Leaders: Change Your Mindset

Leaders: you have to have the right mindset.  If you don’t, then it’s unlikely that you will be able to effectively lead for the long term.

This applies equally to your personal life & your professional life!  

  • Start by getting clear on what mindset you want to have.  Think about it.  Write it down.  Borrow the points from my last post on mindset if you want somewhere to start (like everything else in life, if you don’t have a target for this, then you can’t know how you’re progressing).
  • Self-assess.  How does your mindset today align to your aspired mindset?  What would other people say about your mindset based on your words & behaviors when they are around you?  Are you role-modeling the mindset that you want your team members to have?
  • Change your mind(set).   In the end, the only person who can change your mindset is… you.   And the way you change it is simple: you make a decision that you want to be different.  If you’re feeling brave, share your goals with someone important to you that you trust: a team member, a boss, a close personal friend, a spouse?

There are no pre-requisites for growth… meaning: you can start doing this right now.

Mindset for Leaders

(Warning: I will camp on this topic because of its importance!)

I want to suggest that the most critical input leaders have is our own mindset.  Recently I asked a group of emerging leaders what they thought mindset was.  Their answers: “attitude, beliefs, values, viewpoints, inclination, disposition, habits.” That’s a pretty good definition.

I will suggest that your mindset will pre-determine your response to & interpretation of every situation.  Only you can decide what mindset you should have… But I’ll share with you the mindset aspirations that I’ve developed over time based on observation of other successful leaders:

> Believe you have significant impact on your success… don’t be a victim
> Go for “gold” results… don’t settle for bronze or silver
> Help the bigger team win… not just your own area
> Have confidence… get comfortable being vulnerable to the unknown
> Relish learning, don’t fear it… that’s how we get better
> Never get set in your ways or “hard-wired”… must remain open to growth
> Have courage to make qualitative judgment calls – you’re never going to have perfect info!

More to come on mindset…

Improve your Say:Do ratio

Do you need to improve your say/do ratio?  Initially you might think you can only work on the denominator to raise your average, but actually you should work on improving both your ‘say’ and your ‘do’…

How to improve your “SAY”:
> Write the plan down, share the plan.
> When you change the plan, tell your team about it, and explain why!!

How to improve your “DO”:
> Consider whether you are focused on the critical few or whether you are trying to boil the ocean.
> Re-evaluate your overall leadership process.  Yes, leadership is a process – meaning that you can practice it in a consistent, repeatable, sustainable fashion.  More to come on that.

The application is the same in both business and personal:
> Identify your key stakeholders… Who are the people that you regularly make commitments to… your team members?  Your family?  Your friends?  Yourself?
> Explain the concept of say/do ratio to these stakeholders and ask them to help you get better… By making your goal public, you will hold yourself to a higher standard & you will be inviting others to do the same for you!

What is your “Say:Do” ratio?

In a previous entry I underscored the importance of putting your plan in writing and clearly communicating it to the team. Here’s another important step to effectively engage employees: you need to actually do what you said you’d do. Let me introduce a conceptual “metric” that helps me think about this… it is called the “Say/Do Ratio” and is derived as follows:

WHAT YOU SAY / WHAT YOU DO = “SAY:DO RATIO”

The goal, of course, is to have a say/do ratio of 100%. Don’t bother trying to track hard data and come up with a precise calculation for yourself… instead you should simply evaluate every decision you make in light of a 100% goal for say/do.

Coming next: How to improve your Say:Do ratio.

Put The Plan In Writing!

So you have determined to inspire your team to greatness, harnessing their loyalty & belief in a common cause. Fantastic!   But… What exactly do you want your team to do?  And… How will you make sure they are all on the same page?

Answer: Do like Doc… Write it down!

Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers giving his team the plan

A former CEO of mine tells the story of his first GM role, running a “small” division of ~1,000 employees and ~$100M in revenue for GE. In an early discussion w/his boss, he explained his gameplan for the division… and then his boss asked him one simple question: “How in the [world] do you think you can get 1,000 employees headed in the same direction if you haven’t written down the plan?”

Practical. True. And sadly, often overlooked.

Every leader should have a written plan. The format of this plan is less important that the content. In the simplest form, your plan should include:

  • Long Term Vision: where are you going over the next 5-10 yrs?
  • This Year’s Objectives: what does success look like?
  • This Year’s Metrics & Targets: how will we measure ourselves against our objectives?
  • This Year’s Priorities: what are the few most important priorities/initiatives we must deliver in order to succeed?
  • If you go much beyond this, you get extra credit… but just get this far to start!

…So What? (What should I take away from reading this?)

What follows is common sense. But as Ben Franklin said “what is common sense is not common practice.”

For Leaders:

  • Write down the plan. Don’t worry about making it beautiful… just get the main ideas in writing, simple bullet points on a page or two should do it.
  • Share it with your team. Get their input… do they believe with the vision? Do they agree with the objectives? Do you have the right priorities/initiatives to move the needle? 

For Everyone: These concepts apply in both business & in life.

Have you ever thought about writing down the plan for the next 5 yrs of your life?  Try it… you will be surprised at the focus it provides you in your day-to-day life choices.

What is “leadership?”

Simply put, leadership is… influence.  The ability for person A to influence person B to do something.

So how do you influence others?   Influence comes from the application of power and can be used for “good or evil” as we’ve all seen.  There are several kinds of power that you’ve probably experienced.

Types of power leaders can use to influence others:

  • Positional power.  Also called “legitimate power” or “structural power,” it is the power of an individual because of their position/title and duties.  It’s when you do [a task] because your boss asked you to.  The military typifies this approach.
  • Coercive power.  It includes the ability to demote or to withhold rewards if the desired actions aren’t taken.  While highly motivating in the short-term, the downsides include increased stress, fear, uncertainty, etc on the part of the recipient.  Don’t recommend it.
  • Expert power.  Power someone has because of very specific skills or expertise.  This type of power is usually highly specific and limited to the particular area in which the expert is trained and qualified.  You all know someone like this – they are a technical genius in their field and when they speak, everyone listens.
  • Reward power.  Reward power depends on the power wielder’s ability to confer valued rewards (benefits, time off, desired gifts, promotions, increases in pay, responsibility, etc). This power is obvious but also ineffective if abused.
  • Referent power.  Ability of individuals to attract others and build loyalty, based on the relationship and interpersonal skills of the power holder.  This loyalty creates the opportunity for interpersonal influence.  Hopefully you’ve had the good fortune to work with someone like this – a boss you were proud to follow, a colleague that you could get you to run through a brick wall for them, or a team member that always inspired you to go the extra mile.

…So What?  (What should I take away from reading this?)

For Leaders:
◊ Take personal inventory. Which forms of power do you rely on most heavily? Is that effective in the short term? What about in the long term?
◊ What changes do you need to make in your personal approach to the use of power?

For Individual Contributors:  You’re leading every day… in fact you can be more powerful than people with “leadership titles!”
◊ Think about your spheres of influence… who do you influence on a regular basis?
◊  How are you consciously using your powers… for good & not evil?

For All Human Beings: 
These concepts apply in both business & in life.  Think about how you could change your use of these forms of power to enrich the personal relationships that mean the most to you.