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Let’s be honest: 2020 has been a challenging year. That’s not to say there haven’t been moments of triumph and opportunity, but for many of us our mindsets and perspective have been tested like never before. We’ve been forced to re-think our rhythms, routines, priorities and schedules, all while dealing with a tsunami of change including a global pandemic, racial injustice, economic uncertainty, political divisiveness and everything in between.

With this wide range of issues and pressures, how we show up, behave and react to those around us has become more important than ever. For many of us, our mindset runs in the background, guiding our thoughts, feelings and beliefs much like the operating systems on our computers. Too often we don’t take time to stop, assess and adjust our mindset until we run into a problem or challenge, usually tied to a moment of regret or remorse: snapping at a co-worker, unsuccessfully managing stress, falling behind on priorities or projects—or simply finding ourselves drifting through our days and lives.

Even areas once considered strengths can find themselves under attack and in need of refinement and improvement—maybe even some re-programming. One area we’ve seen leaders and teams struggling with during this season is a shift backward to fixed mindset beliefs rather than a growth mindset.

In her book and research, Dr. Carol Dweck has pioneered this concept of a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. People with fixed mindsets believe that ability is a fixed trait and cannot be changed. In other words, we are the way we are. On the other hand, people with growth mindsets believe that ability is malleable and can be developed.

It’s important to note that none of us can permanently embrace one mindset over another (growth vs. fixed). We are all a mixture of both mindsets, and that mixture evolves, grows and shifts over time with experience. And during seasons of uncertainty, pressure and challenge, our mindset can be prone to shift more to the “fixed” side if we let it run unchallenged on auto-pilot in the background.

Here are three areas where that shift can negatively affect our leadership, relationships and results if we aren’t aware and mindful of them.

Effort: With a fixed mindset, we see effort as bad. We shouldn’t have to work hard at the things we’re good and gifted at. With a growth mindset, we see effort as a positive thing. After all, that’s how we get better and improve.

During this season of change, many of us have had to re-think and re-work how we do things. Many of us have had to learn new ways of engaging with our teammates and customers. We’ve had to streamline our processes and businesses to handle new opportunities and challenges—and often it’s taken a new level of effort and focus to be successful.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to work with a group of high-performing salespeople. These teams were some of the best in their industry. But much of their process was built on face-to-face interactions with customers and decision-makers—which was suddenly impossible with new health and safety protocols in place.

People who were used to being very successful in what they did were suddenly forced to learn a whole new way of interacting and developing relationships in a virtual environment. And gaining new skill and competence in this area required new muscles and a new level of effort. Many of the people on the team embraced the challenge with a growth mindset; but some found themselves slipping back into a fixed mindset and struggled with the stress and pressure that accompanied this new level of effort. This difference in mindsets is important for leaders to acknowledge when coaching and developing their people to be successful during this new season.

Motivation: With a fixed mindset, motivation is often about proving your ability, showing others and yourself how good you are at something. With a growth mindset, motivation is about improving your ability, each opportunity a chance to get better.

I’ve found myself struggling with this one recently. As a way to stay active and fuel my competitive spirit a bit, I enjoy playing pickleball in my free time. There was a season this summer, when I would show up with more of a fixed mindset. My competitiveness would go into overdrive, and I focused only on winning and playing up to a certain level or expectation (which never usually ended well).

Once I became aware of this, I intentionally tried to shift my focus to more of a growth mindset—every chance to play was an opportunity to learn, grow and improve my ability. Winning and losing became less important as I re-focused on getting better and learning every time I hit the court. This new framing also allowed me to feel more gratitude about the experience rather than the outcome.

Not coincidentally, when I embraced more of a growth mindset, I enjoyed my time more—and would show up back at home in a better position and with a better attitude to interact and serve my family.

Failure: With a fixed mindset, we see failure as the end of the story, time to give up. With a growth mindset, failure is just part of the story and journey and means it’s time to try again (differently).

I don’t know about you, but many of our clients (myself included) have experienced moments of failure this year (both at work and at home). This definitely hasn’t been a year where everything has gone as planned—and many of us have experienced more challenges, obstacles and failures than in recent memory.

If you find the people you lead (or yourself), shifting toward a fixed mindset around failure, here’s a key phrase to keep in mind: not yet. I haven’t figured it out, not yet anyway. You haven’t been successful, not yet, but I believe you will. This is a great phrase to embrace as a coaching leader to help your people focus on what is possible. Welcoming failure with a growth mindset can propel you and your team forward.

