Have you ever had someone say to you “I believe in you.”?  How did you feel?  Empowered? Manipulated? Loved? Pressured?

This is one of those phrases that must be interpreted with body language, tone of voice, timing and even the history of a relationship.    Regardless of how it is delivered, it builds connection between the giver and receiver of the words.  Also, what is said just before and immediately after sets the context of how it will be interpreted.  Here are some simple examples:

  1. I am currently a volunteer golf and basketball coach with Special Olympics in my hometown.  As you can probably guess, the level of skill and ability varies widely between the athletes.  Believe in youSome are very accomplished and capable in these sports and some not so much.  We have golfers who regularly shoot in the high 70’s to low 80’s and others who are thrilled to make contact with the ball.  In the basketball program, there are some who struggle to catch the ball or dribble and others who can go one on one with anyone with confidence.  In that environment how do you say “I believe in you.” with integrity?  The answer for me is all in my tone of voice, my posture and when and where I say these words so that they have the most powerful impact.  The message I am really trying to impart is “I believe you have what it takes.  I believe you have more to give and can learn this skill.”  What I have found time and time again is that if I believe they are capable of more and impart that confidence to them they will deliver more.  Of course the other side of that coin is that half-hearted efforts are not acceptable.  Each athlete is different and time must be taken to understand and know how much they can be stretched and what growth for each one looks like.  In this setting “I believe in you” is all about exhortation rather than comfort.
  2. Early in my career in my first business sales role I had an excellent leader and mentor.  He was the Vice President and General Manager of our business unit and had a fairly low key personality mixed with a high expectation for growth for his entire team.  At that time I was taking on new responsibilities and growth targets and sometimes I secretly doubted whether I was capable of achieving them.  This leader seemed to sense this and delivered an “I believe in you.” in a very different way.  One day he waved me into his office and said something I have never forgotten.  It changed my entire perspective and I look back upon it as a turning point in my career.  His words were “John, I will give you all the rope you need to be successful.  Just don’t ever do anything that will make me want to pull it.”  What I heard in those words were several things.  “I believe in you.” and “You have what it takes to do this.” but “I am also taking a risk with you so you need to take this very seriously and apply yourself.”  While I knew that I was not yet ready to take on the increased responsibility I felt that I had been trusted anyway.  The deep meaning of those words were like rocket fuel to me and I never looked back from that day forward.

At Back to Eden Group we are unashamed Jesus followers in how we approach all leadership and mentoring situations.  To us this is not at all about Jesus in a “religious” sense but in a model human sense.  He is the perfect human and by logical extension the ideal leader.  His interactions with the followers who surrounded him while on earth are gold mines of insight into motivating and inspiring others to achieve more than they could have ever imagined.  Reflect on these words and imagine his tone of voice and posture when he delivered them.  If you are new to Jesus words, shut down any religious alarm bells and hear them as words of human inspiration.

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these” John 14:12

And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19

Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.”  Matthew 24:45-47

 “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:20

Jesus also sent out his followers on assignments to do what he had been doing knowing full well that they were not ready or fully prepared for the assignment.  Think about this for a moment.  He trusted his “movement” or “business venture” to a small band of followers who clearly did not get it.  This was clear from the frequent corrections they got from him when they messed up.  However, it didn’t matter.  He didn’t care what their performance did to his reputation or “brand”.  It was more important that they were stretched beyond their comfort zones with the knowledge that they had been trusted enough to screw up the assignment.

In these and many other examples, Jesus masterfully blended “I believe in you.” with “You are capable of so much more.”  All of it delivered from a posture of a consistent and caring relationship which built confidence in his followers that he could be counted on to be there for them whether they were successful or not.

This is the secret to coaching and leading people to great things.  Believe in them.  Expect more from them.  Be consistent so they know that you’ll always be there for them and finally remember it is never about your brand or reputation.

Whoever or whatever you consider to be you Higher Power, imagine these words coming from that source:

I believe in you.

John Matthews

Back to Eden Group

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