To Be a Great Leader, You Need the Right Mindset

by Ryan Gottfredson and Chris Reina

Organizations worldwide spend roughly $356 billion on leadership development efforts. Yet, the BrandonHall Group, a human capital research and analyst firm that surveyed 329 organizations in 2013, found that 75% of the organizations rated their leadership development programs as not very effective. Why aren’t companies getting more bang for their leadership development buck? Our latest research suggests it’s likely because most leadership development efforts overlook a specific attribute that is foundational to how leaders think, learn, and behave: their mindsets.

Mindsets are leaders’ mental lenses that dictate what information they take in and use to make sense of and navigate the situations they encounter. Simply, mindsets drive what leaders do and why. For example, they explain why two different leaders might encounter the same situation (e.g., a subordinate disagreement) and process and respond to it very differently. One leader might see the situation as a threat that hinders their authority; another as an opportunity to learn and further develop. When leadership development efforts ignore mindsets, they ignore how leaders see and interpret problems and opportunities like this one.

You may wonder: if mindsets are so important, which ones should you help your leaders develop? In our recent work, we broadly scoured research across the social sciences to understand the various mindsets that individuals may possess. In doing so, we identified four distinct sets of mindsets that have been found to affect leaders’ ability to engage with others, navigate change more successfully, and perform in their leadership roles more effectively.

Growth and Fixed Mindsets. A growth mindset is a belief that people, including oneself, can change their talents, abilities, and intelligence. Conversely, those with a fixed mindset do not believe that people can change their talents abilities and intelligence. Decades of research have found that those with a growth mindset are more mentally primed to approach and take on challenges, take advantage of feedback, adopt the most effective problem-solving strategies, provide developmental feedback to subordinates, and be effortful and persistent in seeking to accomplish goals.

Learning and Performance Mindsets. A learning mindset involves being motivated toward increasing one’s competence and mastering something new. A performance mindset involves being motivated toward gaining favorable judgements (or avoiding negative judgements) about one’s competence. Leaders with a learning mindset, compared to those with a performance mindset, are more mentally primed to increase their competence, engage in deep-level learning strategies, seek out feedback, and exert more of an effort. They are also persistent, adaptable, willing to cooperate, and tend to perform at a higher level.

Deliberative and Implemental Mindsets. Leaders with a deliberative mindset have a heightened receptiveness to all kinds of information as a way to ensure that they think and act as optimally as possible. Leaders with an implemental mindset, as the name suggests, are more focused on implementing decisions, which closes them off to new and different ideas and information. Comparing the two, leaders with deliberative mindsets tend to make better decisions because they are more impartial, more accurate, and less biased in their processing and decision making.

Promotion and Prevention Mindsets. Leaders with a promotion mindset are focused on winning and gains. They identify a specific purpose, goal, or destination and prioritize making progress toward it. Leaders with a prevention mindset, however, are focused on avoiding losses and preventing problems at all costs. Research has found that those with a promotion mindset are more prone to positive thinking, more open to change, more likely to persist despite challenges and setbacks, and demonstrate higher levels of task performance and innovative behaviors compared to leaders with a prevention mindset.

Once you have a better understanding of these mindsets, you can tailor your leadership training programs to unlock most effective ones in your managers. A great example of an organization that leveraged the power of mindsets in this way is Microsoft. From 2001-2014, Microsoft’s market capitalization and stock price largely stayed the same. But, in 2014, when Satya Nadella took over, he made it his mission to revamp the leadership and the culture at Microsoft. In his book, Hit Refresh, Nadella explains that mindsets– particularly growth mindsets– were his primary focus when revamping Microsoft. With this leadership, the company’s market capitalization and stock price has more than tripled.

This is just one example that shows that if organizations want their investment in leadership development to more fully pay off, it is essential that they prioritize mindset development — specifically by targeting growth, learning, deliberative, and promotion mindsets. As leaders cultivate each, their thinking, learning, and behaviors will naturally improve because they are seeing and interpreting their situations more effectively.

