Beliefs are Views: What is your Leadership Lens?

Have you ever wondered why some people are able to consistently deliver an outstanding performance, while others are seemingly unable to achieve ?excellence?? My experience has shown that achieving?high performance?has less to do with your physical or cognitive abilities, and more to do with your emotional state.? High performance is mostly related to what you think about?because that is connected to what you feel which impacts what you will do.? Your thoughts, of which beliefs are a huge part, impact?the energy you need to keep moving toward your goals, and surpass them.? It is no secret that many exceptional athletes spend a significant portion of their training time, preparing their minds.

Life doesn?t ?just happen? to you.? You, in fact, are in much more control over your experience than seems obvious at first glance.? By becoming more aware of your thought patterns, you can learn how they influence your behaviour choices and ultimately, how others perceive and respond to you.? I like to think about the connection in this way:? Beliefs impact Energy (feeling), which affects Behaviour, which in turn influences Outcome (result).

Let?s look at an example.? Imagine that a job opportunity has just been posted in your organization.? You think that you will not be successful in the application process and that all of your effort in putting together a resume and researching the job will surely be wasted (Belief).? You begin to feel de-motivated (Energy).? Since you doubt that you will be successful, you put little effort into putting your resume together and you do not even bother researching the job further (Behaviour).? The end result is that you don?t get the job (Outcome).? This cycle is commonly referred to as a self-fulfilling prophecy; your predisposed beliefs affect your energy (feeling) and your behaviour so much that you end up creating the very experience that, in this case, you did NOT want.? The same can be true for an example in the reverse.? Imagine that you are thinking that you have a very good chance at the promotion, that you have worked hard and have demonstrated your competency and worth to the organization (Belief).? You will likely feel confident and motivated (Energy) and will put extra effort into preparing your resume and getting ready for the interview by conducting extra research into the job (Behaviour).? You will also most assuredly have a better chance at getting an interview, and will perform better in the interview with this frame of mind (Outcome).? Even if you do not get the promotion, you will have a top notch resume ready to go, you will have performed well for the interviewers, and you will have learned more about yourself and the job opportunities in your organization; all of which will contribute to increasing your success in the future.

My current work allows me to meet a variety of people from all walks of life; ranging from executives and professionals in private and public organizations to at-risk youth in an employment program.? Over the last 15 years, I have carefully watched those who are considered ?star? performers in their organizations.? From those observations and from my own experience, I have noticed that certain personal beliefs impact a person?s ability to achieve high performance.? Anyone can incorporate these beliefs into their own life if they wish, by assuming them to be true.? They are:1) Beliefs about Performance: Excellent performers believe that people will do the best they can, make the best decision/choice they can, given the information and resources available to them at the time.? This way, when people do not perform as you expect, you will not be stuck in blaming or anger, neither of which are useful to you or the other person; but you will be free to seek positive solutions and actions to move toward the performance desired.? 2) Beliefs about Opportunity: The most resilient and creative individuals believe that even with big problems, there are positive opportunities available.? 3) Beliefs about Ownership: Individuals performing at high levels believe that each person is responsible for his or her own experience; I am responsible for my own thoughts, feelings and behaviour; and you are for yours.? 4) Beliefs about Reciprocity: High performance requires a belief that you get what you give.? When you think about it this way, if you are not GETTING something that you want, rather than looking outside of yourself, look inside at what you are GIVING. 5) Beliefs about Feedback: Maintaining high performance requires that you get feedback from others about how they are experiencing you.? Think about each of the beliefs outlined above.? When people give you feedback about your performance (1), you know that you performed your best given the information and resources available to you at the time.??? This will cue you to the fact that you have an incredible opportunity (2) for learning; you will be curious and inquiring about the specifics of the feedback information.? You will also be able to avoid defensiveness (when the feedback is ?negative?) or unreasonable ego-inflation (when the feedback is ?positive?) because you will know that the person giving the feedback has ownership (3) over the information.? They are really telling you about their definitions of good or bad; about their values and beliefs about performance.? That, of course, does not diminish the value of the feedback; you simply realize that the ownership for the feedback lies with the person providing it.? Reciprocity (4) means that since you believe in getting what you give; when you give feedback to others you apply these same beliefs to your delivery.? This will affect how receptive others are to hearing feedback from you, a requirement for building solid interpersonal relationships.You really can ?change your mind?, and change your life.? Altering, or re-programming, a previously limiting pattern can create new opportunities for achieving high performance.? Deliberate focus on altering limiting beliefs and changing them into more enabling beliefs, can create opportunities for new personal patterns?and new results!

