I’m on the road this week at a conference in Florida, so I thought this might be a good week to share with you a story I told in my book. It’s about how our beliefs multiply over time. This is especially important as it pertains to what we believe about ourselves. (The following is taken from Chapter 8: The Belief Snowball.)
As a leadership coach, I have the honor of experiencing my clients’ personal growth on a regular basis. During our time together, I’m constantly on the lookout for where they are giving themselves permission and where they aren’t.
I remember an executive who had advanced unexpectedly at a young age. As the new vice president of a fast-paced, highly successful company, Carla had more than 175 people reporting to her. It was a big jump from her previous leadership responsibilities, so we tackled each issue that came up on a weekly basis.
We had some hard conversations because she was pushing up against her leadership lid—meaning her learning curve was steep as she was understanding how to lead in new ways. It often felt like a game of real-life whack-a-mole as we tried to stay ahead of all she was grappling with.
One day, Carla remarked, “I had to tell my leadership team the same thing three times, and they still didn’t listen to me. But that’s okay. I just did the task myself.”
Whoa. I had to interrupt. “When did it become okay for your leadership team not to listen to you?”
“It’s typical, but I’m used to it. I have to get the job done whether anyone listens to me or not.”
“It’s typical because you believe it is okay to be this way,” I said. “It sounds like you have to change your beliefs.”
“I never thought about it that way. How do I change what I believe?”
“Try this. The next time you meet with your leadership team, hold on to this belief: ‘My leadership voice matters, what I say counts, and my expectation is for my team to respect and listen to what I have to say.’ Then, as you speak, demonstrate your belief by looking around the room and making eye contact with each leader. If someone interrupts, tries to talk over you, or dismisses you, politely stop the conversation and say, ‘I’m not being heard on this, and it is important that I am.’ Then start again and tell them what they need to hear.”
I’m happy to report that a couple of weeks later, Carla and I met again and this time, she was beaming. “It worked! They stopped ignoring me and now they listen the first time I say something.”
As a side note, this principle is helpful for parents, teachers, coaches – really anyone who works with young children or teenagers. If you don’t believe you deserve to be heard the first time, kids can sniff this out and won’t take you seriously. Evidently, some adults still struggle with this, as Carla can attest.
If you enjoyed reading this and want to read more stories like this, check out my book The Life You’re Made For. And if you have a leadership quandary you’d like input on, feel free to leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!