Every couple of months, my iPhone lets me know it has to upgrade its operating system. Whether it’s to fix bugs or add new features and functions, these regular upgrades are required to keep it performing well. Our mindset is similar—we need to step back and perform any necessary upgrades to keep it (and us) running properly. This is especially true during seasons of change and uncertainty—like 2020.

So if you’re looking for ways to keep your mindset operating system up-to-date, focusing on your current balance between a fixed and growth mindset is a great opportunity. If that doesn’t work, you can always try turning it on and off again. (Seriously, don’t underestimate that suggestion.)

 

 

The need for wise and effective leadership is as great as it’s ever been. 2020 has been a tumultuous year necessitating many quick, yet crucially important decisions. Our sense of normalcy has been turned upside down as fears for our health, safety, loved ones, businesses, and bank accounts continue to rise. And now we are heading towards another unknown—a presidential election.

At first, I thought releasing a book about leadership during this season wasn’t a good idea. But I quickly realized the opposite was true: leaders need to be focusing on the decisions they make and the influence they have now more than ever. And my latest book outlines seven perspectives every leader must see in order to improve their leadership effectiveness. In light of election season, I picked five of the perspectives and tied them to stories from past U.S. Presidents, along with a practical tip I believe can help every leader be more effective, especially during this challenging season.

COMMUNICATING CURRENT REALITY
Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) earned great influence when he chose to speak directly to the people of the United States through their radios. During the Great Depression, FDR saw the need for the public to be informed on what the government was doing—and, directly by him, their leader—not the press. He continued his broadcasts during World War II, updating the public on the progress of the war. Due to the President’s conversational manner of speech, the messages were unpretentiously termed “Fireside Chats”.

He understood the Current Reality of the nation, as ever-changing as it was during economic depression and world-wide war, and he made sure to communicate with the people looking to him to lead. He came to them, as best he could, his calm voice filling their parlors, sharing real-time updates, encouragement, and vision.

Leadership Tip for Today—
As a leader you need to be honest and transparent with current reality. It will gain trust with the people you lead and earn you influence. Even if the current reality seems dim, your people deserve the truth. Be honest with them, and they will be honest with you. Without their transparency, you will not have a clear picture of current reality.

CASTING A COMPELLING VISION
John F. Kennedy (JFK) was keenly aware of the country’s current reality and the losing position of the United States in the space race against Russia. He cast a challenging and compelling Vision for the nation when announcing the U.S. would land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth before the end of the decade. He acknowledged the expense and the difficulty, but rallied the nation together towards this long-term, seemingly impossible goal. He built a vision that united the country regardless of political affiliation, race, religion, or socio-economic position—every single person within the United States was invited to support this long-term vision, the race to be won.

Leaders must view their businesses beyond the lens of current reality into a future not yet realized, welcoming teammates to come along for the journey, and together build something special, new, and never before.

Leadership Tip for Today—
A vision should be so clear and compelling that it unites the entire team—regardless of role. Every member of the team must directly understand how their job connects to the vision so that engagement is high. Times of change and uncertainty like we are experiencing today shouldn’t cause you to shy away from your vision but rather lean into it even more, communicating a picture of a brighter tomorrow over and over again.

PLACING STRATEGIC BETS
Thomas Jefferson took a risk when he sought to purchase land east of the Mississippi River in North America from France. The United States Constitution did not include any sort of provision for acquiring foreign territory. Jefferson and his team made a Strategic Bet when negotiating the deal with France—and it paid off. More than 800,000 acres was added to the United States with the Louisiana Purchase. Jefferson led a fledgling nation to essentially double their territory.

This unprecedented and risky negotiation greatly expanded the territory of the United States. Growth was achieved, but not without high risk and financial cost—a strategically placed bet.

Leadership Tip for Today—
A strategic bet moves you from a defense posture to a position of offense, something all leaders need to be looking for right now despite our current reality. It will require investment and risk—but if it pays off, you will move forward into new opportunity. A strategic bet should be something you are unsure of, something with enough potential to open doors and move the organization ahead.

CONNECTING WITH THE TEAM
Abraham Lincoln is well-known for selecting a diverse cabinet and surrounding himself with a team of varied perspective—but it is not the only way in which he actionably valued the perspective of the Team. Lincoln did not simply sit in the White House casting vision to the generals leading the soldiers during the Civil War, he actively engaged in communication to learn the front-line perspective by utilizing the telegraph. There are reports that he even slept in the office of the telegraph to ensure he received the latest news from the team fighting the battle.

