A conversation with a Struggling Executive Director (part 2)

August 20, 2017

The dialogue in this article is purely fictional.  None of it actually took place, but the ideas and thoughts in this dialogue are nonfiction.  All the ideas and thoughts I talk about in this article are based on the teaching of four of my mentors: Jack Canfield, Anthony Robbins, Dr. Peter Senge and Stephen Covey.  You’ve got to give credit where credit is due.


Part 2


For those who believe, no proof is necessary.

For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.”

                                                                                                   Stuart Chase.


If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it

even if I may not have it at the beginning.

                                                                                                  Mahatma Ghandi.


“Wow! Your office looks … different,” I said to her, teasingly.


She replied with enthusiasm, “I did it!” and laughed loudly.  “It took me two hours, but I did it,” she added.


“How did you manage to squeeze two hours out of your busy schedule?”


“Easy!  I did two things differently.  I woke up an hour earlier this morning, I sleep too much anyway.  I also skipped the hour I normally spend wandering around aimlessly on the internet every morning. Oh, and I did something else too.”


“What is that?” I asked.


She handed me a sheet of paper.  “My MUST to-do list” was printed in boldface at the top of the page.


I glanced at her ‘must to-do list’ quickly, “must make time for a couching session?” I inquired with a puzzled look on my face.


“Give me that,” she demanded forcefully.  “That was a typo.  Must make time for a ‘coaching’ session,” she said with embarrassment.


“When do you want to have the session?”


“How about now … if you have time that is.  I hope I am not being a burden on you.”


I paused for a moment, studying her facial expression.  I am just as excited about this journey as she is, it is not a burden, I pondered.  Actually, this is also a coaching session for me. I get as much benefit out of these coaching sessions if not more.  By coaching someone, I am also coaching myself… I would be reminding myself of these principles. 


“I sure do, and it is not a burden at all,” I replied, smiling.


“At the end of our last session, we said that we are going to talk about the second fundamental principle for your journey to excellence,” I said.


“True, but before we do that, I want to ask you … when are we going to talk about the plans for our next fundraising event?”


“In due time. First, we must establish some fundamental principles.  You see, you can’t build a house and expect it to stand without first building strong foundations.  These principles are the foundations we must first establish before we venture into strategies and techniques.


In our last session we talked about the first principle for your journey to excellence.  We established that to reach the level of Excellence, we must first raise our standards, and we do that by transforming our ‘Shoulds’ into ‘Musts’… similar to what you did to your ‘should do list’.”


“Yes, I remember.  We must change our attitude about performance.  Good should never be good enough.  Good is the enemy of excellence,” she affirmed.


“Excellent! So, let’s talk about the second principle—our belief system.  Let me first ask you how you define belief?”


“Belief is faith … confidence in something … accepting something to be true,” she replied.


“So belief is really a feeling, and for our purpose here, we can define it as a feeling of certainty about something.


She leaned forward, “Go on.”


“If you are certain about something, no one needs to convince you that it is true.  You already believe that, no proof or convincing is required.  Think back about the conversation we had before your last fundraising event.  I recommended that we precede the event with a rigorous marketing campaign.  What would you say the reason was for not wanting to do the campaign?” 


“Well, the marketing ideas you suggested cost money, and I didn’t build into the budget the required funds to run such a campaign.  If I spent the money on the campaign then I would have had to take it from budgets allocated to other important activities. We are running an organization on a shoestring budget, you know?“


“So basically, what you are saying is that you believed that the marketing campaign is less important than the other activities.  And you also believe that if you spent the money on the marketing campaign you would not be able to do the other activities.  Did I paraphrase that correctly?”




“Do you see how your decision not to run the campaign was governed by these two beliefs?”


“Yes, but these are not just beliefs, these are facts. The numbers don’t lie, you know?”


“I agree ...  numbers don’t lie.  But I am not arguing whether you had a budget or not.  What I am saying is that the reason you didn’t want to do the campaign was because you believed that the campaign could not be done without a pre-allocated budget. In other words, you based your decision on a couple of limiting beliefs which you hold.  I say limiting because they limited you from pursuing something you would have otherwise pursued—the marketing campaign in this instance.  And I imagine that these two beliefs also limit you from pursuing many other things you really want to pursue.  Is that a fair thing to say?”


“Yes. But what could I have done differently?”


“Well, instead of surrendering to these beliefs, you could have asked yourself empowering questions.”


“Like what?” she asked, curiously.


“Like, how can I pursue the marketing campaign even though I don’t have an allocated budget, and without sacrificing other important activities?  If you had asked such question, the conversation you had with your board would have taken a different path.  Questions are a very powerful tool to combat such limiting beliefs.  Questions like these empower you to think differently.  They cause your brain to search for an answer rather than giving up. Maybe when you and I discuss the plan for your next fundraising event, we can indulge ourselves in exploring this question.”


“Definitely,” she said, and then added “, let me ask you something. How did we come to develop our beliefs, especially the ones about what is or isn’t possible - you know, the disempowering ones?”


“All beliefs are basically conclusions which we arrive to based on past experiences.  Our past experiences shape our beliefs, and our beliefs shape our decisions, and our decisions shape what we do or don’t do, and what we do or don’t do shapes our lives, one leads to the other.  We rely on our past experiences as references to support what we believe to be true.  The more references we have about something, the stronger the belief becomes, whatever that thing is. Therefore, it stands to reason, that if we want to change our belief about something, we must look for different references.


You see, I used to have a disempowering belief.  The belief was if you want to be successful in life, you must have a college degree.  If you don’t, you will always struggle in your life. ”


“You don’t believe that anymore, I gather,” she said.


“Not anymore,“ I replied.  “I no longer believe that this to be true.  Success in life doesn’t depend on a certificate you hang on you wall,” I continued.


“How did you come to believe that in the first place?”


“Well, I looked around and saw people around me who struggled in their lives because they didn’t have a college degree … these people became the references I used to support that belief.”


“And how did you manage to change that belief?”


“I saw other references that are contrary to my original belief. Bill Gate, for example, is a college dropout, and look at the success he achieved in his life. He is not the only reference, there are many other: Steve Job, Richard Branson, Michael Dell, the founder of Dell Computers, Oprah Winfrey, and of course, we can’t forget Rachael Ray, to name a few.”


“So we now have in our toolbox two principles that are fundamental for achieving excellence.  The first is raising our standard, and the second is to not surrender to the beliefs we hold about what is or is not possible. In our next session we will talk about the third principle.”


“A third principle?  What is it?”


“The principle of empowering and disempowering emotions,“ I replied, as I pulled myself off the chair, “but for now, I must go to my office and complete the financial report you asked me to. “


“Thank you, Ibrahim.  I look forward to our next couching session,” she giggled.


“You are most welcome,” I replied, laughing loudly.

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