Back in the 1950s broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow created a radio program called, “This I Believe.” It was a series of short essays that were written by all kinds of people: the famous or infamous, the everyday Joes or Janes. Murrow picked the best essays of those submitted; then authors of those essays read them on the air. A few years ago National Public Radio resurrected the series for four years, and I was delighted to hear a whole new batch of essays on the airwaves. In fact, I started using “This I Believe” as an exercise for leaders in my coaching and workshops. In the “busy-ness” of our business today we often don’t take time to really understand who we are and what motivates us; in short, why we do what we do. Writing these essays gives a form and context to leaders that enables them to understand themselves in ways that bring authenticity to their actions as leaders.
Kate, a leader that I have been coaching, loved the essay-writing process that helped her gain clarity and discover the meaning behind her life and leadership choices. In her first draft one sentence truly commanded attention: "I believe that everyone wants to be loved, listened to, and recognized." She took this sentence and expanded it into an essay that spoke to the heart of her beliefs about herself and others.
There is great energy that comes from gaining such clarity and giving it voice. And there is magic in living your beliefs out in the world. As Kate and I were talking about her essay, we shifted the conversation to how she is leading and the impact that she wants to have on others on her team. For Kate, the "aha" moment of this exercise came when she said, "So how do I now bring these beliefs into the work place and act from them?" What surfaced for Kate was twofold. She had already been instinctively acting on her beliefs in her volunteering and leadership at work because her beliefs are at the core of who she is, and her actions flow from her beliefs. And there was now the opportunity to bring greater intention to more interactions—of loving, listening and recognizing those people whose lives she touches.
Kate saw a real pay-off in gaining clarity and intentionally living her beliefs. In a recent employee satisfaction survey, Kate's scores as a leader were consistently higher than her peers. She credits her intention in really listening, caring and recognizing her team members - even in these uncertain economic times which have required some tough choices for her involving cutting budgets and jobs.
It takes courage and perseverance to live your beliefs out in the world today. We get caught up in our "to-do" lists, e-mails and meetings. We are so busy doing our business that, at times, the lens through which we view our life becomes clouded. We focus on what we need to get done today and not on the long-term impact we want to have for others, for our work and ourselves.
What do you believe? Take a break during your hectic day and be inspired by some of the “This I Believe” essays posted. You might just be moved to write your own statement of belief. I'd love to hear about it - send me an e-mail (email@example.com) or comment below.
- • What do you believe? What would you write in your "This I Believe" essay?
- • Where are you compromising your beliefs? What can you do to live your beliefs more fully?