All in the mind? To boost performance, you cannot afford to ignore mindset

Mindset definition: “The underlying attitudes and beliefs that we bring to a particular activity, task or situation.” – Andrew Jones, Business Psychologist and Consultant, Solution Cell.

With so many challenges to address, is this really the time for business leaders to focus on mindset?

To start to understand this, imagine one of your team; someone who is incredibly valuable to the business, the type of individual who knows the proposition inside out, and whose enthusiasm and authority will elevate any client relationship.

There’s just one problem. When the discussion shifts from proposition benefits to pricing, they freeze. In their mind, they equate these conversations with conflict. As soon as the questions veer towards money, it’s a ‘hand over to my colleague’ moment.

Another key member of your team fields a call from a client requesting an earlier than agreed date for completion of a particular task. In their mind, any hint of letting down this client is akin to disagreement. So instinctively, they take the easy way out by saying the request ‘shouldn’t be a problem’: a classic case of an over-promise, with the inevitable risk of under-delivery.

Almost all of us have witnessed these or similar situations. And of course, whether it’s procrastinating with tasks that we simply don’t like, or perhaps failing to put our point across when we should have done, many of us are guilty of similar behaviours ourselves.

These are all examples of underlying attitudes or beliefs (i.e. mindset) inhibiting the effectiveness of individuals. By extension, these barriers to optimal individual effectiveness impact the business as a whole.

Of course, none of this represents a new phenomenon. We know all too well that business leaders have a long list of priorities to attend to at present; everything from market uncertainty and price hikes, through to recruitment difficulties.

So why focus on mindset now?

As the organisations we work with appreciate, this is exactly the right time to do it. For one thing, the pressure is on to do more with less. If employees are unable to step outside of a narrow comfort zone, it may be a lot more difficult to respond to the challenges that may lie ahead of us.

What’s getting in your employees’ way in terms of attitudes or beliefs? If you can understand this, you can boost both the effectiveness of individuals, and in turn, the resilience of the organisation.

Mindset types

“I’m good at my job, but I’d be hopeless at project management.”

“I’m comfortable negotiating with suppliers, but useless in front of big customers”…

Lots of us have a very definite ‘stick with what you’re good at’ mentality. We tend to view our attitudes and talents as fixed traits and are resistant to new ideas or ways of working. It’s what we mean by a fixed mindset.

For other people, the perspective is, “I know I struggle with this task, but why is this – and how do I fix it?”. This is a growth mindset. Individuals with this mindset are far less likely to consider themselves as constrained to a fixed set of capabilities or traits. They are open to developing new ways of thinking. As a consequence, they are much more comfortable with approaching new tasks and challenges.

The way we think about a particular task or situation, the beliefs we hold about it and our expectations around it are critical in determining its outcome. Consequently, if we can foster a growth mindset throughout an organisation, it benefits individuals and the wider business alike.

Reasons to address performance at the mindset level

Achieving better results with fewer resources

The better resourced the team, the greater the scope for papering over mindset issues. For example, if Employee A isn’t comfortable with tricky trade customers, the obvious solution might be just to allocate these accounts to Employee B. This is fine, until Employee B is seconded to a different department, with no replacement in sight.

In the current climate especially, workforce capacity issues are becoming critical for many. If you are hamstrung by the limitations of individual employees, assigning workloads can be a particularly pressing challenge.

Focusing on mindset can help you expand the comfort zones of individual employees significantly. Instead of having to allocate tasks based on employee limitations, you become able to involve those individuals in a much wider range of activities. Capabilities are expanded, task allocation becomes easier, and you are able to significantly boost what’s possible with your existing resources.

Futureproofing your organisation

An estimated 60% of current job roles will be impacted in some way by new technologies and processes over the next 10 years.

Change is inevitable. Our job descriptions and daily to-do lists, the technologies we use, the products and services we offer, the type of clients we do business with: all of these may look very different even just a few years from now. Some employees will embrace these changes. For others, a mindset characterised by fear of failure and a tendency to shy away from new ideas will make adaptation a lot more difficult.

A few years ago, Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella described the type of culture he seeks to foster. The ‘know it all’ assumption is rejected in favour of a ‘learn it all’ approach for top managers and new recruits alike.

In other words, it’s easy to stay in your comfort zone, persisting with the view that you’ve already learned all you can and that your capabilities are fixed. But it’s far more valuable – both to you as an individual and to the wider organisation – if you can challenge that mindset. The ability to address difficult areas rather than backing away from them, to develop new skills, learn from feedback and come up with new solutions to problems: if these capabilities are developed from the top down, it could be just the edge your business needs to thrive in the future.

How to fix your mindset problem

At Solution Cell, we help people develop and enhance their behaviours, with a proven track record in boosting effectiveness on an individual and organisational level.

So how does it work? As a starter, Business Psychologist and Solution Cell Consultant, Andrew Jones has produced a series of short videos showing how and why positive change can be enacted at the mindset level. This includes a quick, practical demonstration of how habitual responses to difficult situations can be altered to help bring about more positive outcomes.

Explore this for yourself here » The Mindset Series – Episode 1