Provision #711: Belief Matters

Laser Provision

Do you believe in what you are doing? Do you believe that you will be successful? If not, then it’s time to look again at your life and work. Self-belief is what separates leaders from followers. Leaders not only believe in the mission, we also believe in the ability of people to achieve the mission. I know how this works. In less than a week, my wife and I will be on our way to Asia for a whirlwind tour during which time we will be presenting on 14 different occasions in 4 different countries. Along the way, we will also be attempting to conquer the summit of Mt. Kinabalu • a high-altitude climb to almost 4,100 meters or 13,450 feet. Sound crazy? It would be if we didn’t believe in the cause and in our capacity. This Provision explains the connection.

LifeTrek Provision

If anyone ever tells you that there are too many books in the world, don’t believe them. That was my thought, at times, before my wife and I wrote Evocative Coaching, a book on how to transform schools through engaging in better conversations with teachers and leaders. Since it’s release last July, it has been ranked highly at in a variety of categories. For a moment, about two weeks ago, it was the second best-selling book in both Education Theory >> Research and in Management & Leadership >> Training. It was only ten back in the Human Resources & Personnel Management category. Apparently there was room in the world for one more book!

Yesterday, I learned that was out of stock on the book. I suspect, or at least I hope, that means the book has been selling better than they expected. Not to fear, however, the book will be back in stock on Tuesday.

It’s certainly gratifying to think that significant numbers of people are finding and reading the book. We did not write the book for commercial purposes; we wrote the book because we believe in the process and because we think it can truly transform schools, one conversation at a time. That’s also why we started the Evocative Coaching Training Program. It’s not enough to just read about the principles and practices of evocative coaching. Without hands-on learning, including plenty of trial and correction, there’s no way to make the shift from coach-centered, at-fault, and deficit-based conversations to the more evocative person-centered, no-fault, and strengths-based conversations.

Our motivation is clear and sincere: we hope to make a contribution in the work of coaching teachers and leaders. If that contribution takes hold and takes off, we are confident that the vision of not only more effective but also more life-giving schools will follow in its wake. Conversations matter. How people talk with each other determines how we work together and what we accomplish. The more hostile and demanding the conversations, the less we accomplish. The more understanding and inviting the conversations, the more we accomplish.

Evocative Coaching enables people to engage in more understanding and inviting conversations. And educators tell us they appreciate the difference that approach has been making. That reputation has not only helped to sell books, it is also part of what lies behind our upcoming trip to Asia and the west coast of the United States. People want to learn how to take what’s in the book and put it into a practice. A two-hour workshop or presentation will not, of course, provide people with all the necessary tools. We have a hard-enough time doing that in 20 hours of training! But it will give people a chance to practice a few techniques and to see if they want to go deeper into the process.

Here is the crazy schedule we plan on keeping:

  • 3 days in Hong Kong, working with educators through Living Knowledge Communities in three different settings around classroom learning, leadership innovation, and coaching leadership.
  • 3 days in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, working with university students and professional coaches on the theme of ” Bringing Coaching to Society.”
  • 7 days in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, facilitating six workshops with international school teachers from 17 east-Asian countries at the EARCOS Teachers’ Conference around themes such as trust building, stress proofing, and evocative coaching.
  • 2 days in San Francisco, California, presenting at the ASCD Annual Conference on teacher professionalism and evocative coaching.

Those seven days in Kota Kinabalu give us the opportunity to do two of our favorite things: snorkeling and hiking. The snorkeling should just be relaxing and fun. The hike will be a much bigger deal as we make the trek to Low’s Point on the top of Mt. Kinabalu. This is a high-altitude climb of 2,229 meters or 7,313 feet. To put that in perspective, in two days time that would be like walking down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, then walking back up again, then going down half way before turning around and walking back up again. Only here we face the risk of altitude sickness, since the peak stands 4,095 meters or 13,425 feet above sea level.

I walked down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back, in 2+ days, on the way to my wedding almost 35 years ago. My wife, Megan, has never done anything quite like this before. Together with our friend, Lisa, however, we’ve decided to give it a go and we have been training. The goal is to reach the summit before sunrise on the second day, to have one of the more spectacular views available to mere mortals (as opposed to trained mountain climbers). We’ve met people who speak of the panoramic view from Low’s Peak as being on their life-long bucket list, and I hope this is what we will be looking at soon enough:

Panoramic View from Low's Peak, Mt. Kinabalu

Talk about an adventure! I’m sure there will be plenty to write about in Provisions after we get done with that climb, let alone the entire trip.