Source: HBR

3 Powerful Mind Tricks to Finally Outsmart Your Mental Blocks and Achieve Your Greatest Goals

by Peter Economy

What’s blocking you from your success? Is it an incompetent boss? Toxic coworkers? Your work environment? Or, surprisingly, could the one thing standing in the way of your dreams really just be…you?

It can be wildly challenging to create your own opportunities and make headway toward your goals if you’re facing powerful mental blocks. It doesn’t matter how simple or complicated the task is, any serious attempts to accomplish something will be thwarted if something called “defensive failure” happens.

A term created by cognitive psychologist, Dr. Amanda Crowell, defensive failure refers to what happens when we constantly think about achieving something, but end up thinking about it so much that nothing happens.

So how do we combat this special type of failure?

Here, according to Crowell and her research, are three mind tricks you can use to outsmart some of the common most mental blocks we all face:

Mind trick #1

Remember: failure is something we all experience throughout our work, career, and life–it’s a natural part of being human. One mental block many people face is thinking they simply cannot do what they want to do. This block becomes strengthened especially if our first attempts at doing something are full of difficulties or are not successful at all. But you must remember that successful journeys don’t involve victory at every step. Learn to embrace the failures you face, because each misstep brings you closer to success.

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How Do You Know If You Have The Right Talent To Be Positioned For Success?

by Larry Janis

Having the right talent in the right roles is essential for a successful business strategy. Strategy execution demands a thorough evaluation of not only people, but also of their roles and responsibilities, their impact and their alignment with the company’s business goals.

Corporate leadership and business leaders focused on strategy execution need a talent assessment program that functions as an extension of their strategy planning that addresses the following thoughts and processes:

  • An understanding of the talent implications associated with the strategy. Without this context, talent reviews may provide a false sense of security and lead to misaligned, well intended talent plans that actually work against the strategy.
  • Differentiation between important and critical roles. The successful execution of strategy requires talented people, more importantly talented people in the right roles. Without clear differentiation the people most likely to positively impact strategy may be in the wrong roles or not in the organization at all!
  • A facilitated talent discussion that evaluates talent in an integrated manner; standardizes the organizations’ talent “language” and calibrates talent between divisions, departments and teams.
  • A talent map that summarizes the organization’s talent “picture” in a simple, powerful format. The talent map can be easily referenced for future planned, or unplanned talent decisions.
  • A talent plan that captures the key talent actions required to support the strategy; assigns accountability for completion; encourages all leaders to accept responsibility for the organization talent pool; and provides a mechanism for tracking progress.
  • A partnership with an external recruitment firm that has a solid knowledge of your industry, your competitors and has the ability to react in a timely fashion to acquire the talent you have defined as essential to your business goals.

When planning changes to your staff, consider the following timing considerations:

  • Bringing in someone from the outside to fill a role lacking the talent required for a business initiative would typically takes four to six months.
  • Add in the time for onboarding, learning how your firm does things and understanding the capabilities of your firm: your talent acquisition time frame may extend upwards of one year for your new hire to be fully engaged and productive.
  • If your company operates in a competitive industry, factor in additional time to work through thinned out talent pool: your key competitors are likely seeking the talent they need to drive their businesses to the next level.

Talent processes linked to business strategies offer a considerable competitive advantage. Streamlining the implementation of the timeline, understanding the talent implications of your strategy and recognizing the talents you have and don’t have are critical to successful strategy implementation and differentiating your organization from the competition.




Do You Really Trust Your Team? (And Do They Trust You?)

by Amy Jen Su

Trust is a frequently used word. Just in the last month, consider how many times you’ve used it in thinking about your team?

  • If I felt more trust in her, I’d give her more responsibility.
  • One of the goals for our retreat is to build trust among employees.
  • It’s important that other groups in the organization trust my team.

While we talk a lot about trust, what do we really mean when we make these statements? Why does building trust matter so much? And what can we do as leaders to increase trust on our teams?

