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We all have mindsets that influence how we view the world, how we experience what happens to us, and how we make decisions. According to Merriam-Webster, a mindset is “a mental attitude or inclination” and it can be “a fixed state of mind.” In this discussion, a mindset is an attitude or typical approach that we use in our daily lives to observe, make decisions, and to take action.
Let’s explore the various mindsets that are at work in our environments every day. First of all, each one of us has a unique mindset that has been shaped by our life experiences. One mindset is not better than another; each mindset is simply different. And, different is not right or wrong; not good or bad. Every mindset is different and can have strength, as well as limitation.
- Optimist – “Everything is possible, things will work out.” Optimists really believe that things always work out. Reality however is that not all things do work out.
- Pessimist – “Nothing is possible, nothing with work out.” Pessimists really believe that nothing will ever work out in their or the team’s favor. Reality however is that some, even many, things do work out and become reality.
- Pragmatist – “Let’s see what resources we have, what is realistic to accomplish.” Pragmatists have a moderated mindset that seeks information to determine whether a project or activity is likely to work, work out well, not work at all, or to work out with modifications.
- ”Pollyanna” – an extreme form of optimism that doesn’t see anything negative, ever. This mindset is happy-go-lucky while at the same time often blind to real dangers in the world.
- Neutral – “I’m not taking a position.” A neutral position can help facilitate decision making in a group, seeking out the “for” and the “against” positions. Living in neutral however can cause a person to miss out on things that might be enjoyed and can cause others to perceive the person as uninvolved, uncommitted, disengaged, fence-sitting, or wishy-washy.
- Boxed-in – “We shouldn’t do it. I won’t support you.” While seen as a negative, this mindset can save us from dangerous situations, from missed deadlines, and from budget over-runs.
- Devil’s Advocate – “That won’t work because…(of these many reasons).” Often perceived as a nay-sayer standing in the way of forward movement, this mindset can help teams consider what could go wrong or what actually might not work. Recall that every mindset is different and can have strengths as well as limitations.
- Collaborative – “Let’s work together to accomplish this.” A collaborative mindset is open to other points of view and other ways of doing things, as well as being willing to work with others to accomplish a task.
- Competitive – “I can get this done faster and maybe even better than you can.” A competitive mindset can be held by one individual and by an entire team. While collaborative mindsets have been emphasized over the last three decades, competitive mindsets are valuable when time is of the essence.
- Withdrawn – “I don’t really care how you all do it. I choose not to participate.” A friend says that she usually has very clear mindsets that others can identify while she participates in teamwork and task accomplishment. However, when she finds herself in team-building activities, she has discovered that typically by the end of the group learning activity, she withdraws because she doesn’t really care how the group gets the learning activity done. Yet, using her open-minded mindset, she still learns from what others have worked through to learn from the activity.
- Open-minded – “I’m willing to consider any point of view.” An open-minded mindset will listen to others’ ideas, without necessarily committing to them or incorporating them. An open-minded person is typically not judgmental about different points of view.
- Broad-minded – “I enjoy thinking about a broad spectrum of things.” A broad-minded mindset looks at many points of view, even seeks out conflicting information, across many topics and arenas.
- Closed-minded – “I’m not interested. I don’t agree. I won’t consider that.” A closed-minded mindset has already formed an opinion, is typically unwilling to consider other approaches or information, and may even be highly judgmental about other points of view. When safety is involved, a closed-minded approach can potentially be a strength: “Don’t stick your hand into the fire.” Or “Don’t run into the street in front of that truck.”
- Deep-minded – “I may not know about a lot of things, however I know a lot about one or a few things.” A deep-minded person has a wealth of information about a few topics as the result of study, research, investigation, and interviews. A subject matter expert is often deep-minded.
NOTE: Broad- and Deep-minded mindsets can be open-minded or closed-minded. These mindsets are not mutually exclusive. Awareness on this front is important because a broad-minded person might be perceived as open-minded while possibly being closed-minded with fixed opinions in many arenas. A colleague shared this model for “mindedness” after she’d met someone with super-nova intelligence that caused her to think he was open-minded, yet over time she discovered that he was actually pretty closed-minded and judgmental.
Personality and Mindset
- Introverted – “I prefer time alone and am energized by doing things without other people.” This personality-shaped mindset affects daily life and our interactions with others, as well as how others perceive us.
- Extroverted – “I love spending time with others and am energized when I get to spend time with other people.” This personality-shaped mindset affects daily life and our interactions with others, as well as how others perceive us.
- Personality Styles (all of the models) also serve as mindsets for living and decision making. More information is found in a previous post!
Places we come from and Mindsets
- Place of Origin. As a whole, every country, region and state has its own over-arching values, beliefs, and mindsets. As a result, the place in which we are born usually continues to shape us and contribute to our mindsets throughout our lives. For instance being born and raised in the southern part of the United States often involves a mindset of hospitality and verbal respect toward others. Whereas, being born and raised in the western part of the United States one’s mindset incorporates independence in the form of “I can do it myself” and “we’ll figure out what to do with what we have.” Think about where you and your co-workers were born and raised. How is it shaping the mindsets at work every day?
- Geographic Locale. Where we live now – whether it is where we were born and raised, or somewhere else – also contributes to our mindsets. Consider living in a place where rainfall and water are abundant versus a place where rainfall is scarce and water is a resource over which wars have been fought for generations. Mindset is shaped because of where we live. How is your locale shaping your mindset these days?
