In making sense of the world, we rely heavily on our frames of reference. These references, we call ‘mindsets’, are intrinsically correlated to our motivation and drive our decision making, day to day actions and self-determination.
In the field of psychology, we refer to mindset as a set of assumptions, methods, or notions held by one or more people. Mindsets are considered as deep and rooted beliefs and they can come in a variety of ways. This makes sense given we each come to life with unique genetic make-ups. We have different aptitudes, carry capabilities and capacities. That’s biodiversity – it’s kind of a given. From there, however, we have learned tendencies. From our early experiences, we formulate stories that continue to shape the way we see the world in front of us. Specifically, the way we frame situations and take in perspective tend to impact how we come to think, feel, and behave. Now, here is the catch: Depending on the primary mindsets, assumptions, notions and methods we hold, we end up displaying different sets of leadership styles. Depending on our awareness and ability to differentiate, we end up demonstrating a variety of behaviors that can impact the kind of climate we present for others and the organizational culture shapes our individual behaviors.
In our two-year collaborative study with Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE), we discovered there are eight new mindsets that can have a positive climate effect inside organizations as opposed to pre-dominant mindsets pre-existing in the society and inside our workplaces. These mindsets include caring (over control), abundance (over scarcity), wellbeing (over welfare), productive (over defensive), interconnectedness (over self-oriented), collective (individual), growth (over fixed), and reflection (over action).
In this article, let us share three examples of these eight mindsets and their traditional comparisons, how they show up and create a certain dynamic inside organizations.
Caring Over Control Mindset
Our experiences at work and in life generally are defined by “micro moments”. These are single moments of connection we make in a given environment. They can come in the form of an eye contact, a smile or simply by being present. Of course, most of our work experiences are shaped by control mindsets. This is the degree of perceived regulation inside a given environment (i.e. home, school or workplace.) These are environments mostly comprised of conscious and unconscious policies and procedures. Under those roofs, people watch one another for outrage in behavior. Not only this is learned, such caution is only natural because when we carry a control mindset, we tend to avoid our emotions. Stress hormones get triggered, we become more fearful of unknowns and resistant of potential changes. When prolonged, this sort of state manifests itself as actions of overt or covert transgression.
Inside positive high performing work environments, we find there is more caring in culture, a scientific construct that has an impact on how people show up and relate to one another. This is the degree of affection and compassion people feel and express toward one another. In presence of a caring mindset, there is a higher record for modeling of value-based positive behaviors. In this state, the givers and receivers’ brains release positive neurotransmitters that expand their ability to offer and gain emotional transcendence. As a result, there is more openness, a heightened sense of connection. Inside such organizational cultures, we recorded workers experience lower absenteeism, less burnout, greater teamwork and higher job satisfaction. Because of its measurable value, companies such as PepsiCo, Southwest Airlines, Whole Foods Market, The Container Store, and Zappos have begun to explicitly include caring in their leadership principles.
Abundance Over Scarcity Mindset
A scarcity mindset focuses on what’s lacking – all the time. In this state, we tend to perceive everything to be limited in the environment – time, money, love. As a result, we find ourselves consciously or unconsciously concerned about what can go wrong most of the time. This is also true of work environments. Those who lead with a scarcity mindset into their culture pay a high price. When resources (compensation, opportunity, recognition) are perceived to be limited, paranoia, fear and politics thrive. In this state, people become nervous of their future and afraid to make a mistake. As a result, often teamwork and innovation suffer.
Abundance mindset is an alternative focus. Abundance is a wealth of something. An abundant mindset feeds into our confidence because we know there is enough in the environment and can spare what’s available on things that matter most. Those, who lead with an abundant mindset broaden perspective, better integrate needs, timetables and experiences to allocate resources more wisely. In this state, employees find the necessary space and sources to connect to their purpose, creative thinking and stakeholder management. In other words, inside such environments, individuals are free of future anxiety. Therefore, they can better coordinate aspirations and collaborate on action, which results in higher meaning formation. Naturally, organizations with this mindset become more profitable and it is not because they focus on competition, rather, it is because they focus on opportunity and synergy creation.
Growth Over Fixed Mindset
A fixed mindset holds the belief that our abilities are predefined and cannot be changed. When we lead with such beliefs, we become compressed in our views and energy, tend to shy away from challenges because we may not want to feel embarrassed or humiliated in front of others. This is often problematic as our fear of making mistakes can lead us to avoid challenges and new experiences that could help us grow and unleash our potential with others.
A growth mindset is the belief that our basic abilities can be developed and improved through dedication and effort. When we carry a growth mindset, our muscles relax, we breathe better, and our inner capacity expands vastly. As a result, we become willing to lean into the required effort to grow our potential in ways we want to see it come to life. Such state can help us focus on the opportunities ahead and discover more joy in the process because we know we value learning and discovery over what others may think of us. Neuroscience shows us great organizational benefits to carrying a growth mindset. Because our energy radiates contagiously, when we approach possibilities with an open mind, we become more collaborative, and our collective resilience grows over time.
We are getting to realize now in the 21st century that our human condition is more complex than any economical outcome and our world is not just a place of competition, everyone has their own place. Yet, this is still quiet not the same thing as educating people to think, to feel, to relate differently. In fact, the reality is that majority of us, as adults, are extremely well trained in single way of thinking, feeling and relating.
This is an invitation to imagine what our life and work experiences could look like if we learned to relate to ourselves and everyone or everything around us in a different way. Our research shows being in a positive mindset can enhance the leadership experience and collective productivity at an organizational level. The different personas we become, and the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of our response naturally determine our next set of life experiences.
This is a simple, and yet very powerful way of looking into potential inside our future organizations. For more information on new mindsets supportive of 21st century leadership, you can refer to our mini-course on LinkedInLearning.