The why part may be easier to answer. Much has been written about trust and its importance in determining employee engagement, team alignment, and how comfortable a leader is delegating to others.

As to the what and how parts, trust can be a frustrating action to analyze in that it tends to be a gut feeling for us instead of a concrete choice. This makes it difficult to pinpoint the reasons why we trust one person more than another — and easy to believe there is little we can do to change that. But when we assume that trust is dependent entirely on the behavior of other people, as opposed to our own responses and interactions with those behaviors, we end up falling short as leaders.

To create work environments in which trust can flourish, we first need to understand how it really works: the various ways it can be given, built, and broken. Once we do, we can teach ourselves how to act (and react) in ways that help it grow, even in the most challenging situations. The following questions are designed to help you single out the types of trust that are most lacking between you and your team. If you find that certain areas are especially weak, try taking the suggested steps to strengthen them. You might find that you also help your employees build their capabilities and characters along the way.

Trust in Performance

The first three questions address the “harder” aspects of trust: performance-based factors that have a major impact on how you and your team deliver results, make decisions, and show up to the rest of the business. 

1) How much do I trust my team members to follow through?  At its most basic level, trust is about the work that needs to get done. To trust someone means to be confident that they will follow through on their responsibilities. I have seen whole teams fail to gain alignment and come to a screeching halt because there is an unspoken annoyance towards one person whom others consider unreliable. This typically occurs when that person isn’t holding themselves, or being held, accountable, and it can take place at any level, regardless of title.

As someone in a position of power, you can prevent this. If you want your people to be more dependable and trust one another, as well as yourself, create an environment that encourages open communication. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Hold regular one-on-one meetings. Ask team members to bring a dashboard/catalog of their work. This ensures that part of the time is spent on the important items and not just on fire drills. If they are falling behind in a way that creates risk, encourage them to tell you (and don’t shame them). People need to feel safe telling you about their problems, or you won’t be able to help resolve them. Sometimes this may mean taking some things off of their plate or reprioritizing. Other times it may mean clearing obstacles that are holding them back.
  • Be fair when giving feedback. Set clear standards for assessing performance at the start of a project. When giving feedback during your one-on-ones, make sure you do so equally based on the standards you originally set. This way everyone will know what is expected of them and be held mutually accountable for their actions.
  • Approach those who may be struggling silently. Some team members may not feel comfortable approaching you with a problem. Signs that someone may be having a hard time include: de motivation, lack of productivity, high stress, or trouble focusing.

2) How much do I trust my team members to bring good judgment? When you find yourself getting burned out as a result of over-involvement in other people’s projects or because every decision must be approved by you, it’s a sign that you need to work on your ability to give trust in this area. By holding trust back, you not only create process restraints for your team, you risk essentially saying to them, “I don’t trust you to do good work without me.”

There are a few ways you can change your leadership style to rebuild trust in this situation:

  • Good judgment is a muscle — help your team build it. After making important decisions, talk them through with your team. Explain the subjective and objective criteria you considered, risks and trade-offs you assessed, and stakeholder considerations. This will teach people how and why you make the choices that you do, give them a better understanding of the company’s priorities, and demonstrate the factors you would like them to consider when making judgement calls in the future.
  • Acknowledge that failure will happen, and that’s okay. Consider the mistakes you’ve made in your career and how they’ve helped you grow into the leader you are today. Give your team that same space. Let them flourish and fail, and when they fail, help them grow from it as opposed to writing them off. This means letting them make big or hard decisions on their own from time to time. Wean yourself out of situations where you can bear a little risk. You can always follow up with people after and highlight areas for improvement.
  • When a team member makes a poor judgment call — be curious, not dismissive. Ask them guiding questions to push their thinking and deepen your understanding of their thought process: What assumptions or criteria underlie your assessment or decision? What risk framework did you apply to this? How will this impact the budget, timing, or work for another group? If they are unable to answer those questions, ask them to come back to you with more information or data to back their argument. Ultimately, this dialogue will allow you to more accurately assess your team member’s judgment capabilities and lead you both to a better solution down the line.

