and they keep trying to convince you that she has lots of qualities and doesn’t irritate them – they are trying to change your belief by telling you something different! Opportunity of success – approximately zero! Now, without knowing that you are doing it, as it appears to happen subconsciously, you will be constantly looking for her to demonstrate behaviours that reinforce your existing belief. And – guess what – because that is what you are looking for, you can be sure that you will find those behaviours, and the ones that might demonstrate the exact opposite just pass you by. If you believe something to be true then you will invariably look for behaviours that will bolster that belief – every time!
Now think of an example in the workplace. Let’s say that one of the values that exist in your organisation is ‘our people come first’. This is really important, and the ‘powers that be’ at the top of the organisation consistently keep telling you that this is so. However, you work in an open plan office, which the Board of Directors walk through every morning to get to their desks, of which the majority are not part of the open plan style but pretty sumptuous private ones with the doors closed! Now when they come through in the morning they stride through, very focused and go straight to their respective places, either to sit at the desk, call their Executive Assistants in to give them the day’s briefing, or go straight to a meeting etc. etc. They could, as an alternative, choose to take a little longer to walk through and stop at the odd desk for a chat – maybe ask how their son’s birthday was at the weekend, how their holiday plans were going, has the new puppy arrived and have they got a photo …. plus, plus, plus! Probably only taking an extra five minutes, but a very different style. Now think of those two very different approaches and what your beliefs might be about this organisation that has a vision stating ‘our people come first’!! If the demonstrated behaviours mirror the first example, there will be very few people who believe even remotely that they come first – they will believe the exact opposite. And the sad part is that, even when they do something slightly different it is likely to be passed by because it doesn’t support the belief that ‘our top team don’t care about people’. You cannot tell someone to believe something; you can only demonstrate behaviours that may encourage them to have a useful belief that supports what you want in your organisation.
Now come back for one moment to the first example of the ‘irritating lady’. Imagine that for one whole month, every time you meet or speak to her you are determined to look for at least one thing that you really like about her. I can tell you with absolutely certainty that at the end of that month she will have ceased to irritate you! And the key to this is that YOU will have changed and not HER!!
Beliefs will drive behaviours – so what beliefs are you going to choose – about your life, your home, your relationships, your work? It is truly down to you and just remember – ‘be careful what you look for as you might just find it!’
Penny has worked with businesses like Sage and Argos to inspire long lasting positive change within the company, in order to take steps towards success and leadership. Contact her at The Living Leader to book an appointment.