All Articles Leadership Inspiration Being believed in -- it's magic!

Being believed in — it’s magic!

4 min read


As leaders, we have many pathways to help our team members. What is the best approach? That may depend on the individual. Regardless of the path we choose to be helpful, when we believe in the people with whom we work, it can be magical.

My friend Kerry Douglass, a spiritual director, composer, and musician, writes about the beauty of knowing and being known by another person. She has seen the transformation of
individuals when they find they are accepted. She told me she finds confidence and courage to share her gifts with others when she is reminded of her uniqueness, creativity and

Acceptance as we are is very powerful. Being believed in can be deeply gratifying and energizing.

If we believe in our team members, if we show that we accept them and trust them for who they are, and we give them clarity of our expectations and goals for them, they will work hard to live up to our level of trust. Trust means letting them do their jobs to the best of their abilities. It means we resist micro-managing others.

I recently observed a new hire at Georgetown University thrive when her leader told her she trusted her and believed in her. This department head empowered her to manage her own schedule and travel, so she could be successful with her responsibilities and with her young family. This is exactly how people rise to meet and exceed expectations. They feel trusted, and this gives them the room and the confidence to produce winning results.

Cathy Becker, an accomplished HR specialist in Chicago, writes that leadership is “how we help people feel about themselves.” Cathy’s description aligns with the wonderful poet and activist, Maya Angelou, whose principles and words are gifts to be treasured. Maya said that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Maya Angelou may not have been a businessperson, but she certainly understood relationships — and business is all about relationships.

As leaders, the better our relationships, the better our team members will do and the better our results. This is what we must strive for as leaders – quality relationships as well as results. If you have not read Al Ritter’s “The 100/0 Principle,” it is a quick and worthy book. Al shares his story and the lessons he learned the hard way by not realizing the value of the quality of his relationships with his team members.

Just recently, I had a conversation with a leader whose team was struggling. This is a highly successful team that had a fairly significant setback. They reacted to this disappointment by having negative thoughts about their worthiness. Yet they are all very good at what they do! I suggested they come together as a team, remember the confidence they have in one another, and to share their willingness to help one another with feedback (the past) and feed forward (the future). It takes some courage to offer and accept feedback and advice, and to be appreciative.

The leader got the team together and began by asking for feedback and advice about her own performance. She told her team that she herself is striving for continuous improvement, as they all should, individually and as a team.

She received a wealth of ideas. Perhaps even more important was that her team members greatly benefited from her honest self-appraisal, which freed them to do the same. In this atmosphere of trust and appreciation, a renewed spirit and can do attitude prevailed. This spirit can be felt and it is contagious!

Leaders are signal senders. We can foster the confidence of individuals and teams through our trust and belief in them.

As leaders, let’s be aware of the beauty and power of our signal of trust. Let’s empower them. They will respond with a strong desire to live up to our belief in them and they will do their very best. And that is highly effective leadership!

John Keyser is the founder and principal of Common Sense Leadership. He works with executives helping them develop organizational cultures that will produce outstanding financial results year after year, and a striving for continuous improvement, theirs and their team’s. You can reach Keyser at [email protected] and 202-236-2800.

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