Unhelpful beliefs: what they are and how to coach to them Copy

In the last post, we explored one of the common root causes of a mindset issue and how you can coach to it. This post is looking at another common mindset issue: unhelpful beliefs.

When you start digging in to what’s causing the performance issue you need to address with a team member and behaviour isn’t changing, you’ll frequently find the resistance to change is caused by an unhelpful beliefs the team member is holding on to.

All human beings have helpful versus unhelpful beliefs. Our helpful beliefs help us move forward in life; but our unhelpful beliefs get in the way of what we’re trying to achieve. If you’re someone who believes you have no unhelpful beliefs – that is most likely your unhelpful belief!

If you study emotional intelligence, the whole idea of helping someone to change is to look at what are the unhelpful beliefs that are holding them back and how can you change them into more helpful beliefs that help them get where they want to go.

When you’re coaching a team member that you know has a mindset issue, there’s often an unhelpful belief that’s causing their lack of willingness to do something differently, and as their coach, you need to find out what that unhelpful belief is – without getting sucked into the deflection that they may throw out.

You can think of the deflection as a symptom of the underlying belief: many coaches will address the deflection, but without addressing the actual issue, you won’t see long-term change.

What are some common unhelpful beliefs?

  1. The first (and most common) one is a lack of confidence. The team member might have the ability, but they doubt themselves.
  2. A second common one is resistance to change. If your team member is stuck on the belief that ‘I don’t like change’, they’re going to throw up resistance to it.
  3. Another one is a lack of belief in the thing you’re actually asking them to do; i.e. they don’t believe that thing that you’re asking them to do is going to change an outcome for the better.
  4. Another big one is competing beliefs – this happens a lot in teams, particularly in regulated environments. An example of a competing belief would be when you as a leader are trying to get your people have more engaging conversations with their customers; the KPI your people are measured on is how many conversations they can get through in a day.

How do you address unhelpful beliefs?

Firstly, it’s thinking about what’s the leadership experience I need to do differently to create a different type of thinking? Because all beliefs are formed from experiences that people receive. At a team level, changing the experiences you’re delivering and/or the messages you’re communicating will help you start to get good cut through.

When it gets down to the individual level, though, you have to challenge the belief.

Once you know what the unhelpful belief is, you’ll need to use effective questioning to really get them thinking about that belief in a way that they haven’t thought about it before; questions that challenge the belief.

Then, whether it’s your team or and individual, you’ve got to get them to see the value in changing what they’re doing. Outlining the benefits of doing something differently will help you do this, as well as exploring the consequences or impact of not changing.

When your people see value, or when they see benefits outweigh costs of a behavioural change, they will usually be motivated to enact that change.

It’s this combination of changing up the leadership experiences you’re providing, challenging the belief with effective questioning, and then solid conversations that demonstrate the value of that behavioural change that will address any unhelpful beliefs that are holding your people back from delivering on the performance you know they’re capable of.

This post is an excerpt of key insights from our last coaching webinar on ‘mindset’ as shared by Mike Dunn, Director and Senior Consultant at GRIST. You can watch the full webinar here or learn more about our ACDC coaching model here.