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Need Your Team to Perform? Start with Belief

Belief drives behavior, and behavior drives results. In a volatile market, when the stakes are high, a leader’s ability to create shared belief for a team can mean the difference between failure and perseverance.

History is filled with examples of small nimble teams who beat out formidable opponents. The smaller team won because they were more emotionally invested. They believed in a cause bigger than themselves, and because of that they exhibited more grit, focus and tenacity.

This point in history will be no different. The organizations who believe in their noble cause will emerge as the victors.

Here’s what playing out in today’s marketplace. As organizations face pressure to rebound, two responses are emerging. The teams who believe their purpose is to hit their targets at all costs are marching off to market thinking about themselves. As a result of this self-focus, they come across as desperate and transactional. Instead of building business, they’re eroding their brand reputation because customers find them off-putting.

But teams who believe their customers need them, who believe that noble purpose is to improve life for customers, march off to market focused on customers. They’re assertive for the customer’s benefit. Instead of simply pitching, they engage. As a result, customers view them as partners.

The difference between a team that wins the market and a team that erodes their reputation starts with belief.

There are three things you can do right now to build the beliefs that will enhance your reputation, endear you to customers, and ultimately improve financial performance:

1. Believe in something bigger than yourself
Organizational research has shown: A team who believes: Our work matters and we make a difference will outperform a team who believes: Our boss needs us to hit these targets. 

It’s not enough to believe in your products. To build resilience and tenacity, help your team understand how their work makes a difference to someone other than their boss, or the bottom line. Human beings are hard-wired to crave meaning. Leaders can build belief by describing how the team’s work improves life for customers and others.

2. Tell customer impact stories
When elders repeat familiar stories at the family reunion, they’re telling the tribe: this is who we are, and this is what we believe. Stories are your organizational narrative. To build noble beliefs, repeat stories about teammates going the extra mile for customers.  Describe how your solution helped a specific customer improve their business. Real human stories, that included emotional up and downs, build belief in a way that generic case studies do not. Stories need to be told often, they build the right beliefs by reinforcing to the team, our work matters. This is how we help people.

3. Measure the right things
In a time of volatility, well-intended leaders often reflexively double down on quantitative metrics, like revenue, deals closed, or call activity. These metrics matter, but they’re lagging indicators. Leaders who focus exclusively on internal metrics, are more likely to create a frantic team who is desperate to hit their targets. This rarely produces the right customer-oriented behaviors. A frantic team focused internally.  Instead of frantic, you want your team to be focused, focused on the people who produce revenue: customers.

Purpose-driven leaders build belief by emphasizing customer success metrics like: how well customers are using your solution, gains the customers make as a result of your offering, or even customer happiness. These are leading indicators. They’re the numbers that drive sales revenue and market reputation. When leaders measure the positive impact the organization has on customers, it tells the team, we believe our customers are crucial, that’s why we measure how well we are helping them.

After studying leadership for decades, and working with high-performance teams around the world, I’ve come to understand at a deep level:  Teams with shared belief in something bigger than themselves have greater urgency, they have more tenacity, and they’re more resilient.

When the pressure is on to produce, it’s tempting for leaders to look internally at financial performance and activity targets. But the leaders who look outward to the market, and take the time to build belief in a noble cause bigger than this quarter’s financial performance will create teams who can go the distance.