An experiment on how our mindset affects our thinking faculty and our perception of the scenes around us was carried out recently at Leadership Development Centre, Epe, Lagos State, Nigeria, with a man eating a bowl of hot oat with a piece of fried chicken thigh ‘concealed’ inside the bowl of the hot oat and ten observers watching him. As the man continued to take a spoonful of the hot oat one after another, the concealed fried chicken thigh was exposed and the researcher asked the ten observers to narrate what they can infer from the ‘hidden’ fried chicken thigh in the bowl of hot oat. While five observers stated that the oat eater hid the fried chicken inside the bowl of hot oat so that nobody will realise he had fried chicken for the meal (negative mindset), four observers posited that he put the fried chicken in the bowl of hot oat to make the chicken hot (positive mindset). One observer could not infer anything.
The interesting thing is that the four observers that had positive mindsets were good managers in blue chip companies and four out of the five observers with negative mindsets were bad managers in struggling companies. Only one observer with a negative mindset was in the C-Suite. The only observer who had no clue was not in the C-Suite. He was a senior manager in a medium scale enterprise. All the managers with negative mindsets were struggling to put their organisations on track again. Their current experience of failure is a trauma which has affected their mindsets. A mindset is an established set of attitudes of a person or group concerning culture, values, philosophy, frame of mind, outlook, perception and disposition. It may also arise from a person’s experiences, training and worldview or beliefs about the meaning of life. Mindset is a habitual or characteristic mental attitude that determines how a person will interpret and respond to situations.
It is a set of assumptions that helps you distil complex worldviews into digestible information and then set expectations based on this input. In her book, “Mindset: Changing The Way You Think To Fulfil Your Potential”, published by Little, Brown Book Group of 50 Victoria Embankment, London EC4Y 0DZ, in 2012, Carol S. Dweck, after more than 20 years of study on how an individual’s mindset motivates success, showed how these mindsets profoundly shape achievements and relationships, and how a mindset can be applied to achieve success. Mindset Theory can be attributed to the psychologist Carol Susan Dweck, whose work on mindset began in the 1970s after observing stark differences in children’s reactions to challenges and setbacks. Mindset explains why a rape-victim will not treasure being left alone with a male stranger in a room.
A Yoruba proverb literally translates to: “He that witnessed the killing of his mother by a lion; if he sees a cat, he will run.” Psychologists, especially managerial psychologists, have used mindset training to inspire workers to perform well in their different departments. IGI Global stated that mindset impacts how we approach all life circumstances, including how decisions are made. An understanding of the factors that impact mindset – how one thinks and makes decisions – can help handle the challenges of leading in times of uncertainty and change. The factors influencing decision-making are background of personality (experience), culture, context of the decision to be made, information available (data availability), data analytics and level of education. Having a positive mindset means making positive thinking a habit, continually searching for the silver lining and making the best out of any situation you find yourself in.
There are good, bad, growth, fixed, positive and negative mindsets. Those with growth mindsets embrace challenges, persist through obstacles, learn from criticism, and are inspired by the success of others. With the growth mindset, we can acknowledge our failures and find inspiration to keep improving. For example, failing a course-work in university is not the end of a student with a positive mindset in college career. Mindset is a collection of thoughts and beliefs that shape one’s ‘thought habits’. In turn, your thought habits affect how you think, what you feel and do. Your mindset impacts how you make sense of the world and yourself. Good growth and positive mindsets are important for business growth. In people with good growth and positive mindsets, failure is a motivation to work harder. Deepak Chopra, an Indian-American author of the “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success”, stated that “The way you think, the way you behave, the way you eat, can influence your life by 30 to 50 years.”
Most times, people express and act inadvertently, the kind of person they are. To teach team members about growth mindset, a leader must (1) Reward and award team members with growth mindsets – Team members who are exhibiting good, positive and growth mindset should be encouraged. They are always positive about situations, optimistic and hopeful! (2) Make growth mindset a game – Leaders should test the mindset of workers regularly to know which mindset they have among bad or good, growth or fixed, positive or negative. (3) Encourage productive engagement of team members – Leaders should encourage productive thoughts and activities among workers. (4) Reframe mistakes and be a teacher – Regularly, leaders must point out to workers why it is good to have positive, growth and positive mindset (5) Refrain from blaming and discouraging negative, bad and fixed mindsets – Leaders must not engage in blame games.
Leaders can develop a growth mindset in their places of work. To develop a growth mindset: (1) Encourage creativity by outlining your employees’ roles and tasks. Ask questions on how employees want to solve problems and correct them where they make mistakes. (2) Allow your employees to find their own process for accomplishing their responsibilities. Identified workers with a positive and growth mindset should be encouraged to become leaders. Teach employees that challenges are opportunities for growth and must be embraced at all times. (3) Support employees in their endeavours and give room for mistakes. Tell them failure is not the end, but a learning process. Effort is the path to mastery. (4) Seek and appreciate feedback. (5) Foster a passion for continuous learning. (6) Surround yourself with individuals who can inspire you to grow.
Mindset is an individual thing and an important factor in the management of business, and in living generally! It is what propels traders, manufacturers, inventors and innovators to work the way they do. Effective leaders must identify the kind of mindsets kept by all their workers and project those with a good, positive and growth mindset to impact the organisations. Those with bad, negative and fixed mindsets should be reshaped to have good, growth and positive mindsets and those who cannot be reshaped should be shown the way out. They are not good for business development.
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