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The 6 Pillars of Leadership # 3 BELIEFS

Updated: Jan 12, 2023

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Yoda, Jedi Master

Believes make anything possible.

In a galaxy far, far away… Even though a small, green, fictional character from a galaxy far, far away said this, I’ve struggled to find a better way to summarise that, unless you switch your mindset from “we will try” to “everything is possible,” change cannot happen. As a leader, you can drive this mindset shift by · tackling the impossible, · communicating passionately, · and always asking why. If that sounds almost as obscure as Yoda, don’t worry. We’ll look closer at these three concepts in a minute.

Why trying wastes everyone’s time. When I arrived in Malaysia, I heard, “it’s impossible,” wherever I went. But every time I hear someone stating an absolute truth or whispering “impossible,” I smile. It reminds me that people far more intelligent than me stated that the public would never embrace mobile phones. Other smart people were adamant that film would never be streamed digitally, and people would always head to the store to rent a movie. We live in an age of continuous transformation. MBA classes are full of case studies of business transformation. The internet is packed with real-world examples of businesses that have reinvented themselves. But it doesn’t matter how many books your team reads, how many TED Talks they watch, or how many leadership courses they attend. Their personal experience will outweigh logic and data. And if their experience has been negative, they’ll struggle to imagine how it could be different. Nobel laureates Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky conducted extensive research to prove that we judge based on our experiences rather than data. Slay the spectre of the impossible that stalks your team Because of our cognitive bias towards personal experience, you must demonstrate to your team that things they believe to be impossible are, in fact, possible. You do this by picking one of those “impossible” tasks and conquering it with your team. This experience will prove to the doubters that impossible goals can be attained. Then you repeat this until your team is convinced that the impossible does not exist. It doesn’t matter how much data you whack on the table to prove your point, or how eloquent your rhetoric is. Results matter most. Results demonstrate that impossible is simply a word. I still remember one of my impossible. When I first landed in China, they told me that the customer would never pay for a particular service we were providing. I literally told the team to hold my beer. We did open up a discussion, defined a strategy, nurtured the customer for three months, and worked very hard. Once the customer understood the real value we were providing, they started paying for it. If I could convince my customer, you can also beat every impossible. Find a small challenge to conquer initially. The solution to this challenge may be buried under a mountain of excuses. Your fresh eyes can review the problem from a new perspective and help your team identify new angles of attack. It doesn’t matter what business you manage or where you work. One of the first things you’ll hear in your new role is “it’s impossible.” This is when you smile, confident that the tide will soon change for the better because you’ve found your small, early win. Communicate passionately to win hearts and minds The first letter discussed how leaders could use more inclusive language to grow trust and rapport with their teams. Verbal and written communication is essential, but great leaders also communicate with their tone of voice and their body. Your non-verbal communication is continually displayed and influences the energy you create as a leader. When you’re asking your team to overcome the impossible, communicate with passion, as it shows you believe things can and will change. Passion reassures people and spurs action. Passionate conviction in your mission makes you get up and go again when you fall. I believe that passion makes the difference between conquering the impossible or being conquered by it. If you are not passionate, the tone of your voice will betray you. Your body language will show your team that your heart is not committed. If this happens, your team will see more obstacles than opportunities. They’ll deliver more excuses than results. The impossible remains impossible. Never stop asking, “Why?” While your first impossible obstacle might be easy to address, your challenges will increase in complexity over time. Your fresh eyes will not be as fresh. Adopt the curiosity and determination of a child who’s excellent at asking questions. By constantly asking “Why?” you bring to the surface new solutions. No matter how experienced or intelligent a person is, always ask why. Question your subject matter experts, most innovative colleagues, early adopters, and intimidating managers. Open-ended questions like “Why?” or “How?” invite your team to share their thoughts. Open-ended questions also signal that you don’t assume you have the answer. I find open-ended questions create and reinforce trust as they show you truly value your team’s contributions. Even when things progress smoothly, never stop asking, “Why?” If you stop asking questions, you send the message that you’re satisfied and that no more improvements will be made. This may lead to complacency – which is continuous improvement’s worst enemy. Once your team becomes accustomed to defying the impossible, they’ll start believing everything is possible. After they’ve conquered one impossible task, their minds will shift to the next challenge. Once that challenge is met, they’ll be hungry for more. Challenges become opportunities to relish rather than problems to hide from. This switch from “We will try” to “We will do”, coupled with increased morale and trust, produces a continuous positive feedback loop enabling your team to achieve results once considered out of reach. This is the point at which you, as a leader, can shift your focus from daily struggles and focus your energy on the future. Now that nothing is impossible, the next chapter explores how curiosity and continuous learning create resilient teams who thrive through change.

TAKE ACTION 6 Believes-incubators to start doing today 1 – STOP using the word trying; start DOING. 2 – START coaching whenever you hear someone saying: impossible, not ready, never. Say not possibly, yet, not ready yet, have not thought about it yet. 3 – START with small challenges and scale up, just like you do with weights at the gym. 4 – USE your body language and your nonverbal communication to transmit passion. 5 – KEEP asking why and every other open question to invite your team to share their thoughts. 6 – SET small, realistic goals for your team and celebrate with them when they achieve them.

Next time… The next instalment will explore how curiosity and continuous learning create resilient teams who thrive through change. Get involved in the conversation by connecting with me on LinkedIn: Please share this BLOG with your colleagues and friends if you have enjoyed it.

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