The perspective of teammates in all seats, at all levels is crucial for the decision-maker to have the most accurate and realistic picture of the situation—an influential leader knows to listen to their Team, especially those most vulnerable, on the front lines.

Leadership Tip for Today—
Walk the floor, visit the production room, call the customer service team—actively listen to your teammates, especially those doing the work. Or, during the pandemic, in this ongoing virtual reality, schedule Zoom meetings with the departments you oversee, and give everyone a chance to speak. Leaders should feel empowered to connect with people across the organization, not just their direct reports. It will improve your ability to make decisions and increase your influence organizationally.

DEFINING YOUR ROLE
General George Washington led the colonies during the Revolutionary War to victory. The independence allowed for a new form of authority, a new way of leadership. He recognized the need for counsel from others—the importance of hearing other perspectives. The foundation of the government was instituted under Washington’s leadership including the roles of the cabinet, the roles of the Supreme Court, and his role—the United States President. A Role of such magnitude needed to be clearly explained with checks and balances established to avoid reverting into the way of leadership the country had just fought against.

Leaders will experience the most energy in their roles when they can clearly articulate which tasks are theirs to own and which are theirs to delegate. The work may still be challenging, but if a leader is focused on the tasks that only they can do, they will experience lift and see wins across the organization.

Leadership Tip for Today—
A leader should be clear on how their role impacts the organization—and fiercely protect the time needed to accomplish the tasks that only they can do. Block your calendar, set your Skype to Do Not Disturb, let your team know you will be head’s down for a couple of hours to focus upon your commitments. Leaders should be approachable and available but must give themselves permission to set boundaries for the growth of the organization.

Whether you manage a small team, head up a company or lead the entire country, seeing your business from these perspectives will help you make better decisions and increase your influence—the two things necessary to be an effective leader.

Part I: Your Decisions & Influence

In the first of a three-part video series, Daniel Harkavy explores how your decisions and influence affect everything from promotions to gaining and keeping the trust of your team and peers.



Read Video Transcript

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I don’t think anyone would argue against the opinion that successful leaders have a leadership mindset. Where the disagreement, or more likely confusion, comes in is around what that actually means. Few words have more varied definitions than “leadership,” and when you add the term “mindset” to the equation, you create something many people vaguely understand and agree in theory is important but would struggle to articulate or make happen.

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Strength, adaptability, discernment, grit, and tenacity. These were identified in 2017 by Forbes as the top traits of every powerful female leader. (more…)

While your organization’s success is reliant on a great effort and strong performance from all of your team members, there’s no question that having the right leadership at the top is paramount to success. Without great leadership skills and strong business acumen in your executive leadership ranks, the company will likely struggle no matter how hard individuals try.

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Sooner or later, many business owners and leaders reach a point where they realize a) they don’t like where they are, b) they didn’t mean to get to where they are, or c) they have no idea where to go now. While this process can be frustrating and upsetting, it’s a valuable one because it means they’ve realized they want something different in life and can start taking steps to identify and then achieve their goals.

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Business leaders like to talk about creating a coaching culture because they’ve heard enough about it to know it’s a good thing. But they may not really know what it means or why it’s so important. 

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In Part III, Daniel will show you how to start implementing The 7 Perspectives in your business. You’ll learn how to deploy intentional curiosity and how to find your blind spots.
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In Part II of the 7 Perspectives Video Series, Daniel Harkavy unpacks and defines the perspectives, and explains how each one works with the others to help you become an effective leader.
(more…)

Time to Reflect

Growing up as a TV fan in the ‘80s, I was forced to get comfortable with waiting. When my favorite show ended on Tuesday at 9 p.m. (like this one or this one), we were forced to wait 7 long days to see what happened next to the characters we loved. In that forced hiatus,… Read More

Fighting a Fixed Mindset

Let’s be honest: 2020 has been a challenging year. That’s not to say there haven’t been moments of triumph and opportunity, but for many of us our mindsets and perspective have been tested like never before. We’ve been forced to re-think our rhythms, routines, priorities and schedules, all while dealing with a tsunami of change… Read More

The 7 Perspectives Video Series

Part I: Your Decisions & Influence In the first of a three-part video series, Daniel Harkavy explores how your decisions and influence affect everything from promotions to gaining and keeping the trust of your team and peers.  Read Video Transcript