The Three O?s of Optimism

In Martin Seligman?s National Bestseller, Learned Optimism, he discusses the three P?s of Pessimism: Pervasiveness, Permanence and Personal.? Seligman notes that a pessimist is less persistent in dealing with setbacks or overcoming obstacles because the pessimist believes that when an obstacle presents itself,?it reflects that EVERYTHING is an obstacle, it will ALWAYS be an obstacle, and I (the pessimist)?will NEVER be any different (a hopeless, ?see, I told you so? perspective).???After reading Seligman?s work and making observations about pessimists I have encountered in my work and life, I decided we need The Three O?s of Optimism to remind us all of how we can shift our perspective from Pessimism (hopeless) to Optimism (hopeful).? The three O?s are Opportunity, Occasion, and Ownership.? Opportunity reminds us that setbacks or obstacles are just that ? blips in the road, diversions along the way ? which?are often opportunities for greater learning and insight.? For example, if my relationship with my manager is becoming strained (an obstacle to my performance) that is an opportunity for me to pause, think about what I want from that relationship, and plan what I want to say to my manager.? The strain (?problem?) is actually an indicator that we need to have a dialogue about our relationship.? We need to go deeper (?opportunity?).? At the end of the dialogue, we will undoubtedly have a stronger relationship ? impacting performance for us both.? Occasion reminds us that catastrophic language like EVERYTHING, ALWAYS and NEVER will by themselves make us less persistent!? We?ve given up before we even start.? Really, think about any circumstance?in which this generalized?language is true, or even remotely?useful.? It is?disengageing language; if we believe?that something is permanent, then it shall be?permanent?- because we have made it so.??We can look at all the moments in our lives as ?occasions? or occurrences: some are positive and some are not.? Ownership is a reminder that sometimes a setback or obstacle is a direct result of my personal actions, and sometimes it is not.? Sometimes, the setback is due to the actions of others.? I?am, of course, responsible for my actions along the way ? and those actions will be easier choices for me when I realize that the setback or obstacle is not permanent, pervasive, or personal!

Changing the three P?s to the three O?s will help?you to move into that new groove ? to recover more quickly from setbacks and to make the most of the learning opportunity in front of you.

How do you stay optimistic?

Feedback is Information

Years ago, I met two very wise individuals. They taught me a lesson that literally ?changed my life?. That lesson was that feedback is information; and that when people give you feedback they are really telling you about themselves. Let me explain.

As a workshop facilitator with audiences filled with supervisors, managers, and organizational leaders on a regular basis, the topic of feedback comes up regularly. When my audiences are not filled with leaders, they are filled with people who work for leaders?and the topic of feedback comes up regularly in these sessions too! Everyone seems to want it, and seems to see great benefits in giving and receiving it, and yet not many of us are engaging in it! I think a big part of the reason for this is a lack of understanding and appreciation that feedback is just information ? it is not ?truth?.

When someone gives you feedback, they are really telling you about their view of the world ? their expectations, their experience, their likes and dislikes. It is just information for you and does not mean that it IS reality ? it?s just their reality (in that moment, in that situation).

So, if John says ?you are great!?, that is nice for you to hear, but it does not mean that you ARE great?it just means that John thought that something you did or said or did not do or say, was ?great? as he defines it. Just like if Sam said ?you are rude?, it just means that Sam thought something you did or said or did not do or say, was ?rude? as she defines it. It does not mean that you ARE rude.

When you think of feedback as just information, you can be curious about the information you get and use all feedback as a learning opportunity ? an opportunity to learn how others around you view the world, including how they interpret your behaviour. So, you can respond with something like ?Thank you, John. Now help me understand what I did or said that was ?great? to you!? or ?Thank you, Sam. I am curious about what I did or said or didn?t do or say that was ?rude? to you.?

I am reminded of a lovely quotation by Gene Early, ?Feedback is not absolute truth, but it is truth to the person delivering it.?