In our daily conversations as leaders and in our various spaces, do we ever experience a situation where someone comes to sit and talk to us or comes to ask us a question and we just stare back at them? Do we sometimes find ourselves lost in a conversation or find out that we do not understand what is being communicated to us?
We usually find our minds blank during a conversation because of the many challenges and issues that are running through our minds. However, research states that there are certain soft skills and ingredients that, if we have, can translate certain distractions and thoughts into productive actions.
It is very difficult as a leader to compartmentalise and reframe on a daily basis. Yet, to be able to achieve success, it requires a certain level of emotional energy. It requires a certain level of capacity to handle our thoughts. It has been a cliché that mindset is the root of our actions. How then do we take our thoughts and utilise them in ways to make us more decisive and more action-oriented in our lives, businesses and create productive teams?
Our mindset is a part of us that starts taking shape from the moment we begin to take in and assimilate information. Growing up, our mindsets have been shaped by experiences, molded beliefs we hold closely and influenced our choices, behaviour and decisions. Our mindset is truly the root of what we are.
We are what we think. As people, we are only limited by the things we tell ourselves we cannot do. People’s mindsets can influence the way they evaluate options and make choices. There have been quite a number of research methodologies on this topic and we will look at a few. Some research has shown that, our temperaments and personalities are also somewhat influenced by our mindsets. Author and Harvard Business School Professor Emeritus Chris Argyris categorises two main mindsets: productive and defensive.
A productive mindset is one that seeks to make informed decisions using available data. The productive mindset has been shown to be the most effective in managing ourselves and others. The other type of mindset the professor speaks of is one where an individual feels the need to protect their identity and views other people’s opinions and suggestions as threats.
The concept of decision making seeps into building our character and lifestyle. The decisions a leader makes reflect in the kind of deals he makes on behalf of the company, the sorts of budgets he approves and his cordial relationship with his colleagues and subordinates.
An article by J. Schrier gives a few evident examples as follows: a driver or dominant personality will make decisions based on what gets done, an expressive personality makes decisions based on how much fun something will be, a steady or amiable personality makes decisions based on how people will be affected while getting things done and a detail-oriented person makes decisions based on producing quality work, even if it means people have to wait.
Since our mindsets are influenced by our environments and experiences, can we change it? As humans, we have the ability to reassess our thinking and push ourselves to start thinking in a different direction. The latest scientific research demonstrates that all of us have the ability to change our brains to an incredible degree and that includes its physical make – up, how well it functions and even how our emotions and personalities operate. It is a process that requires a lot of will and mental effort, but not impossible. As leaders and decision makers in our corporate and business spaces, it is common to be sometimes overwhelmed with information and it is necessary that we take a breather every time before we make any strategic decisions. When we understand the factors that influence our mindset, we will be better equipped to handle uncertain times and the rapid changes in our spaces.
The importance of self-awareness in the shaping of our mindset is noteworthy.
- Do you know who you are?
- What are your short term and long term goals?
- What is the overarching vision for your life?
- What are you good at and what are the weaknesses you need to develop as an individual?
The trend is as simple as this: your beliefs shape the way you think and the way you think influences your actions and practises. As a man thinketh, so is he! Carol Dweck, in her extraordinary book Mindset, also elaborates on two categories when it comes to mindset: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.
Leaders with a fixed mindset are unwilling to see things differently if things do not go their way. They believe there is a single path to getting things done and all things must take that route. They find it challenging to evolve or change as situations also change. We see that such leaders are happy when they can control things around them.
Based on what we have discussed so far, what kind of mindset have you been working with as a leader so far? Are you in a frame of mind that is ever ready to help others develop? How comfortable are you with constructive criticism and implementing better alternatives? A growth mindset is one that is willing to learn and create such an environment.
It is one that seeks to invent, develop and challenge the status quo. A growth mindset is able to overcome the phase of making rash decisions which are usually reactions to circumstances. It responds to situations by carefully evaluating the problem and laying out the options to carve a map that is tailor-made for the situation at hand.
“We are all under pressure to ‘make up our minds’ and take action. However, the pressure for quick action hinders our ability to consider brilliant answers because we revert to basic ‘fight or flight’ impulses. To discover brilliant decisions and plans, we must have a system, framework, or template to ensure that we fully grasp the situation before taking decisive action.” – Mary Lippitt.
Here are four core processes that also make up a framework to help us filter and navigate the journey from distractions to productive action.
Whenever we hear the word ‘decision’ it already communicates a level of progress; a step in a certain direction whether right or wrong. The highest performing leaders in this world think futuristically and already ‘see’ their future in their current situation. With that intention they decide. This mindset applies to any other processes in our life work and business. The key is to understand that without the mindset move you will be limited and many of your actions will be questioned. So simply move your mindset to believe that you will progress the thought, goal or plan into action and stick with it. You can pivot and change but stick with each step and see it through till it is completed. After a few tries it will become your habit and then it will become second nature.
A decisive leader deflects distractions, not just in mind but in action. In coaching it has been identified that when we take action on every imagination as soon as possible we will usually see results. Once we decide to deflect a distraction we must do something contrary to that distraction. When our minds start to wander or a voice speaks, and it is contrary to our decision, we assess the motive very quickly, and then the idea, right after that we move the progress of the decision one step ahead. So if it is a commitment phone call or a document drafted, we do so. It deflects the distraction and keeps the decision moving.
After the deflection phase we need to concretise and consolidate our victory. The definition phase gives us that ability to clearly map out the key parameters we need to keep all processes moving forward while looking at the bigger picture. We will then create models that take us through the process and define the road map for the current and future. Definition brings clarity, clarity brings confirmation, and confirmation leads to consistent action.
This is the stage when we simply DO. We just take action to bring finality and outcomes. It is the simplest but most complicated stage. This is the stage where many leaders should have moved the ball from their courts, but they maintain it a bit hoping for validation. That validation should have been sought first at the decision stage or at the definition stage but by the time we are ready to deploy, all should be set.
The deployment stage gives every leader glory internally to their teams and externally to their stakeholders. The key is to execute without thinking what if? Then if it goes wrong, fail fast, fail forward, and move on to the next decision.
The key is to truly proceed actionably through each process without missing a step, be sure to acknowledge every idea and recommendation, but be the leader who keeps the pace moving into the future. A leader will always have distractions but ultimately what all stakeholders want to see is productive action.
Are you ready for TRANSFORMATION?
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Soft Skills Expert, Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert specializing in Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power – H.E.L.P.
A career spanning over two decades, she has established herself as a Certified High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author, Wellness Expert and award-winning Entrepreneur with a clientele ranging from C-Suite Executives, Senior Management, Practitioners and Sales Leaders spanning 3 continents.
She is the Soft Skills Expert and Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; a premier lifestyle business group with brand subsidiaries that include Dzigbordi Consulting Group& Allure Africa.
Dzigbordi has been featured on CNN for her entrepreneurial expertise. She is one of the most decorated female entrepreneurs in Ghana having being named “CIMG Marketing Woman of the Year” in 2009; “Top 10 most respected CEOs in Ghana, 2012; Global Heart of Leadership Award and, Women Rising “100 Most Influential Ghanaian Women”, 2017.
She can be reached on [email protected] and @dzigbordikwaku across all social media platforms.