Blog · May 4, 2017

Building Beliefs – Creating A Tailwind For Extra Speed

Jamie MacPherson is an Associate Performance Consultant for Will It Make The Boat Go Faster? and has been working in the world of leadership development for fifteen years. Jamie is interested in the relationship between behaviours that we demonstrate and how that affects the perception of leadership with others, ultimately affecting the performance levels that we see around us.

Building Beliefs – Creating A Tailwind For Extra Speed

When we consult and partner with our clients, one of the key issues we’re challenged to deliver is to help individuals, teams and organisations build their beliefs to improve performance. We help them establish and then test their beliefs, creating the foundation for the actions and behaviours they need in pursuit of their Crazy goal. We look to create confidence around how they will achieve their goals and be in greater control of what happens next.

We also see every day how people with higher self-belief are more likely to achieve their goals than those who don’t have that same level of belief. If you want to achieve your Crazy goal, building and maintaining high self-belief is a keystone component to your success.

So, first, it’s worth understanding what is this thing called ‘Belief’. We all know how before we face anything edgy or challenging we often hear the phrase from others: ‘Just believe in yourself!’. So what does this really mean? Where does self-belief come from? And if I lack self-belief, how can I build it?

Q. What is self-belief?
A. Quite simply belief is the extent to which the thoughts in your head tell you that you can, or can’t, do something.

These thoughts are principally drawn from our own previous, personal experiences – but we can of course also build our beliefs from other sources, for example:

– By using our imagination – visualising what you want to have happen
– By drawing belief from others we know have achieved something similar
– Even gaining belief by what we see and hear via the myriad of social information sources now available to us

However, first-hand experience that we have done something successfully before remains the single strongest influencer of our belief for the clear majority of people. Knowing you’ve done it before, in some way, will inevitably give stronger certainty that you can repeat whatever it is you want to do.

But if pursuing Crazy goals requires you to do new things, experience may not be there to draw on. So then what?! Reaching a Crazy goal probably requires people throughout a business to start doing things in new and different ways; requires people to tweak and refine behaviours, attitudes and ways of working. And in such a scenario its inevitable and understandable that many will operate with lower self-belief.

Without too much evidence kicking around to allow us to believe we can operate in this new space, it’s easy to reject the greater goal and far safer to settle on less exciting, less impactful or less fulfilling targets. It reinforces why we need to build our beliefs and to address them at every stage of such a journey.

Do Olympians need strong beliefs?

Ben Hunt-Davis and the GB Men’s eight had to face this challenge squarely in the face in 1998 two years out from winning their Olympic Gold medal. Up till that point they had a track record of finishing 7th or worse at international level. There was little or no reason that would suggest they should have the belief that they could be successful two years later in Sydney 2000. But in the end, they did succeed and within two years the crew talked about the enormous difference it made to their performance, that on the start line of the Olympic final they had that all important collective and self-belief that Gold would be theirs.

So, what did Ben and his crew do and what can you do to build self-belief?

There were many aspects to how they built their beliefs (a chapter in the book is dedicated solely to beliefs) but one key success was the construction of a large ‘evidence wall’ of reasons that daily fuelled their belief that they could achieve their Crazy goal. It had required them to become forensic each day about what they had done, or others had done, or they had spotted would help them, in even the smallest way to achieve their goal.

This had started with finding examples of people like them who had achieved similar things. It then quickly changed to identifying areas of their performance that had moved them closer to their goal (i.e. had made their boat go faster). The evidence wall helped them gain momentum so that the pursuit of their Crazy goal became exciting and realistic rather than daunting and out of reach. It’s just one example, but it was a critical, physical manifestation of the importance they attached to belief.

So, if you are setting out on your own Crazy goal, you might want to answer some of these questions as you build your own self-belief:

  • Who else have I seen achieve something Crazy like this?
  • What could I do that they did?
  • What’s at the heart of any negative beliefs I hold…do they make sense?!
  • What have I achieved up till now that would help me in my pursuit of my Crazy goal?
  • What have I done today, even in a small way, that has moved me forward to my goal?
  • How can I replicate that and build on that tomorrow?

Keep your record of these bits of evidence in front of you on an evidence wall or in a note page on your phone to keep you focused, moving and building towards your Crazy goal. It really makes a difference.

Best of luck!


The work we do around building beliefs is one of the modules in our Leadership Performance Programme. For more information please contact one of the team on 020 3870 7088.

For more insights into building beliefs in your organisation, pick up a copy of Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?

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