Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy. Human beings have the awesome ability to take an experience of their lives and create a meaning that disempowers them or one that can literally save their lives.
Anthony Robbins, Awaken the Giant Within
As I continue my journey on breaking down what it means to Lead with L.E.S.S. (Love, Equip, Serve, and Self). I have moved from discussing why love must come first in our leadership to examining the idea of equipping people rather than trying to change people. Last post, I looked at the idea of change and how we, as leaders, can set up an positive environment for change to happen? Ultimately, we cannot change anyone, we can only equip them with the skills to change themselves. As I move forward, there is a key component in equipping people for change — BELIEF.
Before we begin to think about how belief can equip people for change. Let’s start by taking a look at basic human behavior. To create change we must understand what people go through during the process of change. First, there are basic human needs. People need to love and be loved; they need to feel important and have value; and they need to feel there is movement and variety in their work (they cannot feel stuck). These are powerful driving needs for people. Next, we must understand that everyone views their world through their own lens. This lens is built by past experiences and personal principles. Principles create rules that people operate through. The rules drive behavior and then create actions. All of these things together create results or outcomes for each individual. Those results then give people feedback that can impact their needs, views of the world, and principles that drive behavior. If the results negatively impact their basic human needs, the person will immediately pull back and no change will occur. If the results are positive, beliefs are confirmed and principles that operate those behaviors are solidified. To create a need for change, we must impact all these pieces that drive people’s actions. That is why change on an individual level is so complicated and difficult at times. It is not just about getting people to do things differently, it is about impacting their human needs, beliefs, and principles which then in turn can begin to impact behavior, change action, and then change results.
What role does belief play in the process I just described? I want to look at that from two angles. First is the belief we have in ourselves and second is the belief we have in others.
Belief We Have In Others
To begin with let’s start by looking at the belief we have in others; because as a leader it is something we can control. The belief we have in others reminders me of John Hattie’s work on Visible Learning. Hattie defines “collective teacher efficacy” (the collective belief of teachers in their ability to positively affect students.) and “teacher estimates of achievement” (the teachers belief about the level a student is able to achieve based on past experiences.) as two of the highest factors that can impact student learning. (Here is the entire list if you would like to see it all: (Visible LearningPlus 250+ Influencers of Student Achievement.) While Hattie shares a plethora of strategies, ideas, structures, paid programs, and external factors, two of the highest impacting conditions that can be done within our classrooms require nothing but strong belief in our ability and the students ability to achieve at a high level. This work, and this data, help to solidify the idea that: your attitude towards, and about, people is vital to the success of the group. What we believe, as a staff about our students, or as a leader about our staff, has an incredible impact on the success in our classrooms and schools. It starts with what we believe. Your behaviors always end up aligning to what you really believe about people. You may be able to fake behavior for a little bit, but our beliefs always find a way to make themselves clear to others through our attitude, actions, or words. Obviously, I know belief is not all it takes, but it is where we must start to equip people for change. Belief is the starting point, building skill is what will make that belief last.
Belief We Have In Ourselves
The idea that we need those we work with to believe in themselves is much harder to impact as a leader. It can be difficult to impact how others view themselves and how that belief impacts their work. If we truly want to equip people for change, they must believe in their ability to create change in others. If people in our school do not believe that they can impact learning in their classroom, then we have no hope to create change. There are many personal, societal, and emotional factors that impact the belief in what we can achieve with students. As a leader, you must be the driving force. You are, at times, the light that leads to the belief we have in others. If we do not meet each day with excitement and vigor, those around us will not either. We have to wake up each day and be the driving force that helps people achieve more rather than have an attitude of let’s just get it done, having a lack of enthusiasm towards even one day will limit success. Whether we are the leader of a building or the teacher of the classroom; the group tends to take on the attitude of the person leading the charge. It is not an easy path, but we have to outlast the negativity and continue to support people so they can find belief in themselves and their work.
Belief in people is not the only thing needed for change, but here is what belief does — belief gives the people we lead a choice. If we believe in the people we lead then we give them a choice to come along on the journey of improvement or not. Some will choose to follow, some will choose to stay where they are; we cannot control that decision. But, if we lack belief in the ability of people, then they will meet that expectation and not move forward. Our belief gives the people we lead an opportunity, a choice to strive for greatness.
Ultimately, people are what they believe. Before we can equip people to create change, we must start by believing that each person has the potential to achieve great things. Then, we have to inspire them to believe in themselves. Change is difficult, and we must recognize that belief is stronger than any other factors that impact our work. We will ultimately behave and lead in a way that aligns to our (positive or negative) beliefs. If our beliefs are not aligned to the work we are trying to accomplish, then we have no hope of equipping people with the skills needed to make change in our schools. You are what you believe!