Posts Tagged ‘motivation’

3 Tips for Displacing False Beliefs

June 13, 2011 10 comments

Leadership Leading

There is only one cause of unhappiness: the false beliefs you have in your head, beliefs so widespread, so commonly held, that it never occurs to you to question them. – Anthony de Mello

We talked a lot last month about the power of belief and how to build belief. But what happens when you believe something that isn’t true?

It’s devastating.

In fact, the thing that holds us back the most isn’t external resistance, scarcity of resources, or even lack of capability. What holds us back most are our own false beliefs about ourselves, each other, and the world around us.

Behind every bit of reluctance, every hint of futility, every bad habit, is a lie that we’ve let creep in and grow into a belief—something we cling to as if it were true. False beliefs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are small (I’m no good at talking to strangers), some are huge (No one could ever love me), others are personal (I don’t have what it takes to lead others), many are professional (People at work don’t care how I’m feeling).

The first step in dislodging these subtle self-saboteurs is to call them what they are: Lies. At some point someone told you, “you’ll never be any good at math” or “don’t use your hands when you speak” or “that’s how we always do it around here” and you believed them. It probably wasn’t a conscious choice, but it happened. Now you’re living out those beliefs and dealing with the consequences.

The next thing to realize is that you can’t just stop believing something. You can’t delete false beliefs, they must be replaced. Here’s a process I’ve used to do just that:

1. Reflect on your own experiences. Look at the decisions you make—what factors are driving them? Dig into your fears—where do they come from? Identify the assumptions you’re living by—and challenge their validity. Write down the lies you think you believe. This is a difficult, but liberating, action. It’s humiliating to confess on paper some of the stuff we’ve bought into, but the moment we do, those false beliefs lose half their power.

2. Feed yourself truth. Experiment. Read. Listen. Learn. Question. Debate. Wrestle. Journal. Write the truths down that will counter the false beliefs you recorded earlier. The idea is that you’ll have them at the ready should you be tempted to go back to those familiar lies again. What I’ve found, however, is that writing down the counter-truths diminishes the power of false beliefs all the more.

3. Surround yourself with good friends. I define a good friend as someone who both cares about you and will tell you the truth. You can find plenty of people who fulfill one of those requirements, but finding someone that’s committed to you and to telling you the truth is a rare and beautiful gift. Listen to them. Trust them.

How else have you seen false beliefs displaced?

The Power of Perspective

June 6, 2011 6 comments

leading perspectiveAt 6:35am on June 6, 1944 the first Allied soldiers stepped ashore at Omaha Beach. They were instantly showered with enemy fire raining down on them from fortified positions carved into the bluffs above. The hail of machine gun and artillery fire would continue unabated for hours as wave after wave of ships bottled up by underwater obstacles poured soldiers into the kill zone.

Among those first soldiers were elements of the 16th Infantry Regiment, commanded by Colonel George Taylor. When Taylor arrived on the beach around 8:00am, he found remnants of his battle-hardened regiment in total confusion. With most of their leaders killed or incapacitated, those who had survived the first two hours were pinned down by the relentless enemy fire.

The invasion of Europe had stalled just seven yards in.

Seeing thousands of leaderless soldiers hunkering down behind the seawall or whatever cover they could find, Taylor realized this was a tipping point. Exposing himself to the deadly fire, he moved up and down the line finding officers, gathering teams together, and assigning new objectives. But what do you say to a man to make him face that kind of mortal danger?

Colonel Taylor simply put things in perspective:

There are only two kinds of people who are staying on this beach: those who are dead and those who are going to die. Now let’s get the hell out of here!

Under Taylor’s leadership, the 16th Infantry advanced over 200 yards inland, neutralized the German strongpoints, repelled counter-attacks and were instrumental in consolidating the Allied beachhead on Omaha.

Building Belief

May 24, 2011 5 comments

leadership beliefsLast week we talked about how our beliefs drive our behaviors. If you want to fundamentally change someone’s behavior, you should work on changing their beliefs first.

One of the best ways to help someone believe something is to believe it yourself first. It’s a scientific fact that what leaders believe about their people has a causal effect on their performance.

In 1968, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson tested all the children in an elementary class and gave teachers a list of those who were “unusually clever.” In reality, the students on the list were completely average.

At the end of the year the researchers tested the class again. The result? To a child, everyone on the list improved their scores far beyond other children.

This is an example of the Pygmalion effect, which states that the greater the expectation placed upon people (e.g. children, students, employees) the better they perform.

So not only are your beliefs driving your own behavior, but if you’re a leader, your beliefs about others are driving their behavior as well.

How have you been positively or negatively affected by a leader’s beliefs about you? How have you seen your beliefs help or hinder the people you lead?

Why Ask Why?

May 13, 2011 2 comments

leadership questionIt’s startling to say the least when you’re awoken at six in morning to the sound of your two-year-old son in the other room yelling, “why? why?” When this happened to me a few years back, I leapt from my bed and rushed out to see why my toddler was lamenting this early in the morning. What could possibly trouble him this much? I entered the living room and there he was, holding up a red oversized foam letter to the heavens and repeating, “Y! Y!”

