Learning.africa

Believing

by Perry Timms: CEO at People and Transformational HR Ltd.
Today was just another day, but in it, I had the chance to work with some of the wonderful people who form a part of People and Transformational HR Ltd.

I found myself in awe of said people. And I thought to myself this:

“I really believe in <Insert Name>.”

I should’ve shared that in the moment but on reflecting on the day just now, it came to me. I believed in them.

And it also came to me how powerful it is when people believe in you or you believe in them.

Because it transcends the norms of liking, appreciating even, and certainly willing people to succeed. When you believe in someone, there’s a depth and a resonance to that sensation that really is special.

The belief you have is more than recognising their efficiency, creativity, stamina or determination. You are captured by their very essence. How they are being.

I recall learning more about the state of being in the training I had a few years back from the wonderful folks at Tuff Leadership (Carl Erik Herlitz and Lisa Gill). In talking about candour, helpful feedback, ownership of issues and solutions and delivering tough (yes that’s what Tuff means) messages to people, you had to be aware of not just what was said, or the outcome even, but how people are “being” with that issue, solution etc.

And so back to my belief in those people, whom I have the honour of calling colleagues and much more.

I had SUCH belief in them I felt in awe of their being. I was so comforted by their application and approaches, I felt like I was learning how to be with a complex new initiative, a complicated project, a key piece of strategic direction and a tricky people matter.

Now, I think those wonderful people know how much I believe in them, but I will tell them so when we’re next in a conversation. And back it up with the evidence that supports my belief.

Because is there anything more powerful, convincing and enabling than saying to someone:

I believe in you.

I recall having a bit of an issue with an internal colleague when heading up an L&D function. Someone who I felt was aggressive, demanding and seemed to want to catch me out.

In a conversation with a coach I was working with, he gave me some of the most poignant advice.

"What if you said to her, that you really believed in what she was trying to do. And how you had positive regard for her intentions and outcomes and wanted to work as cohesively and coherently as possible with her to achieve those outcomes. And that you would benefit from a clearer indication from her of what she felt she needed from you and clarify how you could achieve those things together."

I must’ve rehearsed those words time and again. I wanted them to be mine and sincere. He also said that he believed in me to tackle this and that he could see how much anxiety this current state was impairing my ability to do good, do well and be smart about it all.

I felt liberated. I felt totally backed. And I was ready to shift this previously out of sync relationship.

I got the chance to talk. I sat calmly and comfortably and gently began to utter the words. I half expected a cringe or a reaction.

I got nothing but warmth. An opening up. And then I got the confession.

"I’m really under pressure from my bosses here. I felt so much tension about delivering on the learning for this key group of leaders. I was transferring that onto you - I can see that now. I didn’t mean to - but I was so frightened that this might not be a total success. I didn’t believe in you. Until now."

We talked some more. We realised this was an even bigger ask than we’d both thought up until now. We knew we had to go back to the most Senior Person in that division and say that we felt we needed more.

We co-crafted that approach. We also co-created some suggestions in case there was a less-favourable response. I couldn’t deliver this, so only my previously combative internal client could. She felt ready though.

It was delivered. It didn’t go down too well. BUT it resulted in a pause. A reflection. My internal client and I were tasked with more direct discovery and investigation into needs, gaps and issues.

We did that together. We used an Appreciative Inquiry approach but also went for the areas we understood were not up to the mark. We formed a bit of a bond with the very people we were being tasked with lifting capability and performance, despite the belief in their seniors they weren’t up to it. We started to believe in them and told them so. They shifted, visibly and verbally, into wanting to be part of a shift.

We found a way. I built a programme. We communicated it and got support. I delivered it. It became a turning point in that division. Some painful moments of realisation but a refreshing reboot of previously damaging behaviours and fractured relationships.

It turned out that NO-ONE believed in each other (including the most Senior Leader - they were not regarded well at all) and had all stopped believing in themselves too.

We worked ENTIRELY on what we needed to believe in others and to see it and realise it and leverage it. The frankest, clearest and yet unifying exchanges I’d seen in a group of leaders in a long time.

We needed some handrails. So we leaned on (and some might not like it but it really worked here) Patrick Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. I recall the trust conversation being a bit bruising. But we agreed how we’d handle that and we all took solace in no one being the scapegoat and all in it to find a way to “be” together.

3 sessions later and you could see something palpable in this group. They’d started to believe in themselves and each other. They formed alliances on actions and big issues they needed to tackle. They realised how to take on some of the external pressures they were feeling in different ways. And they actually opened up to learn and share with each other.

They had more to offer than they’d remembered and were lost in a fog of non-belief.

They bravely took this to their Senior Leader. Who, at first, was not amused but listened. And took it on the chin. And supported what shifts they wanted to make together.

9 months down the line, this group were outperforming. And had started to bring others in their teams to a higher level of understanding and collaboration that was previously unheard of. Apparently, this festering situation had prevailed for nigh on 5 years. 60 months of turmoil, anguish, uncertainty, suspicion, game-playing and spite.

It appears that for those 1800 days, no-one believed in anyone; not even themselves.

Until 3 sessions, over 6 weeks, turned things around and 9 months of sustained and determined actions built things back to a place they probably never thought they’d get to.

I was lucky because someone believed in me. And in turn, urged me to express I believed in someone (when I wasn’t sure I did but it felt like something I could explore).

Believing in someone is really special.

And today, I believed in Katy, Clare, Kirsten, Maddy and Jenny. And through this format, I’m telling them so.

Who do you believe in? Who believes in you? And what does that help you with?
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