The Growth Mindset for Leaders

The Growth Mindset for Leaders

I have recently been pondering the very personal way that leaders have to continually re-invest in their own capabilities. On the one hand it is as if we have a deep well of self-belief that we must constantly tend, maintain and nurture; while on the other it is this source that we continually call upon to achieve our goals. Interestingly, it seems that calling on these reserves is, in fact, a way of replenishing them. It’s very similar to physical exercise – like training for a long distance run. We set a goal, train towards that goal, and then test our capabilities and training by competing in that run. But it is only this last stage – where the full breadth of the challenge is clear – that we are truly tested. This was reinforced to me while reading Maria Popova’s great review of Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Dweck’s book explains that our abilities and our talents account for only part of our success (in life, business and so on), and that the personal way that we use those abilities and talents also has a massive impact. She divides this into two separate mindsets – the fixed or the growth mindset. Those who have the self belief that intelligence is static may plateau early in life and not achieve all that could be possible, while those with a growth mindset experience a very different set of circumstances. This is shown in the infographic below. When I look at the growth mindset and consider the approach taken to challenges, obstacles, criticism together with...
The Perils of Linear Leadership

The Perils of Linear Leadership

Throughout my career, and undoubtedly those of many of my readers, people have asked the question of their respective organizations, “Why do we do it this way?” Most often, the truth of the matter, and the specific response is, “Well, that’s the way we’ve always done it.” But, having been engaged in various companies across my career, one thing that I have learned is that the best way to do something might not be identified by those that have done it the same way for years. Why not look towards industry best practices? Or for “out of the box” thinking and innovation? For example, if I wanted to know the best way to run a help desk, I might look to an icon in customer service such as Nordstrom’s or Ritz Carlton. Not that I am seeking a retail or a hotel perspective, but I am seeking the best way to manage customers and their expectations. But, for sure, no one does customer service better than these companies and it is their methods, processes, policies and overall mindset that can teach us things that can be applied to customer service within any context. Without understanding that great ideas can come from an outside vantage point or from someone not entrenched in the paradigms that have led to the current ways of doing things, people can easily get caught up in what I call “linear leadership”. Sadly, doing so can have grave consequences and organizations would do well by encouraging its employees to think “outside the box” and to hire those that come from different backgrounds and offer different perspectives...
Where Do You Start?

Where Do You Start?

For some time I have been fascinated by the way that different people solve problems. Over the years I have worked with both creative thinkers and with directed, logical thinkers and found that each have strengths and weaknesses. Those who tend towards more logical, methodical and analytical approaches are often considered “left brain” dominant. They excel in mathematics and statistics and work through problems in a step-by-step manner. The creative and artistic types, however, are known as “right brain” dominant. Their expertise lies in a capacity for expression. This “lateralization” of the brain was popularized by Nobel Prize winner, Roger W. Sperry. While studying epilepsy, Sperry discovered that cutting the structure that connects the two hemispheres of the brain could reduce or eliminate seizures. This division of brain hemispheres has formed the basis of dozens, or hundreds, of books, seminars and training sessions. No doubt, if you have undertaken a personality or strength profiling exercise, you have experienced some form of this thinking. While this approach is pervasive, it has however, been called into question. Recent research indicates that while aspects of brain function reside in one part of the brain, it is too simplistic to assign left/right brain domination. For example, neuroscientists now know that our capabilities are strongest when both sides of the brain work together. That is, we are more creative and more logical when the left and right hemispheres collaborate. Creative thinkers have strengths and so do logical thinkers. And like the brain itself, which seems to borrow the best and most appropriate capability from any of its regions, leaders must be able to work...
Personal Leadership Starts with You

Personal Leadership Starts with You

Whenever I meet with or talk to a successful leader, I am always reminded of the phrase “leadership starts with you.” And recently as I was browsing the All Things Workplace blog, I was reminded again. Steve Roesler says: Without a clear sense of what a successful life means to you, then everyone else can control your time, your choices, and your career. You have no firm basis on which to make decisions. One of the most important functions of the leader is to make decisions and act upon them. This means having a firm personal and professional foundation from which to function. I have explained this previously as “keeping your eyes on the prize”. But leadership success also stems from a single, personal acknowledgement: No-one will support your career the way that you do. I point this out not to be obvious, but to make an important point. Your leadership aspirations will only come to fruition if you acknowledge, own and act upon them. No one will do this for you – not a partner nor parent, not a boss nor mentor. For while these people may have a personal interest in your success, activating that personal interest is the first step that you must make on a much longer journey. There are three key steps that you can take to activate your own personal leadership: Identify a quantifiable step-up: Many people aim for the very top of an organization. While this is an admirable ambition, leadership extends far beyond a singular role. Aspiring leaders need to identify not JUST the goal (ie to be CEO) but a...
Learn to Love Office Politics

Learn to Love Office Politics

Love it or hate it – there is no way around it. Once you start working with a team you are going to experience “office politics”. And for leaders at any stage of their career, learning to deal with office politics is vital. In fact, it can determine whether you are successful in your career or not. Recently I was interviewed by Women’s Leadership Coach, Jo Miller on the subject of office politics. Over on Jo’s blog, February is “office politics month”, so there is plenty of useful information and insight and a range of viewpoints on this controversial topic. In my interview, I fielded a number of questions from Jo’s readers. Here are a couple of extracts – but be sure to read the whole article. QUESTION: Do you feel you MUST engage in office politics in order to be considered successful? Jane, WA NINA: Politics are a reality and one must not ignore them or do so at their own peril. I am not a fan of politics, but I have learned that ignoring them can have negative consequences. So, I do believe that we all must understand the nature of the politics within our respective companies and participate to the extent necessary. QUESTION: Nina, what are some of the “rules of the game” that you have encountered? Shelley, TX and Kay, CA NINA: I have encountered issues of being the only woman in the room, being younger than many of my colleagues, etc. but I have always kept my focus on delivering value and results. I believe, based on my experience, that outcomes matter the most....
Five X-Factors that Mark Out a Leader

Five X-Factors that Mark Out a Leader

When we think about leadership, we are often conceptualizing it in terms of the very top level of leadership – the CEOs, directors and other senior executives. But in my experience, leadership can be found at every level of a business – in fact, it should be. For without a culture of leadership, organizations suffer under their own weight, perform poorly and lose connection with their customers, stakeholders and employees. But what do these leaders look like? I tend to agree with the breakdown from this infographic by the Harvard Business School. They identify five “X-Factors” that mark a leader out for the C-suite – passionate curiosity, battle-hardened confidence, team smarts, simple mindset and fearlessness. Allow me to expand these from my own point of view (and I’d encourage you to reframe these from your own experiences as well): Passionate curiosity: The leader must not only show an interest, but also have the drive to follow that interest. Where will this lead you? Perhaps into conflict with your current boss – or up the corporate ladder. But many of us lose our curiosity and our passion as we grow older. This cannot be allowed to happen to you – for the challenge of the leader is to cultivate their curiosity in all circumstances and situations. Battle-hardened confidence: A leader, and particularly a CEO, must wear their experiences as a badge of honor. We must use our experiences in a way that shapes and feeds our sense of confidence, which in turn, radiates through the organization. For the aspiring leader, this means not shying away from difficulties but dealing with...