In a state correctional facility, Christine had a problem.
With no prior supervisory experience, as one of a small handful of female staff in a mostly male prison, and with a highly diverse and contentious inmate population, she had been placed in charge of creating a clothing factory.
As if those weren’t enough barriers, prior attempts to open a similar factory in other state facilities had failed.
One year later, Christine’s factory was out-producing the prototype operation, had an impeccable safety record, and could run itself without supervision.
When I asked Christine what made such a rapid transition possible, she said:
It began with my belief in the people.
When they came to me, they wanted to tell me about what they had done on the outside – why they were in prison. I cut them off, told them I didn’t really care about who they were last year.
This is who we are going to be in this factory and this is what we’re going to do.
Most of them didn’t believe it at first, but pretty quickly they responded to someone believing in them.
She described how male inmates would initially object to sewing because they thought it wasn’t something men did. Christine would walk over to the industrial sewing machines, quietly operate it, produce a garment, return to the men and say, “You’re telling me women can run this industrial machine better than you men? I don’t believe that.”
When you tell your team, “You can!” your belief becomes their belief.
This is the distilled essence of leadership: transferring to your team the belief that together we can have a better tomorrow. You are the CBO – the Chief Belief Officer.
Your team needs to hear you say, “You can.”
Leave us a comment and tell us:
- How a leader in your life was a C.B.O. for you?
- How do you communicate your belief in your team?
Creative Commons Photo by Wajahat Mahmood