If you have young kids or grandchildren, this is the time of year that the concept of believing likely comes up a lot. Believing in Santa and his flying reindeer, or maybe believing in a little elf who magically moves around from place to place while everyone is asleep.
But for companies, believing should be a focus all year long. You need customers to believe in your brand and your product or they won’t purchase from you. You need employees to believe in what they’re doing, whether it’s building, designing and engineering something or providing a service. If you have a customer service department, you need them to believe in the value of delivering an outstanding customer experience. If you sell your products through dealers or distributors, you need your sales network to believe in the products they’re selling. But the fact is that believing isn’t always top of mind in the everyday business world.
The workplace would be entirely different if everyone believed — believed they were delivering something great, asking a price that was fair, etc. Sometimes, however, what one hears in the workplace are things such as: “I just do what I’m told; it’s easier that way,” “I guess this is what the leadership wants, but I don’t get it,” or “It doesn’t really matter what I think, so I’ll just go along with it.”
It doesn’t just come from underperformers. It comes from good people who just don’t always understand the “why.”
Believing in what you’re doing in business, or anywhere in life, is critical. But what is believing? Is it drinking the Kool-Aid? Is it merely repeating what you have been told to say? Is it blind faith? Believing is personal. It means you think something is right — not necessarily perfect or magical. It’s something you understand and can share with others.
If you don’t believe in something your company is doing, it isn’t bad as long as something is done about it. First, you could admit your hesitancy or unwillingness to believe in something and respectfully ask the right people for more information. You could listen and if you still don’t fully believe, respectfully challenge it and go even deeper with the right people to understand even more. Then, you either will believe or you may help others realize there needs to be a change to current thinking, which can be extremely beneficial. After all that, if you still don’t believe, step out of the way. Let someone else take the reins and talk to the customer, vendor, dealer, etc. Listen, observe and learn.
You have to believe in order to do a great job for your customers and your company. Simon Sinek who popularized the concept of the golden circle, stated, “If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.”
When employees check out every day during work and simply go through the motions, it’s not fulfilling for them or for their employer. Their work has no meaning, which lowers morale and quality. It takes a toll. At times it’s embarrassing. Other times, it’s confusing. It beats you up.
In addition to its importance for employees, believing is also important for a company as a whole. In his book Inside Apple, Adam Lashinsky recounts a question that Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, received during his first conference call with investors after Steve Jobs announced his medical leave.
The question was if Cook would be replacing Jobs permanently, and if so, how would the company be different. Cook responded with a series of statements about what Apple as a company believes. His first statement was, “We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products, and that’s not changing.” Cook believes in that statement. Apple, its employees and customers believe in it, too. That’s the power of belief in 19 simple words.
The power of believing should never be underestimated in business. It’s not just what you sell. It’s not just what you build. It’s what you believe that will change minds, make careers fulfilling and inspiring and make the ownership experience satisfying. That delight you see in children who believe in Santa can be the same enjoyment we can all get when we believe, whether as leaders, employees or customers.
BARRY LABOV, a two-time Ernst & Young entrepreneur of the year and inductee into the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, is founder, president and CEO of LABOV Marketing Communications and Training in Fort Wayne. He has written and co-authored more than a dozen business books and is a regular columnist in business publications.