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April Spotlight: Develop a Leader's Mindset

Thursday, April 09, 2020 3:45 PM | Angela Dawson (Administrator)

By Todd Davis

Todd Davis is FranklinCovey’s Chief People Officer and the author and co-author, respectively, of The Wall Street Journal bestsellers Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work and Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team

Develop a Leaders Mindset

Do you want to be a great leader, or do you want your team led by a great leader? Is there a difference? If my goal is to be a great leader, I’m probably going to do a lot of good and valuable things. But, if my goal is making sure my team is led by a great leader, then my energy and focus is entirely on the team! “What does Matt need to reach his full potential?” “How can I help Madison really knock it out of the park with the project she’s working on?”

Developing a leader’s mindset is foundational to providing great leadership, and makes all the difference in how you approach everything in your leadership role.

What we see and how we think, our mindset, determines everything we do. And of course, what we do drives the results we get. But it all begins with our mindset.

For example, if I’m a micro-manager, what is the mindset I have about my team? (they’re incompetent, incapable, maybe idiots!) So, if I see my team as incompetent, what kinds of things do I do? (triple-check everything they’ve touched, continually hover over them and criticize their work). And if that’s what I do, what kind of results does this team get? (poor, mediocre at best). And THEN what do I say to myself as the micro-manager? “See…. they ARE incompetent!” “Can you imagine how bad our results would have been had I NOT micromanaged them?” “I’ve got to micromanage them even more to try and improve our results.” And it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy all driven by my mindset of my team being incompetent.

A leader’s mindset influences everything the leader does. Let me share a few other examples showing the importance of developing a leader’s mindset.

Many managers I’ve worked with see holding 1-on-1’s as a time to check up on the progress a team member is making relating to their areas of responsibility. Seems logical and even helpful. However, highly effective leaders, great leaders have a different mindset. They understand that regular 1 on 1’s are the optimal time to really connect with their team members, finding out what’s working for them and what’s not working for them, making the meeting all about them, the employees. When done right, great leaders use this time to significantly raise the employees’ level of engagement and therefore improve their results.

Another example is when a leader sees giving feedback only to help fix a team member’s problem or area of poor performance. Again, sounds well intended and even logical, just not very effective. Conversely, those leaders who have a different mindset about feedback, who see giving and seeking feedback as an opportunity to elevate the performance of the entire team, lead teams who are in a state of continuous improvement and who therefore deliver great results for the organization. And notice I said seeking feedback as well as giving it. Great leaders understand that they too are always learning. They ask their team members on a regular basis to share sincere, candid feedback on what they, the leader, can do to improve. Modeling this type of humility is a core competency of great leaders.

One final example – Setting up your team to get results. An “efficient” leader’s mindset is to tell their team members what to do and how to do it. Clear, concise, and quick. And they may get some “good” results in the short-term. But not for the long-term and certainly not the best results they could achieve.  Alternatively, the highly effective leader focuses on the why, the what, and the how when setting up their team to get results. They understand the importance of clearly communicating to their team members about why the organization is doing what it’s doing, and what it is that their specific team needs to do in conjunction with that why. When team members understand how the work they do ties to the goals of the larger organization, they are much more engaged and passionate about their work. Once the leader has helped their team truly understand the why and the what, great leaders involve their team members in the how. Instead of telling team members how the work should be done, they solicit those ideas from the team. Their mindset is that their team members are a group of talented and skilled individuals who are capable of doing great work. They understand that the more involved the team is with deciding on the how, the more excited and engaged they will be.

Developing a leader’s mindset doesn’t happen overnight. It is an ongoing process. Even those who have been in leadership roles for many years need to continually be reminding themselves of the difference between wanting to be a great leader and wanting to make sure their team is led by a great leader.

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