3) How much do I trust team members to represent me and the organization? Your decision to offer team members greater visibility, both internally and externally, is typically drawn from how well you think they will inspire the confidence of key constituencies. This includes showing up with a professional presence, displaying confidence, and being able to engage with others effectively.

If you’re hesitant to give certain employees this opportunity, consider why. At the end of the day, your lack of trust could be keeping them from growing and reaching their full potential. To build trust in this area, try doing the following:

  • Set your employees up for success. Sometimes people don’t know the expectations your organization has for engaging professionally with others, and when this happens, it is no wonder they fall short. Prepare them by creating a set of principles outlining the ways in which they should engage with key constituencies within and outside the company. Explain what your function’s value proposition is and how that should be communicated to others.
  • Provide coaching and mentoring opportunities to those interested or those who show potential. One way to do this is to invite team members to observe or participate in executive meetings or presentations with you. As you watch their skills grow, you will not only be building their confidence, but also growing their trust in you as a mentor, and your trust in them as a performer.
  • Be clear about who serves as the point person for important contacts. The more exposure your team members get, the more opportunity there is for confusion to arise around who owns what relationships. Let your team know whether or not you are delegating full relationship ownership to them. If you’re not, then discuss the best ways to tag-team the relationship and keep each other in the loop. This way, you can empower people without feeling like they are stepping on your toes.

Trust in Principles

The second three questions address “softer” aspects of trust: principle-based factors that have real impact on your team’s engagement and satisfaction, as well as the perceived integrity of your team by those with whom they work.

1) How much do I trust my team members to practice an appropriate level of discretion? Because knowledge sharing and “being in the know” is a powerful way to connect with others, it can be challenging for people to decipher which information is most useful to share and which information is best kept private. More often than not, this is why people unintentionally breach confidences.

But trust in this area is so important. When you start over-editing yourself due to a lack of confidence in your team’s discretion, you risk holding back information that will help them do their jobs well, and their performance can suffer as a result. There are some things you can to do to build a strong foundation of trust in this case:

  • Educate your team. Let them know from day one that not everything you share internally is free game, particularly information that is protected by NDA or creates a conflict of interest with another party or key customers. Provide them with examples of exactly what you mean so they can easily recognize and avoid dangerous situations. If you share something sensitive during a meeting and you want it kept private, don’t assume people can read your mind. Just say so.
  • Set ground rules. At the beginning of team retreats let people know that any personal information that is shared should be treated respectfully. By setting these standards from the start, you will be showing your team that you respect their privacy and take it seriously. Further, you will be helping to build a culture of trust, and your team will be more likely to value the privacy of others and the organization at large when necessary.
  • Be an accessible resource. If your direct reports are unsure about grey areas, especially during times of change or uncertainty, advise them to come to you or HR for counsel. It’s important for people to know you are available to support them.

2) Do I trust my team members to respect the psychological safety of others? Our brains are trained to constantly scan for and avoid people who threaten our sense of well-being. When we perceive someone who is a “threat,” we either attack or retreat, and when we retreat, we lose access to important skills such as listening, asking questions, or speaking up about our ideas. This is why it’s so important to maintain a positive team culture. If people feel psychologically unsafe due to one bad egg, they likely won’t reach their full potential.

If there is a lack of psychological safety on your team, use the following steps to build (or rebuild) it:

  • Model healthy conflict. When you and a team member have a disagreement, whether in a one-on-one or in a larger meeting, approach it respectfully by giving the other person space to voice their point of view. It’s important that you welcome and acknowledge opinions that are different than your own — even if it means engaging in civil debate. Doing so shows the rest of your team that it’s possible to share opposing perspectives with a tone and approach that is constructive.
  • Have a zero tolerance for bullying. If you witness a team member engaging in blatantly rude behavior — such as interrupting, dismissing, steamrolling, condescending, or using derogatory language towards others — address it immediately. Almost every team I have worked with has, at one point or another, had a toxic member who impacts the camaraderie and collaboration of the group. Rather than avoiding the elephant in the room or forcing everyone to workaround that person, you, as the leader, must hold them accountable for their behavior, even if they are a strong performer.
  • Create a culture of appreciation. Reinforce and capitalize on each person’s strengths, perspectives, and contributions to the team by calling out their achievements and wins in meetings or group settings. A culture that only focuses on negative feedback or what people are doing wrong can leave your team feeling discouraged or defensive.

