My oldest daughter once wrote an essay on the Holocaust book Night by Elie Wiesel. Even though the book illustrates the hopelessness of this unspeakable event, in true form to her wonderful personality, my daughter chose the subject of faith as the basis for her essay. Her hypothesis was, “…even when faith seems completely lost, you can always regain it.” With this holiday season upon us, I was reminded of her essay and I’ve been thinking a lot about the sometimes-fragile attribute of faith and its impact on us as leaders.
I’ve come to realize that as a coach, consultant and leader, the most powerful outcome I can produce in my work with an individual, team or firm is to develop within them a genuine belief that they can get better, achieve their desired outcome and realize their hopes and dreams. My job is to help people regain, or gain for the first time, true faith in themselves, their teammates, their partners and their work. Wow!
So, how does someone help others develop faith? I am no expert – as I am learning myself every day – but I think the most powerful thing that a leader can do is to first practice being faithful themselves. As a leader, when you express more doubt, fear, or other negativity within your own “inner dialogue” than you do hope, confidence and positivity, pay attention! It’s very likely that these self-doubts then lead to some verbal or non-verbal expressions of doubt or faithlessness that can hold you – and others — back. Practice faithful behaviors to center your mind on the hopeful and positive and away from the negative. Some faithful behaviors I strive to practice include:
- Praying. My belief in God provides me an opportunity to lay my fears and doubts into the hands of someone far more powerful than I can ever be. Through prayer, I can request help, guidance, support or confidence and give thanks for blessings and prayers answered. Whatever your religious belief, practice prayer daily to enhance your faith and quiet your inner doubt.
- Picturing success. My mother raised her six children with many faithful phrases, and I carry them with me each day. One is a part of a quote from the “father” of the Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale, who said, “If you can see it, you can be it.” If you want to believe in something, visualize it. If your goal is to lose weight, picture yourself trying on smaller clothes at a store and having them fit, or stepping on the scale and seeing your ideal number. If you intend to develop a breakthrough in a partner relationship, picture yourself having a constructive dialogue or “hugging it out.” Conjure your mental image of success often and you’ll be surprised how your inner self will begin to believe it’s possible.
- Pounding it in. This may sound a bit drastic, but if your faith is waning, that’s a great time to counterbalance your negative thoughts with a barrage of positive statements. When I feel true fear, I lean on Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” This simple but powerful phrase reminds me that I am not alone in my quest, whatever it may be. When I am running or working out and I experience pain or doubt that I can finish, I will say out loud to myself, “You can do this,” or “Come on, Jen, you’ve got this!” We all know the story of the Little Train and the power of his mantra, “I think I can…” So what’s yours? Develop a few key faithful phrases and post them visibly in places you frequent (your mirror, your monitor, the back of your cell phone). And, no matter how silly it feels at first, practice saying them to yourself when doubt or fear creep in.
- Believing in the power of others. Having faith means exhibiting it by placing trust and confidence in others. A great coach, mentor or leader believes in others even before they believe in themselves. Get out of your own head and practice faith by believing in the power and possibility that lies with your partners, fellow teammates, clients, spouse or significant other, children and others in your community. Assign new challenges. Express encouragement. Acknowledge even small improvements or milestones. Exhibit your faith in others and they will respond by believing in you and in themselves.
- Asking for support. Share the ideas in this blog to spark conversation about the power of faith and hope in personal and team performance. Discuss ways you can support one another in faithful behavior. Admit where doubt or fear are holding you back. Ask for support in generating a breakthrough in those areas.
I’ve come to believe that faith is a muscle that we must exercise to keep strong. With it, anything is possible. So, isn’t it worth the effort to maintain and deepen your faith and the faith of others?
I’ll close with the second half of the quote from Norman Vincent Peale, “If you believe it, you’ll achieve it.” Do you believe this? What do you do to practice your faith? What ideas do you have for me and other leaders for developing faith ourselves and in others? Please share them – I’m very interested!
This popular blog from April 2013 was updated and published today because of its relevance to our many readers.