Last week Luis provided thoughts around the relationship of beliefs in a culture to performance. He provided several questions in his Cultural Beliefs post as thought fodder and we were impressed at the detail with which commenter Eric Johnson reviewed them. In the spirit of continuing the conversation Eric spurred with his thoughtful notes on each question, we will take the questions one by one over the next several posts and have a closer look at them individually.

As a reminder the first question was – What beliefs have fed the performance of these organizations?

The underlying idea of this question is that the thoughts we think drive how we go about our business. They inform the story.

Some times beliefs are expressed verbally, but often they are implicit. It is relatively easy to discover the beliefs that are expressed; though take care to confirm that you are not only hearing what the teller believes you want to hear. The unexpressed, implicit beliefs are harder to uncover but often provide the key to the real story.

The beliefs an organization holds around who they are also drives who they will be. For instance, if a car company believes that design is their thing, they are likely to beef-up the design related functions of the organization and therefore perform as designers, for as long as they believe that.

You can test for some beliefs by listening for what follows statements like I am; I can; I can’t; We don’t; etcetera. Statements like “I am an integral member of this team” and “We don’t listen to new ideas around here” provide different snapshots of the story; it’s not hard to tell which one is likely to result in higher performance (and which one is likely to lead to higher loyalty, but that is another post!).

Organizations should examine both expressed and implicit beliefs, relish those considered appropriate, and work to dispense of the others. Beliefs should be expressed in the I/We can, I/We must, I/We should format to move both individuals and the organization as a whole forward with a sense of control and independence. Additionally, an examination of how those beliefs came into being is insightful. Looking closely at whether a belief is experiential or gifted will help determine if that belief needs to be busted for understanding, re-framed or removed. Gifted beliefs that align with the wanted story are not problematic, but when an inherited belief that is not based on actual experience veers from that story it needs to be removed.

The beliefs of an organization are not necessarily the ones that should drive them in the present or to their future story; the Big 3 are struggling perhaps, in part, because being “big” is not the right belief for them to have now in order to move forward. Knowing what your beliefs are and determining which ones to foster and which to let go is a first step to changing your story to the performance vision you want.

“If you think you can do a thing or you think you can’t do a thing, you’re right” Henry Ford