September 10, 2019

How to shift your mindsets as a leader

by Wendy Ryan in Leadership

Your mindsets matter. They dictate how you work and react and how you think about things. They are the set of eyes and ears through which you perceive everything. And when you don’t know exactly how your mindsets are operating, which is the case for many leaders, it can impact your ability to be successful.

A mindful leader is more aware of his or her actions and is in tune with what’s going on internally. This is who leaders should aspire to be, regardless of the popularity of mindsets in their organization.

But how? You’re not born to be mindful; it’s a skill and a practice that you must work at. And if organizations don’t train you to be more mindful, how are you to learn the skills needed?

Where are you on the mindset spectrum?

My colleague Ryan Gottfredson is a mindset coach and speaker who developed his own classification system and assessment to educate leaders about their own mindsets (visit his website to take the assessment).

As a result of this assessment, you’ll learn about Gottfredson’s four sets of mindsets and how they impact your leadership style. Knowing where you’re starting is the first step to being able to shift your mindset in the right direction.

Filtering and processing information

When you’re more aware of your mindset, you can filter new information that comes to you. You’ll better understand how you process information so you can challenge yourself to filter in a different way when needed. As a leader, this self-regulation is essential.

This is especially true as a leader in the digital age. With social media and video cameras at the ready, it’s easy for others to publicize your reaction to anything–positive or negative. And whether you like it or not, what you whisper you’re really shouting because it’s so easy to share it. Even when (especially when) it’s out of context.

Focus on learning

No one is perfect, so when your mindset and reaction take a misstep, it’s important to use it as a learning moment. Own the error as publicly as the impact is felt, following up with what you learned in a calm and objective way. Respond by stating what contributed to the misstep or mis-aligned reaction and what you’ll do different next time.

For example, if you speak harshly at a staff meeting, it’s not enough to apologize to your assistant or management team. Instead, it’s necessary to address everyone at the meeting to ensure they all understand that you own the error. Often when we admit fault and open up about what we learned, our audience gives us more grace. They see us as human.

Listen to others

Unfortunately, many leaders don’t see a need to change their mindsets. They have a working hypothesis about the challenges in their team and the contributing factors, but they think it doesn’t involve them. In their mind, they’ve communicated clearly. The reality is that team members and colleagues don’t have all the information so there’s a breakdown that the leader is responsible for.

Listen to what others tell you and internalize the feedback, whether it’s positive or leaves room for improvement. If no one offers you input, ask for it. Then be sure to listen to what they have to say.

Focus on the positive

Because mindsets determine how you think and how you react to your surroundings, you must focus on the positive aspects of even the most mundane or undesirable situations. If a meeting doesn’t go as planned, think about what you learned from it. When a project derails, find what you can do as a result of the extra time on your calendar.

A positive outlook keeps negative thoughts at bay, both in the moment and afterward, improving the chances of a positive response from you.

Chances are, you’ve lived with your current mindsets for years; shifting them is a process that takes time. Be patient and take it one step at a time. Even better, enlist a trusted colleague or coach to help hold you accountable as you reach out for support and feedback.

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