There is much talk in self-help and business improvement literature about beliefs. There is also much talk about vision and values, culture and ethos and much blurring at the edges of them all. So, let me firstly be clear about what I mean when I talk about beliefs. It is those things you hold to be ‘true’. For example, ‘the purpose of business is to make money’.
I attended a seminar recently and the first speaker clearly held this particular belief. At one point, he said that he defied anybody to claim that they were in business for any reason other than making money. A hand went up and a young man explained that no, for him business was about providing opportunities for people and building something from scratch. This was particularly galling and embarrassing for the first speaker as the young man was due to speak next and was clearly not ‘on message’.
Limiting beliefs are therefore those that interfere with our potential being released. They are the things which we hold to be true that prevent us taking action or doing things differently. Here are some of the ones I’ve come across on many occasions:
- I will be in trouble if I get this wrong
- Senior management will never support this idea
- I’m the manager, I’m supposed to have all the answers
- I must win at all costs
- I am working, I am not here to enjoy myself
Some of you might believe some of these statements to be ‘true’ for you, and you might be right. Beliefs can never be proved as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ or they’d be facts and not beliefs.
Our role as coaches is not to agree or disagree with such statement of belief; rather it is our job to encourage deeper thought and challenge the assumptions on which such beliefs are often founded.
Let’s imagine we’re coaching someone who wants to implement a new shift rota because they feel it will be fairer and more efficient but who also articulates the belief that I will be in trouble if I get this wrong. Some might say, ‘don’t be silly’ or ‘of course you won’t’ or ‘to hell with them, do it anyway’, but this is unlikely to prove helpful as none of these responses challenge the basis of the limiting belief. Instead we could ask, ‘How do you know you’ll be in trouble?’, ‘What sort of trouble will you be in?’, ‘Have you been in this situation before?’, ‘Do you know other people who’ve handled this situation?’, ‘What can you do now to ensure it won’t go wrong’
We can see that these questions would encourage our coachee to think in greater detail about why they believe they would be in trouble and to consider whether to risk it. None of our questions are judgemental and so we are unlikely to get into an argument over who’s right and who’s wrong.
Simply inviting the people we coach to re-consider the basis of their limiting beliefs is often enough to leave them feeling mobilised to do something despite them. Other times, when the belief is deep rooted, it may be necessary to explore further and to consider how such beliefs come to be formed.
We’ll look at that next time.