For anyone engaged in organizational development or executive coaching work, the importance of leadership mindset is a given. Often the first step in helping a leader or team move beyond current limitations and fixed ways of seeing and acting is addressing ineffective mindsets head-on. In our work at Growth River, “Effective Mindset” is one of the core conditions we focus on with teams to create the conditions for success (How Leadership Teams Successfully Create Aligned Business Strategy). My appreciation for just how important mindset is deepened as the result of my recent experience facilitating a 2-day alignment workshop with a nonprofit leadership team.
Two Contemplations on Mindset
Contemplation One: Changing mindsets is tough work. Not a new insight by any means—it’s the nature of the beast and we all know this to be true. As Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and originator of microloans, stated:
"My greatest challenge has been to change the mindset of people. Mindsets play strange tricks on us. We see things the way our minds have instructed our eyes to see."
At the end of day one, my colleague and I were right up against a range of deeply embedded mindsets that drove home the challenge of changing mindsets. These mindsets were largely the result of an unhealthy culture from the past. We knew we had our work cut out for us to catalyze individual and collective shifts in mindsets.
Contemplation Two: Ineffective mindsets are one of the primary barriers to teams working interdependently. This was a big issue with this team. They all recognized and wanted to change this, but at the same time were holding on to ways of seeing and behaving that ran completely counter to their stated intentions.
Day two was a different ballgame altogether. Right from the start of the day, our intention to catalyze some forward movement towards creating more effective mindsets was met by the team’s intention to do the same. The simple fact that together they had passed through some tough confrontations with the detrimental mindsets they were holding on to changed the whole atmosphere in the room. We had done some high-performance team exercises that involved peer-to-peer feedback. Specifically, we focused on four attributes of a high-performance team: 1) assertiveness; 2) attentiveness; 3) authenticity; and 3) accountability. The more developed expressions of these attributes are more effective mindsets and inherently foster interdependent behaviors.
As a result of working with these attributes, the walls started crumbling before our eyes and the whole team was energized. And the epiphany for me was that moving from a group of individuals, each holding on to their particular mindsets, to a team that is cultivating shared mindsets focused on growth and development, is the fast track to learning how to work interdependently. It’s the smart bomb that knocks down silos.
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
Wayne Dyer—Motivational Author & Speaker