Key Point: Let’s say you are on a flight and two flight attendants are serving you. One is full of amenity and joy, while the other is grumpy and treats you like you’re an imposition. Why? It’s essentially the same environment for both flight attendants. Or lets say you’re coaching two leaders. Using the same process with each, one excels and the other gives up. Why? Not surprisingly, the key difference is in the distinct approach of the individuals. There are two distinguishing characteristics that revolve around 1. Their mindsets, and 2. The questions they ask themselves to drive self-development.
1. Mindset is the discovery of world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck based on decades of research on achievement and success. It’s a simple idea that makes a huge difference. I have written about the importance of having a growth mindset before.
In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success, without effort. Dweck points out they’re wrong. A lot of Olympic athletes would confirm this assertion.
In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. Brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.
2. The questions you ask yourself are more powerful and influential in driving self-development when they are active versus passive. As an example, “did you do your best to be happy today?” is an active question. “Are you happy today?” is a passive question. When we ask ourselves and answer active questions, we are more likely to learn and self develop. When we ask passive questions we can get seduced into relying on the environment to improve as a condition for us improving. (I referred to this in a past blog about my experience having a drink with super management guru Marshall Goldsmith). He’s continuing to do important research to further assess the validity of this premise.
- Honestly examine how much you have a growth mindset. Go to MindSet to test it. Work to nourish that growth mindset.
- Ask yourself the following core questions everyday. Did I do my best to be happy today? Did I do my best to live my life with meaning today? Did I do my best to improve relationships today?
- Add some additional “did I do my best?” questions that are personally most meaningful to you.
- Take action based on the answers to your questions and stay true to asking and following up on the answers everyday.
An active growth mindset in The Triangle,
Guy Kawasaki’s book Enchantment is brilliant and yes… enchanting… for its practical yet insightful content. In his chapter on trustworthiness he discusses Bakers and Eaters. He describes eaters as people who want a bigger slice of an existing pie, while bakers want to make a bigger pie. With eaters it is always a win or lose game; somebody is going to get more of the pie. Bakers believe everyone can win with a bigger pie. They enjoy the benefits of the bigger slice and don’t get hung up on the perfect split.
This completely connects with my experience and I do everything I can to stay away from the eaters. You can recognize them because they try and conceal intent, think they can “outsmart the other party” with clever or cute negotiating techniques, and mostly think they’re of superior intelligence. Their effort is always to take more than the “other side.” Bakers try to really understand what everyone one wants and tries extra hard to expand the size of what might be available. This is the essence of comparing abundant versus scarcity people. Bakers are fun and trustworthy because they declare what they want to achieve and actively work with others to do the same. The mind set and focus is on growing and sharing versus protecting and taking.
This does not imply we shouldn’t be shrewd and good negotiators but “shrewd” does not equate to “screwed,” ourselves OR others. Stay away from anyone who brags about “putting one over on someone”…you’ll likely be on that list one day too.
Character Move: How much are you and I eaters versus bakers? Are we surrounded more by bakers or eaters? What action can we take to surround ourselves with bakers?
Bake in the Triangle,
I have borrowed a saying and it goes like this…
“Often when you ask someone who lives in a grass hut to build a mansion; they build a great BIG grass hut.”
In the world we live and compete in we can’t afford to build great big grass huts. At a personal and organization level, we need to open ourselves up to what is possible. This means having the courage and awareness to raise the game by challenging all of our assumptions about creating value. If we allow ourselves to be stagnant or closed to this dynamic environment we will likely be left behind; it’s only a matter of time. This can feel threatening or invigorating. That is a matter of mind set.
What’s your mind set? Are you stuck in a grass hut or are you looking to build beyond the metaphorical limitations of grass and mud.
Character Move: I talked to a leader of a system design company and he introduced me to the concept of responsive design. My challenge to all of us is to learn about the concept of responsive design and think about it’s relevance to us as leaders and individual contributors. It will help us peer out of that grass hut.
Live in the Triangle (not the grass hut),
In previous blogs, I’ve written about the importance of having the right mind set as a foundation to practicing the three elements of the Character Triangle. In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford Professor Carol Dweck outlines two distinct mindsets people tend to have about their basic personal qualities:
- Fixed Mindset: People believe that one’s talent, skills, and capabilities are mostly fixed and finite.
- Growth Mindset: People believe qualities are a starting point and learning, effort, and persistence will expand skills, talent, and capabilities.
In a recent HBR blog, John Hagel III and John Seely Browne refer to this in describing the mindset paradox: the greatest threat to success is avoiding failure! People with a fixed mindset tend to be protective by avoiding or rationalizing failures. Those with a growth mind set, focus on learning and development. They actively pursue activities that will likely result in both failures and learning.
If we want to excel and succeed at work and apply the Character Triangle as a personal value guide, we have to have a growth mindset. Then of course we have to relentlessly practice with purpose and serious intent.
What is your mindset? …really? What are you waiting for then?
Live the Character Triangle,
I know some people who have been unhappy in every job they’ve ever had. Even when they change jobs or organizations, things are “great” from the beginning but before too long, the bloom is off the rose. Most of us have changed jobs and there are many solid reasons to do so, but the belief that we will be happier in one versus another may be the wrong reason to change.
If we look for them and dwell on those things, we can find shortcomings in every job. And if someone analyzed and compared jobs objectively, definitely some situations are better than others. But the one constant in every job you and I have is our “mind set” (read another one of my blogs on Mind Set). We have to be happy in our jobs on purpose. I really believe we need to be self accountable in bringing a happy and satisfied approach to work. It is almost always our perspective, attitude, and choice. The ‘job” doesn’t do it for us. This doesn’t mean things can’t be improved; in most cases they can be. But we have so much daily control over our job happiness. I’m reminded of the story where two bricklayers who worked at the same construction site described their jobs this way: one complained of the boredom of the routine, and the other the beauty of building a cathedral. One has to go to work, the other gets to go to work.
So you and I can start a new job right now. What parts of the job could we change our perspective on? What could we do differently to have a more effective working relationship with people whom we struggle with? What would we do differently if we were starting our jobs for the first time tomorrow? The Character Triangle puts us in control. We decide. We determine happiness in our jobs.
Live the Triangle,