How to change your leadership team’s mindset: A step-by-step guide
Andrew Rodgers, principal in Odgers Berndtson’s leadership practice, explains how start-up leadership teams can transform their mindset to overcome challenges and achieve new growth
With the right mindset, a start-up leadership team can seamlessly align thinking and beliefs and set a clear path toward a unified vision in support of the start-up’s growth goals. Changing leadership team mindsets means challenges are viewed as hurdles to overcome, not barriers preventing progress. Growth becomes a tangible and realistic goal, rather than an obscure and distant concept. And collectively, the group creates a richer and more robust vision, belief, and storyline for where they are going. They can build and maintain momentum more easily, and provide support to individual members more readily.
For start-up leadership teams the ability to create and maintain a continuous growth mindset is essential. The entrepreneurial environment and ‘go fast and break things’ culture often leads to individual leaders pulling in different directions. Combined with the growth pressures resulting from new funding, the leadership team can struggle to stay in sync, goals lose focus, and the direction of travel becomes chaotic.
But building a leadership team mindset capable of overcoming challenges and achieving goals collectively is hard. It requires commitment, belief, and time. There’s an assumption that developing a new mindset is as easy as turning on a light switch – this is wrong. It requires intentional effort. As a group, the leadership team needs to concertedly ‘rewire’ their thinking, enter into, create, establish, and maintain the right mindsets.
Start-up leadership teams can achieve this through the following eight-step process.
- Establish responsibility for the current mindset; ‘my mindset’
We can be intentional about what we choose to feed into our minds and how we choose to think about these inputs. At a leadership team level, this is about noticing and assessing the factors influencing thinking, to determine if they are helpful or not. For example, a start-up leadership team might be facing growth expectations but have limited resources, which are causing mental stress and distraction. To establish a new mindset the leadership team can begin by intentionally finding relevant growth examples similar to their own situation, to inspire new thinking.
- Review the mental images
Our minds often think in images; they picture what we think about, including images of past events and imaginations of future scenarios. We know this scientifically through thousands of studies and we know it practically, when we think about objects or scenarios e.g. if we think about a desk, we are likely to picture a desk. For the start-up leadership team under pressure to grow, the imagery can be negative, associating the task with images of long hours in the office, stressful customer calls, and challenges associated with complex problem solving.
- Tune into the internal thought narrative
Our minds also think in words. Our inner narrative often runs in parallel with the images, articulating and commenting on our thoughts e.g. when we think about a particular object or scenario, an accompanying internal dialogue will commence e.g. thinking about working at my desk conjures memories and/or imaginations and triggers an inner narrative. For the start-up leadership team with limited resources, the predominant automatic narrative might naturally revert to the negative, perhaps due to past challenging experiences.
- Review images and narrative to determine the domain thinking quality
Images and narrative combine to create an emotional domain. Like an internet domain, our ‘mind-domains’ behave in accordance with the domain inputs. Knowingly or unknowingly, we can manage the domain inputs and the related images and narrative.
The domain environment provides a current point-in-time view of our mindset. If the mindset is in accordance with how we want it to be, no action is necessary. However, if the domain is not what we want it to be, we can take action by creating and establishing new domain scenes. A domain analysis with the start-up leadership team might reveal an underlying mindset hindering performance due to focusing on the stressors, undermining their leadership impact.
- Create new scenes to realise new futures
By imagining something as we want it to be using visualisation, we can create a new finished-state scene of a particular situation or goal. By incorporating multiple disciplines e.g. writing, drawing, building, conversing, we create the new scene and engage with it as fully as possible. For the start-up leadership team, this new scene could be a crystal clear picture of a successful key milestone accomplishment.
- Engage with the newly created emotions
Having created a new scene, we engage with the emotions of the scene e.g. if we picture a highly effective and successful team (rather than mediocre), we enter into those emotions, and what it would be like – we might feel fulfilled, proud, victorious, energised, inspired, and valued. That start-up leadership team could go from feeling frustrated and lacking energy to elated, as they imagine and enter into the feeling of being a leadership team that achieves goals with limited resources.
- Believe in the new scene as a true thought
Take these emotions and create the new scene as something to be believed in, establishing it as new mindset truth. New mindset thoughts are purposeful and positive, attuned to the new scene’s emotions. This is achieved by creating new truth statements that articulate the new scene and capture their emotions as an established reality e.g. we are a highly effective leadership team capable of coming together despite resource limitations. Practiced properly and persistently over time (typically around 60 days) these new intentional mindset thoughts re-inform the automatic images, narrative and domain, to become established as a new truth.
- Deepen the new truth through storytelling
This final step builds on the new truth to accelerate and deepen the impact, enforcing the story we tell ourselves and others as we articulate the new mindset. Our minds are voice activated – they respond to words (spoken and read). As we understand our responsibility in managing our inputs (i.e. it is my mind) we positively enforce the image narrative domain by speaking our new scenes to ourselves and others. Articulation of the new scene truth over time establishes belief. Telling the story establishes and enforces the newly created scene, re-informing and recreating a new mindset. In the start-up leadership team’s case, this can mean going from an undercurrent of doubt and stress, to an authentic articulation of achieving their growth ambitions.
By learning and practicing this step-by-step approach, new mindsets can be established to create belief – an essential ingredient for success. The process is true for individual’s and teams – by embracing and practicing mindset renewal, they can unlock critical breakthroughs, overcoming challenges and achieve new growth.