The question, “What am I creating?” is perpetually answered by our outcome-directed minds. We have no choice but to comply with the inquiry. We do have choice in what we focus on as the answer. Your vision, your mental model, is a response to the question, “What am I creating?” Environment, opportunity, luck, and circumstances are forces and elements that shape and influence us. But we are not merely passive conduits of our environment; we exert an influence on our environment, too. I’ll illustrate this influence with the cycle of manifestation.
Imagine a clock face with numbers. Let’s add a few labels to key numbers in order to understand the cycle of thinking and being. At high noon imagine the word ‘beliefs,’ at 3 o’clock picture the word ‘behaviors,’ at 6 o’clock place the label ‘relationships,’ and at 9 o’clock is the word ‘outcomes.’ The clockwise movement from 12 to 3, 3 to 6, 6 to 9 and back to 12 represents the cycle of manifestation from beliefs to outcomes.
Beliefs are the starting point of the cycle. Beliefs are comprised of thoughts, values, expectations, desires, fears, biases, memories, etc. They create our filters of perception, which come from family, culture, religion, and experiences. They are like colored lenses that tint everything we see. Through these lens filters we perceive, judge, and evaluate the world around us.
If, for example, I’ve come to believe that I can’t do math, I’ll get nervous any time numbers are part of my reality. I’ll believe that math and numbers-related activities are too harrowing, and I’ll make efforts to minimize or avoid them. As my “numbers angst” persists and my math skills remain low, I will fret over my incompetence and struggle with a strong urge to avoid any numbers situations.
As a manager, though, I have budgeting responsibilities. Allocating income and expenses and managing finances are key functions of my professional role. If I perpetuate the old belief that I’m incompetent at math, I will engage in behaviors (the second part of the manifestation cycle) that will compensate for this belief. There are various behavioral paths I might follow.
- I might circumvent financial reports altogether;
- I might find someone to be my proxy and depend on her skill or judgment;
- I might play down numbers and insist that people skills are the “real” measure of leadership;
- I might fabricate reports to my bosses;
- I might reject a promotion arguing that I serve the organization better in my current position.
My behaviors are born from my beliefs and thoughts. Every action is preceded by thought.
If I’m feeling, speaking, and behaving from an outdated and unexamined belief about my “numbers incompetence,” then those around me will believe me and relate to me accordingly.
Relationships are the third part of the manifestation cycle, the needle that pulls the thread of attention to sew together the fabric of resources. The higher you rise in your leadership responsibility, the more removed you are from direct means of production, and the more dependent you are on achieving your outcomes through and with others – through relationships. Your beliefs about yourself, about people, and about the world shape your observations and behavioral decisions which, in turn, determine the direction and quality of these relationships.
Relationships are dynamic – a back-and-forth exchange of energy and attention. Leadership is a relational competency. This shouldn’t be confused with being liked or loved by everyone. It means that there is trust and alignment. The Gallup organization has polled millions of professionals on the topic of employee engagement—the level of emotional commitment at work. Their findings have shown that the overarching factor determining engagement (which also predicts retention), is the quality of relationship with the supervisor. People join companies, but they leave their managers.
Having looked at beliefs, behaviors, and relationships, we finally arrive at outcomes – the fourth step in the manifestation cycle. These are the results we manifest in our world. Our outcomes, the life we experience, reflect the beliefs that started the cycle, and in turn, confirm them.
Tom is the President of a service company that has yielded flat performance for five years. A contributing factor to the firm’s results was Tom’s belief about relationships and dependence. His relationship with his team was shaped by micromanaging. Hi behavior was rooted in his belief that he worked in a dangerous environment which he needed to closely control in order to succeed.
Inside this cycle of manifestation we create and re-create our experience from moment to moment, from event to event, and from person to person.
To upgrade your leadership experience requires that new beliefs and thoughts be learned, practiced, and implemented. But this is only a beginning; philosophy and intellectual theorizing are not enough to generate an uplift in competence. To achieve greater leadership satisfaction requires effort and work; it requires that we align our behaviors and relationships with new beliefs in order to produce new outcomes in our lives.