Sunday, April 12, 2009

Seven Tools Leaders Use to Build Belief In Their Goal

BrainBeliefModelj0438746 In previous blogs, I’ve written about the first two keys to goal achieving; namely write a SMART goal and strengthen commitment that you can reach your goal. The third step to achieving any goal is to strengthen the belief that you and your team can reach the goal.

The belief we are talking is the most powerful, new belief dominating cognitive psychology called self-efficacy"your belief in your ability to take the action needed to reach your goal.” (1) Research shows you can dramatically increase the probability of achieving your goal when your self-efficacy is high. The three major tools to increase your belief that you can reach your goals are:

  • Modeling
  • Mastery
  • Mood

In this blog, we’ll discuss the power of modeling. Modeling is the study of those who are achieving the results you want, and adapting their approach to construct your plan. Aristotle said that children learn by imitation; so do adults. The process of modeling is so powerful that the beliefs you absorb during your formative years play out throughout your lifetime, like formatted CDs that were burned into your brain. These ingrained beliefs cover all facets of your life (e.g., your intelligence, performance skills, general biases, leadership ability…) and become the filters or mental models through which you see situations and process information. Beliefs are the periscopes of life.

Professor Haslam and his colleagues have found that ingrained beliefs can also become stereotypes that affect our performance. (2) Let’s say, for example, I “remind” you that men generally have greater mathematical ability than women do do and you then take a difficult math test. Research shows that you would probably perform better if you were a man and worse if you were a woman (compared to not being aware of this “math ability stereotype”). Similarly, if you have an ambitious sales goal, but your team has a stereotypical belief that they can't sell to this market or a particular product, your sales team will perform poorly. As Professor Haslam concluded, "what we think we are determines both how we perform and what we are capable of becoming." Show me what a leader believes and I'll tell you what she can achieve.

To build your team’s belief that they can reach your difficult goal, you must eliminate any remnants of negative, subconscious, stereotypical beliefs. You need to reformat their CDs. Philosophers, creative geniuses, and business leaders have been doing it for centuries.

  • Poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson met once a month for over 20 years with an elite crowd known as the Saturday Club. Members included Longfellow, Hawthorne, Holmes, Whitman...
  • Professor Howard Gardner reviewed the lives of creative geniuses such as Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, and Gandhi. He concluded that models of success were instrumental in shaping their lives. (3)
  • In his study of 500 industrial giants, Napoleon Hill reminds us that Henry Ford had his most outstanding achievements when he began associating with Edison, Burroughs, and Firestone. (4)
  • When Jeff Immelt became CEO of GE, he identified the sharing of best practices across GE's businesses as one of the keys to increasing productivity. (5) Modeling what works is really another name for best practices.

At my first national sales meeting as a rookie salesperson, I remember asking Jack, the top salesperson, who had helped him the most. He said he listened to Zig Ziglar's audio-programs. That day, Zig and Jack became my first models of sales success. Based on what I learned from them, I built a step-by-step plan that strengthened my belief that I could become the top salesperson, which I did.

If you want to strengthen your and your team's self-efficacy, apply the power of modeling by learning from those who have been (and are presently) where you want go. Call them models, mentors, or coaches. But please call them! Listed below are several ways to make modeling work for you. Adapt these ideas to help you construct your systematic plan to reach your goal.

1. Become active in associations to discover your industry’s best practices.

2. Dedicate a small portion of your regular meetings to learning from each other.

3. Start an evidenced-based book of the month club at work. Select books that have solid research to back up their recommendations. Research is really modeling based on the scientific method.

4. Call the authors who have written books to customize their ideas to your situation.

5. Involve your team members in the creation of a plan based on successful models.

6. Invite team member to create a task list to fulfill their individual responsibilities.

7. Find a coach or mentor, who has been there and done that, to review your plan.

Use these keys to build your (and your team’s) belief that you can take the actions to reach your goal. How surprised will you be when you overcome these tough times and reach your destination? Let me know how you’re doing.

Keep eXpanding,


1. Berry J and West R: Cognitive Self-Efficacy in Relation to Personal Mastery and Goal Setting Across the Life Span. International Journal of Behavioral Development 16(2): 351-379, 1993.

2. Haslam A, Salvatore J., Kessler T, and Reicher S. The Social Psychology of Success, Scientific American Mind, April/May 2008, pages 24 -- 31.

3. Gardner H: Creating Minds. HarperCollins: New York, 385, 1993..

4. Hill N: Think and Grow Rich. Fawcett Crest Book: New York, 1937.

5. Thomas Stewart; Growth as a Process, Harvard Business Review, June 2006, 62 - 70.



Hi, Dave:
Thanks for sharing great stuff. I like your analogy of models to best practices. Your 7 tools make practical sense too.
Regards, Say Keng

Dave Jensen, Leadership Expert said...

Thank you, Say. Let me know which of the tools work for you.