THE MINDFUL LEADER
In our daily conversations as leaders and regular people in our various spaces, do we ever experience a situation where someone comes to sit and talk to us or where someone comes to ask us a question and we just stare back at them? Do we sometimes find ourselves lost in a conversation or do we find that we do not understand what is being communicated to us? Usually we find our minds blank during a conversation because of the many challenges and issues that are running through our mind. However, research states that there are certain soft skills that if we have, can translate certain distractions and thoughts into productive actions. It is very difficult as a leader to compartmentalize and reframe on a daily basis. Yet, to be able to achieve success, it requires a certain level of emotional energy. It requires a certain level of capacity to handle our thoughts. How then do we take our thoughts and utilize them in ways to make us more decisive and more action oriented to our lives, our businesses and create productive teams?
Our mindset is a part of us that started taking shape from the moment we began to take in and assimilate information. Growing up, our mindset has been shaped by experiences, it has molded beliefs we hold closely and it has influenced our choices, behaviors and decisions. Our mindset is truly the root of what we are. We are what we think. As people, we are only limited by the things we tell ourselves we cannot do. People’s mindsets can influence the way they evaluate options and make choices. Research has shown that, our temperaments and personalities are also somewhat influenced by our mindsets. Author and Harvard Business School professor emeritus Chris Argyris categorizes two main mindsets: productive and defensive. A productive mindset is one that seeks to make informed decisions using available data. According to existing research, the productive mindset has been shown to be the most effective in managing ourselves and others. The other type of mindset the professor speaks of is one where an individual feels the need to protect their identity and views other people’s opinions and suggestions as threats. The concept of decision making seeps into building our character and our lifestyle. The decisions a leader makes reflects in the kind of deals he makes on behalf of the company, the sorts of budgets he approves and his cordial relationship with his colleagues and subordinates. An article by J. Schrier gives a few evident examples as follows; A driver or dominant personality will make decisions based on what gets done; an expressive personality makes decisions based on how much fun something will be; a steady or amiable personality makes decisions based on how people will be affected while getting things done; and a detail-oriented person makes decisions based on producing quality work, even if it means people have to wait.
Since our mindsets are influenced by our environments and experiences, can we change our mindsets? As humans, we have the ability to reassess our thinking and push ourselves to start thinking in a different direction. The latest scientific research demonstrates that all of us have the ability to change our brains to an incredible degree – and that includes its physical make-up, how well it functions and even when it comes to how our emotions and personalities operate. It is a process that requires a lot of will and mental effort but it is not impossible. As leaders and decision makers in our corporate and business spaces, it is common to be sometimes overwhelmed with information and it is necessary that every time, we take a breather before we make any strategic decisions. When we understand the factors that influence our mindset, we will be better equipped to handle uncertain times and the rapid changes in our spaces. When you seek truth, your new beliefs can shape and influence your mindset.
Where to begin? Start here.
- Start With Yourself
The importance of self-awareness in the shaping of our mindset is remarkable. Do you know who you are? What are your short-term and long-term goals? What is the overarching vision for your life? What are you good at and what are the weaknesses you need to develop as an individual? The trend is as simple as this: Your beliefs shape the way you think and the way you think influences your actions and practices. As a man thinketh, so is he!
- Open Up to Evolution
Carol Dweck in her extraordinary book ‘Mindset’ also elaborates on two categories when it comes to mindset: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. Leaders with a fixed mindset are unwilling to see things differently if things do not go their way. They believe there is a single path to getting things done and all things must take that route. They find it challenging to evolve or change as situations also change. We see that such leaders are happy when they can control things around them. What kind of mindset have you been working with as a leader so far?
- In Helping Others, You Help Yourself
Are you in a frame of mind that is ever ready to help others develop? How comfortable are you with constructive criticism and implementing better alternatives? I believe that a growth mindset is one that is willing to learn and create such an environment. In seeking to help others, you develop a more confident mindset – one that is ready to listen and pay attention. By doing this, you help yourself.
Take each day at a time and be mindful that your habits shape your mindset. Pay closer attention to the things you do unconsciously and the thoughts you think subconsciously. They are great influences on your mindset. With a gradual and steady habit of staying aware of what goes on within you and around you, you will get better.