Values and Mindset
- Personal Values – Whether acquired through our personal experiences and/or our religious experiences, we all have personal values that influence how we think about things and how we will reach agreement, or refuse to agree.
- Company Values – Values are so important to shaping people and organizations that many companies have documented what their company values include. These value statements are meant as guides for behaviors and decision-making by employees and customers. The challenge of course is that sometimes documented organizational values are not put into daily practice which creates disconnects, unrest, and distrust. What company values does your practice have in place? Are you and all team members living up to these values day over day?
Many disciplines and industries have points of view that serve as mindsets as well.
- Architecture: Classic, Modern, Prairie, Gothic, Roman, Baroque, Victorian, and so on. Each of these styles works from a point of view pioneered in specific eras and locales. When a style is embraced, a design is influenced by the mindset of that style.
- Art: Abstract, landscape, portrait, representational, historic, still-life, sculpture, mixed-media, textiles, written forms, and so on. Depending on the point-of-view, media and mindset chosen, the completed work of art will vary. We all enjoy different art forms which means that a variety of mindsets is considered a strength.
- Literature: poetry, fiction, non-fiction, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, young-adult fiction, children’s books, picture books, and the hundreds of other genres that serve as a mindset for the author as well as a reading mindset for the reader. Just imagine what someone who wants to read a factual summary of science might experience when reading science fiction – a conflict of course, or at best confusion.
- Economics: Keynes, Smith, Friedman and others. Each man’s mindset for how the economy does, can, and should work shaped a legacy of thought that influences others’ thinking and mindsets. As with some of the mindsets above, holding exclusively to one mindset can make working with others a challenge because the divergence of our mindsets is so great that collaboration becomes impossible.
All of this is to make the point that understanding the mindset of a speaker helps us to understand better what he or she is saying, which in turn helps us to more effectively participate in conversations, problem solving and decision making.
Working Successfully with Various Mindsets
Our mindset is ours. Other people may have similar mindsets to ours, yet none of us are likely to find an exact match to our own. The differences in mindsets can work to our advantage or create challenges. When our mindsets can accept and encompass others’ mindsets, we are able to work together without necessarily agreeing with each other.
When our mindsets do not allow for other points of view or others’ mindsets, we typically are not able to work well with others. They perceive us as rigid, inflexible and in some cases so narrow-minded that they will stop working with us.
The key to working successfully with other mindsets is to go back to the beginning: different is different not right or wrong. Every mindset has strengths and potential limitations. Focusing on the strengths of each mindset will help us to work together more successfully.
Mindsets and Decision Making
Our mindsets influence the way we make decisions. Gathering information from as many mindsets as possible often helps teams make best-possible decisions. When a team makes a decision from only one point of view or considering only one mindset, typically the decision is not as strong as it could be.
For example, a mindset that is often complained about rather than being valued is the boxed-in mindset. The boxed-in mindset complaints include “he’s so unwilling to listen to other ideas.” Or, “she’s so rigid and says no to everything we suggest.” And the many other complaints about boxed-in thinking. However, here are some of the strengths of boxed-in thinking: knowing the rules, regulations, safety-practices, compliance issues, and fixed deadlines. When considered from a strengths point of view, the boxed-in decision-maker becomes a valuable mindset to have on the team!
Another example: When working from an optimistic mindset, a person can become the team champion for accomplishing a project; or can alienate others who believe that we are not realistically looking at the situation and available resources; or yet still, a person can fall in the middle of the optimism continuum and be realistic as well as positive about the project or task at hand.
Fixed or Flexible?
Is a mindset fixed or flexible? It can be both.
For some of us, our mindsets are fixed and unchanging. The strengths of a fixed mindset include: others can rely on us to be consistent; predictability; and fast decision making because we rely on a fixed set of ideas. The challenges or downsides of a fixed mindset include: being rigid; missing out on new experiences or information; and the possibility of becoming judgmental in ways that limit personal possibilities.
For some of us, our mindsets are flexible. Based on a core mindset that is unchanging, we incorporate new information and ideas along the way, causing others to experience us as flexible. We may or may not change our core mindset as new information is presented to us, however we maintain a willingness to consider it.
And then there is variable. Variable mindsets change situation by situation. While situational analysis can be helpful, a variable mindset often leaves people wondering what we actually believe in and feeling like our decisions are unpredictable. Variable mindsets create a challenge for others to work with us consistently.
Growth Mindset – The Great Equalizer
A final mindset that can be useful to every business owner is the Growth Mindset. Carol Dweck author of the book Mindset explains it beautifully in this TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve
By reading this article you are exhibiting a growth mindset. You are learning, adapting and continuing to improve. That regular improvement is what will make you and your business more successful than ever!
Time for Reflection!
What is your core set of mindsets? This is a great time to journal what you understand about yourself, your family members and friends, and the people with whom you work. Discover which mindsets are working to support you and which might be working against you. Consider how your mindset and your team members’ mindsets are supporting work accomplishment or detracting from it.
Make mindsets a part of your daily awareness. You’ll be surprised at what you discover.
Ready to upgrade your mindset? Let’s start with a conversation. Please fill out this short Owner’s Profile and let’s talk.