My son may not have been asking, “Why,” but it was the first question in my mind that morning. It’s a question that should spring naturally from leaders. Some have developed the discipline of asking why intentionally, others have picked it up from experience. Either way it’s critical.

Why is “Why” so important? It’s foundational to the basic jobs of every leader:

1. Problem Solving. It’s hard to be a leader if you can’t solve problems—and solve them well. In order to truly solve problems and not just treat symptoms, root cause analysis must become second nature. Instead of immediately reacting with what you think the solution is, take the time to discover why something happened. Then you can deal with the real issues, and take care of problems once and for all.

2. Providing Purpose. Purpose is one of the key motivators for people. If you don’t take the time to analyze (and explain) why you are doing something, or why you are asking someone else to do something, you’re setting yourself and everyone you lead up for failure. Constantly communicate purpose to your people to remind them of why they are doing what they’re doing.

To be more effective, I recommend getting in the habit of asking “why?” Make it your default question before responding to any situation or starting any new endeavor.

Why do you think asking why is important?

The 5 Qualities of Elite Teams

May 6, 2011 4 comments

Leadership TeamsThe world has been captivated this week as details emerge about the US raid to “kill or capture” Osama bin Laden. Of particular interest is the Navy SEAL team that silently slipped across the Pakistani Border, overcame unexpected challenges—including a downed helicopter, completed their mission, and all returned home safely.

In addition to our gratitude, I think they’ve once again earned the moniker “elite” team.

I’ve been on a lot of teams in my life—everything from pick-up basketball teams to air combat teams. Not all of them have been what I’d call elite. When I look back at the best teams I’ve been on—whether in sports, Boy Scouts, military, business, even my marriage—I see five things they all share in common:

1. Deep Trust. The individuals in a team must trust one another. I’ve written about this here. The extent to which they trust each other is the extent to which they will contribute: 100% trust yields 100% effort. 50% trust yields 50% effort. It’s that simple.

2. High Standards. I’m talking about the quality of team members as much as performance. Demonstrating that you have high standards—not just saying you have high standards—not only breeds excellence in execution, but stokes healthy pride while differentiating your team from the rest of the pack.

3. Strong Commitment. Whether running a sports camp for refugees in the Gaza Strip or developing contingency war plans for potential hostilities on the Korean peninsula, the commitment of the individuals involved made all the difference on those teams. And here’s a secret: Commitment is contagious.

4. Worthwhile Purpose. Each of the teams that came to mind were struggling for something of significance. They were inspired and energized by the high stakes environment they were a part of. They knew they were making a difference.

5. Shared Suffering. Last but not least, whether it was designed or not, the elite teams I’ve been a part of have each endured hardship together. Sometimes it’s a disappointment or defeat. Other times it’s struggling with limited resources or with not being understood or appreciated. Whatever it is, it bonded us together even tighter.

Each of these qualities serves to forge a team identity—an identity that feeds, even as it is fed by, the individual members. From my experience, as you increase the intensity of any of these qualities you increase the quality of your team.

Which quality does your team need help with today? What’s missing from this list?

Driven or Drawn?

March 4, 2011 3 comments


There are two levers for moving men: interest and fear.

– Napoleon Bonaparte

I strongly believe that one of the best ways to learn about people—and how to influence them—is to observe the person you are closest to: You.

How are you motivated? Note that what motivates you is less important than how you’re motivated. What motivates you is, after all, unique to you. But how your motives move you—or fail to move you—is generally common to us all.

Take positive and negative motivation, for example:

Are you driven…

  • Is something forcing you forward?
  • Do you feel chased toward your goal?
  • Is a certain fear licking at your heels?
  • Is anxiety compelling you to act?

…or drawn?

  • Is something pulling you forward?
  • Do you feel a happy tug toward your goal?
  • Are you captivated by some passion?
  • Is hope inspiring you to act?

The answer is probably both. But in this case, the answer isn’t as important as the question. Or the necessary follow up: How are you leading others—are you driving them or drawing them?

What are the pros and cons of driving/drawing people? When is each appropriate?

Are You Enjoying Your Followers?

February 23, 2011 6 comments

leading joy childToday my one-year-old daughter danced in circles whilst tickling herself silly. Meanwhile, my three-year-old son built a castle-spaceship-car out of Lego’s.

I love my kids.

I believe that’s one of my chief jobs as a Dad—to enjoy my children. Sure, Sarah and I can teach them to use the potty, say “please” and “thank you”, tie their shoes, eat their veggies, play nice with others, work hard, and, overall, become productive members of society. But if they never learn that they are enjoyable—not just useful—they’ll never know true joy themselves, regardless of how “successful” they become.

We often place such a disproportionately high value on the utility of a person that we forget to enjoy them. The truth is, positive reinforcement just encourages someone to repeat a desired behavior. On the other hand, delighting in someone for who they are (not just what they do) unleashes confidence, creativity and poise. It frees them to be themselves and offer the best they have.

If that’s the case, then one of my chief jobs as a leader must be to let others know how much I enjoy them.

How have you seen enjoyment unlock a person’s potential?