"'Do you believe I can cross the falls [Niagara] with this wheelbarrow?' he called out. 'Yes!' they yelled as one. 'Wonderful,' he said. 'Then who will get in?'"
The Great Blondin didn’t settle for simply walking across a high wire strung above Niagara Falls. Back flips. Chairs. In the quote above, a wheelbarrow.
There’s a world of difference between what we say we believe and what our actions show we believe.
The fans were delighted to watch. Participate? No thank you.
One man did. Blondin’s manager, Harry Colcord, climbed up and got in the wheelbarrow.
That is the kind of belief which makes the difference between mediocrity and excellence.
Beliefs are Emotional
"Blondin had hoped his fans would believe, as he did, in his infallible prowess on the high wire. They said they did, but they really didn't."
Clinical psychologist Dr. Kevin Fleming points out that our brains are wired to feel right, not to be right. Most of us are masters of four methods of resistance which allow us to maintain existing beliefs:
1. Counter-arguing – Poking holes to rebut new information
2. Attitude bolstering – Focus only on the facts which support it
3. Selective exposure – Ignoring or avoiding new information
4. Disputing rationality – Insisting our beliefs don’t have to be based on facts
The authors provide a 7-step process to foster the kind of belief that got Blondin’s manager into the wheelbarrow.
But first, they provide 3 questions to identify who believes what in the first place.
Engagement is Not Enough: Enable and Energize
"A hamster on a treadmill is energized, for example, but it doesn't really accomplish much . . . an eager new military cadet may be engaged . . . but without training and the right support, he's unlikely to be of much use to his comrades. A teenager can be given all of the enabling freedom in the world, but if she isn't absorbed in an interesting challenge she . . . won't accomplish much."
To clarify the need for more than engagement, ask yourself these questions about the people you work with. They’re worded as a manager assessing employees, but try them with reference to business partners, vendors, and hey, how about yourself?
1. Do you have employees who care about the organization but are burned out?
2. Do you have people who are energized to do big things but feel stifled and not able to run?
3. Do you have employees who care but aren’t always focused on the right behaviors?
These folks are certainly engaged, aren’t they? But are they the people who’ll take your business, your life, to heights of excellence? Hardly.
Beyond engagement, people need to be energized and enabled. E + E + E. They need an environment which builds enthusiasm instead of burning it out. They need the tools to do the work. They need to be engaged, not just with the step they’re taking now but with the dreams on the horizon.
7 Steps to Create a Culture of Belief
"How do you influence others to 'get in the wheelbarrow'?"
You cannot create belief.
You can, however, systematically create an environment where belief is a natural result. Gostick and Elton provide a 7-step process to create that environment, to foster a culture of belief.
1. Define your burning platform – Communicate your mission clearly and instill the proper sense of urgency.
2. Create a customer focus – Not the bottom line, not position and title, not the next social media fad: focus on the customer.
3. Develop agility – Being flexible is reactive. Agility is proactive, embracing change.
4. Share everything – Truth and transparency create trust which is vital to belief.
5. Partner with your talent – Publicly and personally recognize that your success hinges on the greatness of those you work with.
6. Root for each other – Belief can’t flourish without peer appreciation and camaraderie.
7. Establish clear positive accountability – Positive accountability means employees have the tools they need to meet the goals set by management, including authority to match their responsibility. Positive accountability flows up to managers, not just down to employees.
This is not an easy process, a quick fix. Nor will it convert active disbelievers.
But in the hands of a manager or entrepreneur who believes that his business associates are looking for something to believe in, it’s a viable process to amplify the culture of belief in even the best organization.
What made Ferdinand and Isabella support Columbus?
What made thousands of Apple employees follow Steve Jobs?
What made a quarter of a million people march on Washington, DC on August 28, 1963?
It wasn’t facts. It wasn’t comfort or convenience. It certainly wasn’t a paycheck.
Belief drives every single action we take.
What are you doing to cultivate it in the people you work with?
E + E + E. Individually, they’re vital. In concert, they not only raise profit margins to multiples of the competition’s, they create cultures which become the stuff of legend.
That may not describe your work efforts right now. A team which is engaged, enabled, and energized is the result of a culture of belief. And that is a result of 7 steps you can plan and implement.