What were the moments in your career where it suddenly clicked about what you were going to do and how you were going to do it? As the years go by, it may be hard to remember those critical moments when suddenly it all became clear.

The latest video from our friends Steve Backley and Roger Black about empowering beliefs got me thinking about the creation of mine.

For me there were two totally unconnected moments 16 years apart which created the framework on which the fundamental principles of A4G was built.

The first was an article about Barry Hearn.

In case you’re not a big sports fan like me, Barry Hearn is a sports promoter whose company, Matchroom, runs darts, promotes boxing (Anthony Joshua being their most famous client) and a variety of other events. Back in the 80s, Barry was making a name for himself as manager of some of the top snooker players in the world.

I’m guessing that the article was around 1982 discussing the whole Matchroom approach, how it all started when Steve Davis walked into Barry Hearn’s snooker club and where it was going.

But the thing that struck me the most was that Barry Hearn was a Chartered Accountant.

To a 15-year-old mad about sport, pretty good at maths and starting to be interested in business, this was a revelation.

“If you can do that, with the qualification” I thought, “you can pretty much do anything”.

So, I knew what I was going to do and how I was going to do it even if I had no idea where it might lead.

I always thought I’d get my qualification and then move into some kind of industry. I still thought that during my first three years as a trainee until my job started to involve meeting and talking to clients.

The great thing about working in practice is that you get to work in all sorts of industries and with all sorts of people. And you get to help them meet whatever needs and wants they have for themselves and for their business.

In 1998 I went on a day long course in London presented by an Aussie called Paul Dunn and the path became clearer.

“Accountants are the natural advisers to business”, said Dunn. Several times!

I absolutely believed that at the time and I absolutely believe it now. That’s why our slogan is “It’s all about the advice, not just the numbers”. And I was confident in my own ability to deliver that advice to clients.

I imagine if you think long and hard enough, there will be a moment in your career where that empowering belief was formed.

In Steve and Roger’s case, their empowering beliefs took them on to glory on the world athletics stage.

But of course, as our businesses grow, it’s not just about our own empowering beliefs but those of our partners and staff. What are their empowering beliefs?

In theory, you want them to be similar to your own or at least “goal congruent” (i.e. their beliefs are complimentary to your own).

Partnerships can be a classic example of where clashes arise. Fortunately, Steve and Roger have been goal congruent since day one but many partnerships break down because their objectives and beliefs are contradictory.

One partnership we worked with had one partner who believed he had the ingredients to develop a new mould-breaking product in their industry and was determined to do it. The other partner’s over-riding belief was that by concentrating on maintenance, the company would quickly be making over £100k per partner and then go from strength to strength. It was impossible to do both or reconcile their views.

As well as negotiating the perils of partnership, there are also the dual challenges that come with building a great team.

Your team may have their own empowering beliefs which may have nothing to do with their job or career. Or be everything to do with job or career but be the complete opposite to what you need to help make your business a success.

So how do you build a team with empowering beliefs that are congruent with your own?

Well first of all, you need to look at the situation through each employee’s eyes and consider whether they have a career or a job. The difference is not based on what they do but on their state of mind in terms of where they are going.

For many of your employees, working for you is just a job. It helps pay the bills, it fits around the other priorities in their life and hopefully they enjoy working there. As long as you can pay a fair rate for the job they do and create a positive working environment, all will be well.

But you may also have some ambitious members of your team who are keen to progress.

When we’re recruiting at A4G, the ideal new employee is someone whose ability is fractionally higher than their personal belief about their ability. I call this “the humility gap”.

The humility gap will stop us getting sued because the person concerned will check with someone more senior about anything they are not sure about. When they do that, that colleague will also get to impart some extra knowledge that will keep the employee developing their skills. That sort of employee is also more likely to listen to that advice especially whenever it is pointed out to them that they’ve got something wrong or could do better.

But if the humility gap is too big, their lack of confidence may prevent them from asking any questions and ultimately from learning.

You still won’t get sued but nothing will get done either!

Compare that with someone whose belief in their own ability is greater than it actually is. I’m not sure what the opposite is of the humility gap but maybe we’ll call it the “bullshit gap”.

Someone “suffering” from this affliction will talk a good interview and they’ll often get the job. But the clues that they weren’t quite as good as they said they were should have been obvious from the number of previous jobs on their cv.

Of course, this particular affliction is more prevalent amongst salespeople than other professions for obvious reasons, but there are those sort of people floating around every industry. And it can take them a long way. Maybe to the most powerful job in the world!

But they will come crashing down in the end and the behaviour repeated over a lifetime of liberally apportioning blame to anyone but themselves will re-surface. I’m not sure how many Americans read my blog, but it must be embarrassing for them to see their president in complete denial about the result of their election. Not much humility there.

In contrast, I dug out Usain Bolt’s interview at the end of his last competitive race at the 2017 World Championships.

Bolt of course oozes confidence and belief. But here he was at the end of his career a few minutes after defeat showing humility and grace. “My start, it’s killing me” he said. “I did my best”.

Interestingly, if he’d chosen to, Bolt had far more reason to complain and attribute blame than Trump at the recent election. Bolt had just been beaten by Justin Gatlin, a two-time drug cheat and Christian Coleman has since been banned for missing drugs tests.

Perhaps any day soon, we’ll see Usain Bolt start tweeting “I WON THE 2017 100M WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS” (typing in capitals apparently makes things true) although I doubt it.

The right empowering beliefs are therefore a force for good whether they are yours, your partners or members of your staff. As long as they are goal congruent of course!

If you haven’t checked out the details of the Backley Black Mindsetting programme have a little look now. Even if you don’t think its right for you, it might be exactly what some of those ambitious employees of yours need.

If lockdown has given us anything, it’s the opportunity to re-set. Whether it’s the belief that you can recover from the impact of Coronavirus or become an industry leader there’s an opportunity to re-focus on what you’re good at and come out of the Pandemic with a renewed belief in what you can achieve.

Have a good weekend.

Creating Empowering Beliefs

Interview with Steve Backley and Roger Black 

Contact me today!

Malcolm Palmer


Managing Partner

01474 853856

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