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The Unexpected Trick to Getting the Best From Anyone

Believe in them.

Key points

  • We get buy-in not by moving them toward our goals, but moving them toward the best versions of themselves.
  • A skilled leader is skilled at finding something in anyone to believe in.
  • Leaders believe in people before they do, set an example of growth mindset, and give their authentic selves.
LuckyBusiness/Getty Images Pro
Source: LuckyBusiness/Getty Images Pro

I’ve often said that if you want to move mountains, then you’ve got to be able to move people. But how do you move them? And where to, exactly? Today’s guest contributor, Tova Rubin, has simple, clear, and profound answers to both questions.

Getting buy-in from others requires that we stop trying to move them toward our goals and start trying to move them toward the best versions of themselves. Let that sit for a moment because it’s easy to overlook. When you know where you want to move someone toward, the how becomes so much clearer.

As a professional speaker, I talk a lot about the how. I’ve interviewed many top leaders about how they do it in the workplace–and I will be sharing those tips in this article–but it is really something I first learned personally.

My son was diagnosed with several significant learning challenges. From ADHD to dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia. (That’s a lot of dissing!) While his educators were worried about his reading and learning, I was downright panicked. Coming from a highly academic family, my vision of success was always through learning, and I had a kid who couldn't learn.

For a long time, that’s what I believed. So, that’s what he believed. I was so anxious and scared. So, he was so anxious and scared. Then it hit me. It was like I actually felt something hit my body. How can I help him believe in himself if I don't believe in him? How can he see a bright future for himself if I can't see it?

So, I started looking for examples of successful people who did not go the traditional route. I found ways to see him learning well, even when it happened differently than his school taught. I designed a life for him where we played to his strengths.

Those are all things that I did. My decision to believe that he would be a success in his life was bigger than what I did. I decided to believe that wholeheartedly and with all of my molecules. I became excited about his future and his nontraditional path. I couldn't wait to see what he would do. The shift in me was wonderful. The shift in him I can only describe as magical and transformative. As he continues his studies toward a theater light design career, I am amazed every day at his confidence and joy!

That’s why I’m on a mission to encourage people to believe in others. When we stop treating people based on who they are and start treating them based on who they could be–when we really see the best in those around us–that’s how we make space for them to be their best. Everyone deserves to have someone who truly believes in them.

Easier said than done, right? After all, some people in our lives are more difficult to believe in than others. What can we do in those cases?

After interviewing top leaders, it turns out that it’s much more about the believer than the one we believe in. In other words, a skilled leader is skilled at finding something to believe in–in anyone. Here are some of the best tips that were shared with me.

  1. Believe in them before they do. The founder of DoorSEffect, Marisa Thomas, told me in an interview, "Everybody is far more capable than they give themselves credit for.” Think about that truth for a second. There are certain things within people that they can’t see for themselves. Someone else has to come along with another perspective and see it for them.
  2. Trust first, then verify. Beki Bahar-Engler, Chief Operations Officer at The Advanced Education Research and Development Fund, said of her team, “If they feel that they are trusted, they will experiment more, take more risks,” and everyone benefits. When she hires someone, she has the attitude that “I'm going to trust you immediately, so go and show your best self.” To some, that sounds counterintuitive, but when her employees feel supported in their growth, they do twice as much work and do it with a great attitude.
  3. Set an example with a growth mindset. Daniel Freedman, President of Commercial Health and Fitness and co-Founder/co-CEO at Burnalong, wants employees to give him real feedback so that he can improve. He figured out that asking employees, “What is one thing I could do differently?” shows them he wants specific feedback, seeks to grow, and is not just a top-down boss. He focuses on sharing success and inspiring stories with the team, with many opportunities to celebrate and give credit to everyone. A growth mindset is built from believing we can improve and will step into our future selves. If we expect those around us to have that belief, we must also.
  4. To get their best, you must be willing to give your authentic self. Beth Berman is a Certified EOS Implementer, facilitator, and coach who helps companies with their visioning process. She believes that a key to getting the most out of employees is for leaders to foster “Open, honest dialogue and vulnerability-based trust.” It starts with getting on the same page as to their expectations as well as yours. Then, when issues arise, rather than pretending everything is okay or avoiding conflict, create a safe space for people to bring issues forward. With your people, smoke out all root causes of the issues and ensure they are solved for good. Employees are not disposable. Instead of trying to get rid of “problems” or “bad employees,” ensure you are giving them everything they need in order to be successful. Ultimately, a trusting environment makes the whole company stronger. This whole process requires authentic communication and belief that growth is possible for the employee.
  5. Never give up on them. Stephanie Eidelman, Founder and CEO of Women in Consumer Finance, talked about a situation where she and an employee struggled. “For a while, I felt like I never quite said the right thing, and we wondered why we were having such conflict, but finally, there was a good breakthrough that shifted everything.” Stephanie valued her employee, stuck with the situation, thought about it, tried a few things, and eventually succeeded. She did not give up or blame her employee or focus on the employee being the problem. She stayed connected and open until they smoothed out their issue, trusting the process and never giving up on the employee.

My training and experience as a psychologist, a mom, and now as a professional speaker has revealed over and over that people will rise or fall to the level of belief that you have in them. Decades of science back it up, and top leaders see it play out in the workplace daily. But not only is believing in them a more effective leadership approach to helping others reach their goals and outcomes, but it’s also more effective regarding the human element. When you believe in them, you become someone people will like more, trust more, and follow anywhere.

Tova Rubin is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in the Washington, DC area and a clinical faculty member at George Washington University. She is an expert in positive psychology, grief, and end-of-life issues, particularly caregiving issues.


Tova Rubin.

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