3) How much do I trust my team members’ underlying intentions and motivations? Ultimately, we need our teams to work toward doing what’s best for the organization. This can be tricky, as personal motivations are often at play, and our assessment of them can either increase or decrease our trust in others.

While you can’t control a person’s intentions, there are things you can do to encourage and reward team play:

  • Break down silos. Try to manage less by “hub and spoke.” Instead, be intentional about activities which build team esprit de corps. Remind people that they are part of a larger collective by creating shared team goals and connecting them to the bigger picture. Explain how each person’s work influences the performance of the larger organization.
  • Consider that people may not be the problem. Sometimes performance management and incentive systems are the real issue. Ask yourself: Do our compensation systems only reward individual contributions? Is there anywhere in the performance management system where we can applaud or address team players?
  • Be willing to have a direct conversation. Don’t reward bad behavior. If someone is overly self-absorbed, explain that they are hurting, not helping, themselves. Remind them that leadership roles require cross-functional and team collaboration and that their success will be determined, in part, by how well they work with others.

As you continue to think about how to increase trust among your team and the best ways to create an environment in which it can flourish, return to these six questions. In time, you may find that you are able to more quickly identify pain points that you can help resolve or strengthen. When you give trust, you not only empower others, you also develop the individuals on your team into stronger contributors, and in doing so, you empower yourself as a leader.

Source: HBR

How to Cultivate Cross-Silo Leadership

How HR managers can look for, develop and reinforce certain behaviours to break down barriers within their organisations.

HR managers who strive to identify and cultivate the best talent for their firms understand certain truisms. They know that hiring can’t be done by a bot, that there is a human aspect to finding the right fit for a particular team, and that there is great value in working across divides, be they cultural or functional.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Tiziana Casciaro (Rotman School of Management), Amy C. Edmondson (Harvard Business School) and Sujin Jang, Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD, argue that employees who communicate and collaborate across silos to provide integrated solutions for their clients create great value for their organisations. Drawing on their work with hundreds of executives across many organisations, the authors present a set of practices that facilitates cross-silo leadership, which can be learned and developed over time.

How can HR professionals leverage this research to ensure that both job candidates and in-house talent are in a position to work well across departments, regions or functions? In many firms, such skills may be mistakenly considered non-essential or “nice to have”. But the bottom line is that organisations that fail to cross silos are at risk of not providing the services their customers need.

For cross-silo leadership, HR managers can focus on hiring and developing talent with the following skills:

  • Cultivating cultural brokerage
  • Asking questions that facilitate perspective taking
  • Expanding points of view through network scanning

Hire and develop cultural brokers

As Jang has previously written, cultural brokers facilitate interactions between individuals who have different sets of assumptions, values and norms. Although her original research on this topic is based mostly on people working in multinational teams, she posits that functional or organisational cultures can also be brokered.

Jang identified two distinct roles of cultural brokerage: Those who help colleagues work around cultural differences (“bridges”) and those who connect colleagues with one another to build lasting relationships (“adhesives”).

  • A “bridge” allows others to collaborate across silos with little disruption to their daily routine. They do this by taking care of the cross-silo work on behalf of others, in such a way that other employees can continue working as they would within their own silo.
  • An “adhesive” connects colleagues and helps them work directly with one another, rather than acting as a bridge between them. They sow the ground for further fertile relationships to flourish, independent of the cultural broker.