Which brings me back to the subject at hand: belief matters. One of our friends and colleagues, who has been to Asia on many occasions, looked at our schedule and just shook his head. Not because it was impossible, but because he couldn’t imagine going to Asia for such a short period of time and working so hard. “Why are you doing this?” he asked. Belief matters.

We believe in the cause and we believe in the possibility that the cause can be successful. Those beliefs are not unfounded. Take the Hong Kong trip itself. That wasn’t our idea. The head of Living Knowledge Communities, Dr. Philip Hui, read our book and wrote to say how much it touched him and how much it was aligned with his own philosophy and practice with educators in Hong Kong and in poor communities of rural China. Would we be willing to come to Hong Kong to expose some of the teachers there to evocative coaching? It was hard to say no, even though it would add to an already busy schedule, since we were going to be in the region anyway.

Especially after Dr. Hui shared with us his life story. Here is an excerpt:

Philip Hui was born to a low-income family in Hong Kong. After completing secondary education, he obtained his doctoral degree through self-study and continuing education. In 1994, he joined The Hong Kong Institute of Education, leading a stable life that most people admire. Yet, he did not cherish a life like this.

In 2004, he participated in the World Bank’s International Conference on Poverty Alleviation in Pudong, Shanghai. In the conference Premier Wen Jiabao announced that China had surpassed the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and greatly reduced its poor population. Premier Wen contended, however, there were still many poor people in the country, especially in remote provinces. When Philip Hui came back to Hong Kong, he gathered a group of colleagues and friends from the Hong Kong Institute of Education and the teaching profession and formed the Living Knowledge Communities. He identified Jingchuan in Gansu Province to be their project location. In partnership with the Northwest Normal University and Jingchuan County Education Bureau, the Living Knowledge Communities launched its teaching training project.

In Jingchuan, Philip Hui witnessed the struggles of the rural teachers. Not only were the school facilities poor, the teachers• professional competences were also low. Teachers were underpaid and lacked teacher training opportunities. Seeing their students• limitations, yet they were aware that they were not able to change anything. They could only teach half-heartedly according to the textbooks. Since the contents were not always related to daily life, many students hated learning, and some teachers hated teaching.

Dr. Hui has been working to change those dynamics ever since, and he sees Evocative Coaching as being able to make a significant contribution. He believes in it and we believe in it, so how could we say no?

Self-belief is like that. It gets you to do things. Whether that be facilitating fourteen workshops in four countries in two-weeks time or climbing to the top of a mountain, unless you believe you can do these things, you won’t do them. And once you believe you can do them, you must do them. Here’s how Seth Godin describes this dynamic in his book, Tribes:

“The barriers to leadership have fallen. There are tribes everywhere, many in search of leaders. Which creates a dilemma for you: without a barrier, why not begin?

Simple example: ten years ago, if you wanted to publish a book, you needed to find a publisher that would say yes. No publisher, no book. Today, of course, you can publish a book all by yourself. Just visit and you’re done. Without someone to say yes, all that’s left are unpublished writers who tell themselves no.

Leadership is now like that. No one gives you permission or approval or a permit to lead. You can just do it. The only one who can say no is you.

Leaders don’t need to wait. There’s no correlation between money, power, or education and successful leadership. None. Waiting doesn’t pay. Saying yes does. Giving people stories they can tell themselves about the future and change is what leaders do. Leaders believe in what they do and that turns out to be a brilliant strategy when it comes to changing the world.”

If we don’t believe in what we are doing, and we are holding a position of leadership, then we are taking up space. We are not leading and we are not inspiring people to go beyond the paycheck. If we do believe in what we are doing and in our capacity to get things done, and if we share that belief in ways that make people feel good, then there’s no telling how many places that will take us. Asia? Mt. Kinabalu? San Francisco? Those are just the tip of the iceberg. When people get excited about an idea and a community, they create movements and movements change the world.

Belief matters. Figure out what excites you and do that. Leadership no longer comes just from the top of an organization. Everyone is a leader and everyone can effect change. So make it happen. Believe in the possibility. Have fun. Connect with like-minded souls. Then watch out: you may be surprised at where that will take you.

Coaching Inquiries: What do you believe in? How do you put your beliefs out in the world? How attractive is your energy? What stories do you tell about the future and change? How confident are you that change is possible? Who is a part of your tribe? What movements do you connect with? What movements would you like to start?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.

Keep up the Provisions! Even though my schedule does not allow more involvement then reading your Provisions, they are very insightful and helpful. Thank you,

What a wonderful Provision on Beauty. May you and Megan keep being beautiful and treasuring each other and all the beauty the two of you create. Hoping and working for peace and justice, such a beautiful world.

Judging from last week’s reader replies, your Provision on Jesus obviously touched a chord. I really appreciated what you had to say. Thanks! 

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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