Posted in the Executive PA Magazine, Feb/March 2018
We all have a winning mindset, says Dr. Brett Richards. He shares the details of how to identify, harness and improve yours – plus some top tips on how to understand and relate to the mindsets of your executive
All EAs possess a winning mindset that influences the way you approach people, situations and challenges. I call it our ‘winning mindset’ because we feel most confident, competent and effective when we use it – it just feels right. We know this to be true because often, when we focus on stepping outside of our preferred mindset and try out different ways of thinking and acting, the feeling is quite different. It doesn’t feel nearly as comfortable or natural. In fact, for many of us it just feels wrong. So, why is this?Traditional notions of mindsets focus on the thinking dimension but underplay the emotional and behavioral components. In my research, mindsets are comprised of at least three core components that are interrelated, each influencing the other. Mindsets are, in effect, a culmination of thinking, emotional activities and volitional activities, all at play within our psyches and influencing how we act within the world.
“Four core mindsets collectively provide a holistic representation
Of the extraordinary variety of perspectives that enrich the tapestry
Of our human experience – which resonates with you the most?
And do any of these reflect the dominant mindset of your boss?”
How it works
To put it into context, think about politics – how do you feel about your political party? How do you feel about the others? When listening to your candidate, do you resonate with their perspective on the world? Do you feel a willingness to follow them and support them? You’ll see that your political orientation influences not only how you think about those involved, but also how you feel and respond to those you support and those you don’t.
In relation, the fundamental elements of mindsets are the following:
- Affective (feeling) i.e. “I believe you and feel connected to you.”
- Intellective (thinking) i.e. “I see and understand your point of view.”
- Volitional (choosing) i.e. “I support you and will follow you.”
Now, try to remove any of these three dimensions from your own political orientation. You’ll see it’s very difficult to do as they’re so intertwined; each influencing and connecting with the other two dimensions. How we feel about something or someone very much influences how we think about them or it and, in turn, influences the way we respond to the person or situation at hand.
The principal mindsets
Now that we’ve identified the elements of a mindset we can explore the four core mindsets, which collectively provide a holistic representation of the extraordinary variety of perspectives that enrich the tapestry of our human experience. So, which resonates with you the most? And do any of these reflect the dominant mindset of your boss?
You’re not bound by attachments to norms, beliefs, or ways of working or living that may in any way constrain your ability to think anew. You’re energised when solving problems by liberating yourself and others from any attachments to rules, customs, knowledge or traditions that may constrain your quest for the discovery of an effective outcome.
Individuals with an imagine mindset:
- Focus on new ideas and discovery.
- Are visionary leaders – they tend to put a lot of effort into developing an entrepreneurial and creative environment, and they encourage others to take risks, challenge the status quo and think differently.
- Remain relevant through proactivity, novelty and a focus on creating new value for those they serve.
- But they can lack the structure to optimise new ideas.
- Challenge old rules with new perspectives.
- Reframe adversity into opportunity.
- Take time to envision future possibilities and scenarios.
- Generate multiple ideas – more is better.
- Shift outside-the-box of conventional wisdom.
- Don’t judge their ideas too soon.
- Avoid being too narrow-minded or impatient.
- Appreciate their inspired leaps of imagination.
- Don’t cling to old customs and habits.
- Remain positive – see the potential in novel ideas.
You seek to build ideas, concepts and theories from the ground up. You take an objective, evidence-based approach to understanding and validating facts and are energised when solving problems by breaking them down into their basic elements to pinpoint the essential aspects of the situation or challenge at hand.
Individuals with an analyse mindset:
- Focus on information and proof.
- Have an objective, evidence-based approach to the world.
- Are analytical leaders – they tend to put a lot of effort into developing systems and procedures to maximise a reliable search for knowledge, truth and evidence to support the organisation’s strategic mandate.
- But they can suffer from analysis paralysis, which stifles creativity and imagination.
- Look for relevant patterns in data.
- Probe deeper into facts and details.
- Structure and organise information and ideas.
- Focus on what’s most essential.
- Validate assumptions with quantitative evidence.
- Avoid assumptions and remain objective.
- Be detailed and precise.
- Be prepared to validate or prove your rationale.
- Ensure memos and reports are error free.
- Be direct and don’t sugar-coat your language.
You attempt to assimilate facts, knowledge and ideas into a comprehensive understanding of the whole picture. You view the world holistically, seeking the interdependencies and interrelationships between things and you’re energised when solving problems by conceptually integrating aspects of the situation or challenge with, for example, the organisation’s core values and a higher purpose.
Individuals with an align mindset:
- Focus on unity and integration.
- Are participative leaders – they put a lot of effort on developing a culture where employees feel emotionally connected and aligned to the organisation, its vision and purpose.
- They’re engaged, motivated and committed to fulfilling the organisation’s mission.
- But they can be too internally focused, resulting in a lack of competitive intensity.
- Unify different levels of insight and experience.
- Focus on integrating actions with a higher purpose.
- Seek out interrelationships between things.
- Identify and integrate personal and organizational values.
- Focus on self actualization – seek out learning and growth opportunities.
- Focus on tangible, as well as implicit connections.
- Avoid being too narrow and exacting.
- Seek to align disparate concepts, information, values.
- Acknowledge their need for empowerment and engagement.
- Demonstrate personal commitment to organization’s mission.
You’re compelled to find practical solutions to achieve value-added results. You take a pragmatic approach with a belief that knowledge and insights are best gained through practical experience and reflective inquiry surrounding those tangible experiences. You’re energised by a solution-focussed approach to problem solving, making tangible connections between aspects of challenges in relation to the wider context and current state reality.
Individuals with a resolve mindset:
- Focus on solutions and performance.
- Are pragmatic leaders – they tend to put a lot of effort around efficiently solving problems to ensure effective performance. And resolving external challenges to achieve results is essential.
- They’ll fulfill commitments to colleagues, customers and stakeholders on time and within budget.
- But they can have a reactive approach, resulting in chronic firefighting.
- Don’t over analyse – get on with it!
- Engage in active learning – learn more from experience.
- Focus on practical solutions, not theories or concepts.
- Take a proactive versus a reactive stance.
- Put yourself on the line – take risks and act on best guesses.
- Remain focussed on objectives.
- Stay grounded in the here and now.
- Offer tangible solutions to improve results.
- Offer solutions, not problems.
- Acknowledge their need to get on with it.
Developing an agile mind
So, we each possess a preferred mindset that serves as a central lens through which we interpret and make meaning of the world around us. In fact, our dominant mindset helps to characterise our uniqueness as human beings – and it’s therefore important to harness the strengths of our winning mindset. On the other hand, in this era where disruption is pervasive, it’s essential that we develop an ability to utilise and embrace what other mindsets bring to the table – your boss and colleagues, for example. As the pace of change and the complexity of problems increases, developing a more agile and flexible mind can mean the difference between winning and losing.
Harnessing the power of different mindsets can strengthen our ability to collaborate more effectively and, with an agile mind, we can enhance our resilience in a disruptive world, as well as achieve greater success in both our personal and professional lives.