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Four ways leaders can change their beliefs to achieve high performance

Our beliefs are central to everything we do. They stem from our values, our life experiences, and even our fears. They can be limiting, or the source of our drive and inspiration. Harnessing them and ensuring they help us to grow, rather than holding us back, can be a challenge, but is achievable with the right coaching and guidance.

When I joined Transform Performance, I was excited by their beliefs-led approach to change and transformation. I have always felt that mindset is critical to achieving what we want to and have studied NLP (neuro-linguistic programming). This also starts with examining belief systems. Their work on salespeople’s and leader’s secret codes is informed by an understanding of the beliefs held by high performing individuals.

Beliefs can change

One of the things they discovered through their detailed study, is that beliefs can change. Despite being emotionally held, deep-rooted opinions that we consider to be facts, we are able to recalculate them if new facts are introduced to us.

In this blog, I want to explore the four main ways this can happen.

1.    Changing beliefs based on our own experiences and subsequent reflection

Life is all about learning. Everything we do results in new neural pathways being formed in our brain – the physical remnants of learning.

Called ‘neuroplasticity’, this is evidence of the brain’s ability to change and adapt. It shows we have the ability, through experiences and our subsequent reflections on what they felt like and meant to us, to change our beliefs.

It’s this theory that leads us here at Transform Performance to eschew the ‘training course culture’. Instead we adopt a more holistic approach to managing change programmes. Change happens when people experience a different way of doing things. Acceptance is easier when we have evidence. Creating opportunities for this to happen is how we make personal development personal instead of generic.

As leaders, we can facilitate a range of experiences for people by making different opportunities available across the organisation, especially where we are keen to garner acceptance of new ways of working. By creating opportunities and celebrating new experiences, we draw the best out of our people and can easily identify those with the potential to be high performers.

We may solve change barriers or even resourcing problems in the process, and this approach helps to build a more agile culture.

people on a training course having a brainstorm and learning new ways of working and changing their beliefs

2. Changing beliefs based on our discussions and subsequent consideration

There is almost certainly a link between our deep-seated beliefs and our comfort zone. Our brains are wired to keep us safe. These days, leadership challenges may have replaced lions, but essentially, it is possible that our brains subconsciously steer us away from challenging our beliefs.

Getting involved in discussions and debates, therefore, gives us the chance to safely question or challenge what we think we know. It’s a chance to gather opinions and facts that may be useful in starting the process of changing our leadership beliefs and achieving those higher levels of performance.

One major challenge for leaders is to accept the possibility that these discussions might come from any source. In The Leader’s Secret Code, one destination belief is ‘influence’. This translates to “leadership is about how I make things happen through others”. But what if a leader was able to open their mind to being influenced?

In fact, transformational leadership is about embracing diversity of thought. In doing so and allowing themselves to be influenced by those in their team as opposed to just their seniors or peer group, leaders actually achieve a higher level of performance.

workers around a table discussing new ideas, collaborating and influencing each other to challenge their leadership beliefs

This is because embracing compromise conveys empathy and shows that they bring others with them. This is more likely to engender trust and show authenticity. Leaders with these qualities are seen as inspirational and worth following.

As leaders, we can create a business culture that celebrates discussion and debate through initiatives such as peer-to-peer learning, reverse mentoring or buddy systems which connect new starters with long-term employees.

3.    Changing beliefs by trying on a new belief and observing its reality

Does a child ever really believe they can ride a bike for that first time? We’ve all been there or heard the story of the parent running along behind the wobbly rider shouting “I’ve got hold of the saddle”. When in truth, the child is balancing through confidence alone.

a dad teaching his daughter to ride a bike for the first time, with the daughter balancing on her own confidently

Life is a little like this in adulthood too. We can adopt the mantra of ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ which works in a similar way to having a new experience. We try out life using a different approach and potentially discover it’s not nearly as risky or frightening as we’d assumed.

‘Trying on’ a different belief gives us permission to experiment but also to fail. It’s hard for us to accept that failure is the very best way to learn and so we tend to avoid it at all costs.

Given that one of the destination beliefs of high performing leaders is ‘fulfilment’, it’s likely that successful leaders have an innate desire to continually try new things. The fulfilment belief is described as a sense of satisfaction stemming from either believing you have achieved, or are on track to achieve, a personal or professional goal. High performing leaders are constantly re-evaluating themselves and proving they are capable of more.

4.    Changing beliefs by observing others’ experiences

The final way to change your leadership beliefs is to learn from the experiences of others.

Doing this teaches us about the art of the possible – and the best example of this is Roger Bannister and the four-minute mile.

Despite multiple attempts by several different athletes, the ‘barrier’ of the four-minute mile remained, with many believing it was physically impossible to break. When Bannister achieved the seemingly impossible, his record of 3 minutes 59.4 seconds didn’t last long. He’d proved the art of the possible and others went on to break his record in less than 2 months.

In the same way, someone watching the career path of a successful leader within the same organisation will be more likely to achieve something similar because they have evidence that the culture of the business supports this type of journey.

In fact, according to, managers promoted from within the organisation were 10% more likely than external hires to report having a highly productive team. This shows the early impact of people seeing that opportunities exist and that the company values its home-grown talent.

The fact that, here at Transform Performance, we have uncovered a leadership code implies that it can be unlocked. We believe there are many routes to the same destination and that core beliefs are always evolving. By the same token, therefore, leaders can influence and change their own beliefs in order to achieve ever higher performance.

Doing so simply requires an open mind and the opportunity to challenge what you think you believe.

I’ll leave you with the simple, yet encouraging, words of Mahatma Gandhi:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Interested in leadership development? Read about common leadership traps and the power of curiosity here. And why not give us a call and find out more about our leadership programmes? You can reach us via the contact page or call +44 (0) 1488 658686.

leader in control of their mindset and beliefs

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