Cultural brokers create great value for a firm. HR professionals can identify cultural brokers by looking at candidates’ background and experience. These are the candidates who tend to have experience in multiple domains (who have lived and worked in multiple cultures or in multiple functions) and have experience helping people work across domains. Such candidates may have been involved in post-merger integration or have experience simultaneously working with others from multiple functions, for example.

To create an environment for current employees to engage in cultural brokerage, HR managers can consider rotation programmes or matrix structures, which provide ample opportunities to develop the skills required to be a cultural broker.

Encourage inquiry and perspective taking

Asking good questions and taking others’ perspective on-board are another set of skills that HR managers can look for in candidates and encourage among in-house talent.

One way employees can see the world through the eyes of others is by asking good questions. Many organisations explicitly hire for demonstrated connecting skills. Southwest Airlines, for example, evaluates empathy when sourcing customer-facing roles. As a result, the company is famous for its award-winning customer service.

In an interview, an HR manager can listen carefully to the kinds of questions asked by candidates. Are they asking open-ended questions that allow them to gain a better understanding of the organisation and their role? Are they asking questions to check their own understanding along the way? Candidates who ask the right kinds of questions know how to engage in effective inquiry to gain perspective.

Beyond hiring for perspective-taking ability, it is also important that a firm provides opportunities to further develop individuals’ perspective-taking capacity after they join the organisation. Some large firms like GE have programmes requiring high-potentials to rotate in different functions such as finance and marketing over the course of several years. Firms with this kind of training recognise the importance of executives who can span divides. Naturally, the high-potentials are not experts in every field, but they do have a sense of what it’s like to work in the different parts of the business. A more technological solution to encourage perspective taking is found in Sberbank, where employees wear a VR suit literally called “Empathy” to develop compassion for their elderly clients and their possible physical limitations.

Having a workforce with developed perspective-taking skills leads to several important benefits. Edmondson has found that cross-industry collaborations can succeed when diverse workers take on the perspectives of other workers from dissimilar backgrounds. And Casciaro’s work shows that curious employees who ask the right types of questions build broad networks that span boundaries across disparate parts of the company.

Help employees leverage their holistic view of the network

Finally, one of the challenges of working across divides has to do with the perception of who is connected to whom beyond the formal org chart. This ability to perceive the web of connection in an organisation is important, because the more employees can broaden their vision of where the interesting opportunities are or where the important intersections might be, the easier it is to work across silos. Casciaro found that people don’t understand exactly who is connected to whom in a network, or what she calls “elemental” perception. For example, if I know Ben and Saeedah, I tend to assume they know each other, even if this isn’t actually the case. Elemental perception isn’t our strong point. Instead, people are more effective at “holistic” perception of networks, such as determining who is central in a network. That is, it’s easier to see which colleague is connected to everyone and which one works on the periphery. With this holistic perception, we understand who our go-to person for information is. Employees can develop their network perception by asking questions and working out who is central in an organisation.

HR managers can help employees distinguish between elemental and holistic perceptions and encourage them to trust their holistic perceptions. When employees start seeing the forest of connections rather than the trees of individuals, they can connect across silos more effectively. In addition, leveraging their holistic network vision will also help them determine which relationships are in need of cultural brokerage and which ones would benefit from thoughtful inquiry and perspective taking.

Cross-silo skills and alignment of incentives

The research by Casciaro, Edmondson and Jang suggests that it is possible to look for and develop all these skills in job candidates. Although it requires some investment, the potential payoffs are great: Employees who can engage in cultural brokerage, take others’ perspective and see the informal network in the organisation are much better equipped to provide the kind of cross-silo solutions that customers need.

One of the biggest barriers to fostering these skills is that these behaviours are often considered non-urgent and are therefore not necessarily rewarded in a way that equals the value they bring to a firm. That is, the connection between who does the work (employees) and who benefits (the company) is often missing. To support these activities, organisations – and HR professionals in particular – can put structures and incentives in place to encourage these skills.

Source: INSEAD