Four Magic Leadership Words

“I believe in you.” Those are four words that are not said enough by leaders. They are not said enough by parents, coaches, teachers, or team leaders. Yet, those four words can bring out the very best in your team members, children, or students.

I believe in you. Child on bike with father.

Belief is powerful. Belief can make an “employee” into an invaluable team member. (Click to Tweet)




I believe in you. I am rooting for you. I know that you will accomplish this.

Belief in Action

In early 2006, I was a part of a four-person company. Naturally, I did nearly everything during my 16 hour days and my assistant did everything I didn’t do (mostly customer service and billing), but she did not do sales. That is until we absolutely needed her.

When I asked if she could take about half the sales calls one week, she looked as if I had asked her to make a wedding cake for the royal wedding. Less than three months prior, she worked part-time in a day care. Suddenly, she was being asked to sell to insurance agents. “Deer in the headlights” doesn’t quite describe the look of fear on her face.

When Your Team Says You Suck - How to Get, Give, and Use Feedback for Leaders

Want to be a better leader? Get Your FREE BOOK here and learn how to get, give, and use feedback to be a better leader.

But, early on Monday morning, with no advanced notice, I asked her if she could. And I told her I believed in her. I told her that we would buy her a $200 iPod if she made 20 sales for the week (I was averaging less than 30 at the time and had been doing it for nearly two years). And I kept encouraging her throughout the week. I told her she was going to get that iPod.

And she almost did. She made exactly 19 sales that week. Her first week of sales. That was huge for a company of our size.

Less than two years later, she scored in the top 1% on the SHRM exam as she transitioned into HR management. She became one of our most valuable executive team members and today heads up the business development unit.

I am sure that there was more to her success than one week of us stretching her and believing in her. But I like to think it was an important time in her development.

More Than Four Words

Belief is more than just four words. Belief must be shown repeatedly in our actions.

If I had told her on Monday that I believed in her and didn’t check in for the rest of the week, offered no encouragement, and didn’t actually order the iPod on Tuesday, my words became empty.

My actions and continued words showed belief.




Here is a quick look at what my belief sounded like:

“I believe in you.”

“Do you have an iTunes account? You’re going to need it.”

“I’m stealing that line you just used. That was brilliant.”

“Do you want the black or white iPod?”

“The iPod will be here next Wednesday.”

Belief is powerful. It tells people that they can do the unimaginable and that someone they respect is confident in their success.

What would happen if your team, your family, and your friends knew you believed in them?



Free Affiliate Training from Matt McWilliams
  • Brilliant! Love that story and the confidence you gave her by your words and actions. I wish more managers would do that. And repeat it – telling someone you believe in them is like telling your spouse you love them – you have to keep saying it and showing it every day. Great post!

    • Good point. Didn’t see it that way, but it’s true.

      The world would be a better place if we believed in each other a little more…even our “enemies.”

  • My parents rarely, if ever supported my creative endeavors with praise. I don’t want to repeat the process with my own daughter. This post serves as a good reminder. Thanks, Matt.

  • I can barely read this post without weeping. We have no idea how important those words and ACTIONS are not only to our people, but to ourselves. Those of us breaking free from the workplace to pursue our own dreams are often in situations where this type of encouragement is a pipe dream at best.
    Let’s encourage our fellow entrepreneurs today, as well as our people, and our family, and our friends.
    Jon Acuff on a Dave Ramsey broadcast was describing how Dave had invited him to join the organization. Dave asked him “Do you want to change the world?”
    Let’s ask: “Do you want to change the world? I BELIEVE IN YOU.”

    • Amen Kathy! – Let’s ENCOURAGE someone today. Lift them up. Praise them.

      Friends, co-workers and KIDS are all good candidates for some encouragement.

      There’s so much stress and negativity in the world. A kind word goes a long way!

      • Michael, I am reminded of something that should go live in the next three days…it’s a daily reminder I have that is exactly what you just said.

    • Wow. That is all I can say.

  • I don’t know man, buy me and ipad and I’ll let you know 😉
    haha. Belief is huge. I know its something I dont say enough. too often I take it for granted that those around me know that I believe and have confidence in them!
    What would happen? They would flourish, blossom, go crazy, however you want to say it. But they’d get closer to their God-given potential than they ever thought possible.
    Thanks for the reminder my friend!!

  • Steve Pate

    the only thought I can add to this is, by saying the phrase “I believe in you” is almost better than saying “good job”. Believe me, I need to hear, the add-a-boys but if I hear I “believe in you” before I start on something allows me to believe in my skills.

    • Yes. “Good job” is expected. What else would someone say when you…do a good job? But “I believe in you” is an expectation. It’s faith.

  • External rewards are good to a degree, but sharing your belief in someone does so much more (as you pointed out). It pushes us and makes us see possibilities in a whole new way. They may not have faith in themselves, but we can share ours and see a transformation. Good stuff, Matt!

  • This is good advice, Matt. I think I could do a better job expressing my belief in some of my team members who are more challenging. It’s easy to believe in high-level performers. My challenge is to raise the bar and employees whose performance isn’t recognized as being quite so high.

    • So true Jon.

      Just like thanking people for small things, showing belief in people who haven’t necessarily earned it is powerful!

  • Pingback: Leaders, Stop Cutting Your Team Slack | Matt McWilliams | Life. Leadership. Love. Learned the Hard Way.()

  • Pingback: The Most Persuasive Word for Leaders | Matt McWilliams | Life. Leadership. Love. Learned the Hard Way.()

  • Pingback: The 2 Secrets of Great Leaders | The Pygmalion Effect()

  • Pingback: Let's Grow Leaders | Inspired Leaders, Confident Humility, & Breakthrough Results | Experts Share Advice on Inspiring Breakthrough Results: A Frontline Festival()

  • Pingback: How to Encourage Others and Inspire Your Followers()