We all have beliefs, and many of them. Some of us prefer to keep most of them to ourselves, and some enjoy espousing them at every opportunity. And yet, even when we say nothing of our beliefs we exhibit them in every word we say, every action or non-action, and by our emotional responses.

In fact, we can’t help but demonstrate our beliefs with nearly ever breath we take. They’re who we are. We identify ourselves by our beliefs, from the sports teams we love, our political affiliations, where we shop, whether we use Macs or PCs, what kind of cars we drive, whether we recycle and to what extent, our religious practices, even by the nature of which celebrities we admire and why.

The concern we show for strangers, how we show up for people, how we listen, and how we hold ourselves (respectfully or in self-deprecation).

In organizations, we’ve come to learn that the behaviors we reward shape the culture. Therefore the key to culture shift is to reward the behaviors that will engender the kind of culture we wish to have. Sounds simple enough, right?

Then how come we can’t do it more readily? How come so many high-flying CEOs of companies with dysfunctional cultures can’t change, and in many cases either stymie their companies or step aside to allow another the chance to right the ship?

The key to change is our beliefs. They’re central to how we do everything. Stating that we believe in a particular philosophy of leadership doesn’t change how we actually lead, because our beliefs are at the helm.

If we change our beliefs we will bring about change without hardly breaking a sweat.

Intellectualizing how we “should” or “should not” be leading doesn’t change a thing, because they’re just words, and actions speak louder.

Telling the public over and over again how amazing our product or service is doesn’t make it amazing, because it’s just marketing.

Changing our beliefs is not so easy though, because we are not even aware of most of them. Our response, as a leader, to an employee who seems to be underperforming is going to be driven by beliefs that we may not even be aware we have.

For example, how do you feel about people who work long hours, versus those who create boundaries around their time? Or how do you feel about people who cut corners or alienate co-workers? Or how do you feel about people who bend the rules to get things done that are important? Those feelings are driven by beliefs, most of which lie just underneath the surface.

So you read an inspirational book on leadership, hear a motivational speaker, receive some sage advice from a co-worker—you may be able to adjust your behavior based on the inspiration or advice, but the effect is temporary unless you change your underlying beliefs.

Rewarding the behaviors that create cultures of collaboration and innovation means that we reward collaboration and discourage siloism. But, if we hold an unconscious belief that certain information should be held close to the vest, then our beliefs may be in conflict with the culture we wish to engender.

Or if we believe that people who work long hours make the best employees, then our beliefs may jeopardize our ability to create cultures of innovation, because innovation flows more from how we show up for our work, not how many hours we log.

If we change our beliefs we will bring about change without hardly breaking a sweat. We can break a sweat in the often-challenging work of changing our beliefs, and the rest will flow with ease.

I realize that I’m dropping something of a bomb with this blog, by suggesting that changing our beliefs is the key to change, without offering some guidance as to how to change them. Yes, and, there is much more to come on this topic, as the “how” of changing beliefs is where the real challenge comes.

Stay tuned . . .