Mindset: The Key for Personal and Professional SuccessMar 23, 2022
The 5 Keys to Developing a Mindset for Success:
For any of you who I've had the opportunity to have as a student in class, you know that I place at the foundation of anyone's leadership journey the ability to have the right mindset. Mindset is so important to accomplishing anything you want in life whether it be a personal goal or a professional goal. It helps to keep you focused on the actions that you need to take to be successful in any of life’s endeavors. This week, I want to talk a little bit about mindset in greater depth as I feel that it impacts not just leaders in any profession, but most especially in law enforcement.
We’ve all had a bad mindset about things whether it be a job, a personal situation, a person, or a task at hand. We have all been there for sure. Mindset evolves from one's paradigm which is defined as "how you see the world." This is discussed in depth in the Posner and Kouzes book The Leadership Challenge where they go into great detail about how one's paradigm evolves through the human development experience from childhood into adulthood. It’s a great book and should be required reading for any leader. In reality, what research has shown, is that your mindset is a product of your paradigm which is defined as the lens through which you view the world. Mindset creates thoughts which lead to action. The goal is to make sure your mindset creates thoughts that lead to constructive and NOT destructive actions. This could not be more critical for any professional, but most especially for law enforcement. Let’s take a brief look at some research that’s been done on mindset.
According to Carol Dweck, PhD and author of the groundbreaking book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, suggests that most of us have a tendency toward either a fixed or growth, and how you can determine your tendency and work toward creating a more "growth-oriented" mindset.
Dweck discovered that most of us have a tendency toward either a fixed or growth mindset and why those with a more "growth" mindset tend to be more resilient and more capable of having a mindset that leads to success over time - even in the face of temporary setbacks. Please keep in mind now that our goal in writing about this, is to bring this important issue to your attention, because awareness is a huge step in creating the conditions that allow you to become more growth-oriented in your paradigm and mindset.
Rightly or wrongly, law enforcement personnel have a “tendency” toward a fixed mindset meaning they often see things as having a glass “half-empty, or negatively. This is understandable given the role they play in our society and the people with whom they often interact. Let’s face it, cops see a lot of what’s wrong with society, and not so much what is good. Paradigms become filtered through a negative lens which in turn leads to negative thoughts and, often, negative actions. It’s been made worse in the last few years with external pressures that have created an environment for law enforcement where they feel that society views them as villains and, sadly, many do. It’s why I created the Servant Officer class as a way of helping fellow cops shift to a new paradigm of their role as a servant of the community and to help them recapture the same level of excitement and commitment to public service as they did on their first day on the job.
As a leader, we all want to make sure that our actions are proactive and constructive. By focusing on some key things, you can, starting today, make sure you are pushing yourself to a more growth-oriented mindset which will lead to greater success for you, those you lead and the organization you lead.
Some years ago, two authors, Scott Shickler & Jeff Waller teamed up to develop a curriculum for elementary students based on groundbreaking research that discovered seven (7) mindsets. Since writing the book, the two have authored countless curriculums for K-12 schools that help students identify their mindset patterns and teach them how to adjust that thinking.
So, as an adult and veteran or newly-promoted leader, how can you develop a growth mindset? Well here are 5 steps you can take:
Developing Your Growth Mindset: 5 Steps to Success
Recently, one of our students asked a good question about mindset within one of our online forums we offer with our eCourse. The question was that if a growth mindset was so desirable among leaders, why were so many law enforcement officers promoted with a fixed mindset? The responses were all good. One in particular referenced a book called Charismatic Leadership and of course Carol Dweck’s book on mindset. The dialogue showed that there are still many misconceptions and misinterpretations of the importance of mindset as you become a leader. You see, for me, mindset is one of my four pillars of being an intentional leader. In fact, it’s the first one that I discuss when introducing the topic to my Intentional Leadership students.
So can you change?
Is it hard? You bet it is. I had to teach myself through many years of practice and trial and error of what worked for me. You see, because of our biochemical makeup, we are predisposed to look for threats in our environment – it’s how we survived in prehistoric times. Because of this, it just comes natural to see the world as a series of problems to solve or threats to manage. This can lead to a very pessimistic view of the world and others.
Carol Dweck describes the fixed mindset as a creation of one’s environment during their formative years. If a child was told that they just weren’t good at a task, they were basically being given permission to give up. Over time, this creates a more fixed mindset of the glass is half empty.
Conversely, children who grew up being told to try again from a different approach, tended to see the world through more of a glass half full scenario and developed a more growth mindset that anything is possible if I tell myself I can. That said, many researchers have focused on how these patterns develop and how they can be changed. We offer a mindset self-assessment as part of our Accelerated Leader E-course that I believe starts the process for many. Just as with any 12-step program, admitting where you are is the first step.
Earlier I mentioned Shickler and Waller and their work on developing a curriculum for elementary students based on groundbreaking research that discovered seven (7) mindsets. Since writing the book, the two have authored countless curriculums for K-12 schools that help students identify their mindset patterns and teach them how to adjust that thinking. That’s fascinating stuff and I encourage everyone to read their book The 7 Mindsets to Live Your Ultimate Life, but for those of us that are in the workplace and real world, how do we begin to adjust our mindset?
Many of us may have been shaped by our childhood role models be it parents, grandparents, teachers or coaches, but we also can be influenced by the work environment in which we find ourselves. Law enforcement can definitely tend to have, by the nature of the work we do, have a more fixed mindset. Breaking free of a completely fixed mindset can be difficult, but I know from personal experience, it is not impossible. So how can someone identify and adjust their mindset to achieve greater success as a person and a leader? Well, let’s look at the steps I believe will start that process for you.
The goal in developing a growth mindset I believe comes from these key things:
- Recognize and admit where your mindset falls: are you a more fixed mindset in all things or just work-related functions? Most are a combination of the two. You will find that there are certain situations where you tend toward one or the other more than others do. That’s okay. Recognizing where your mindset is will help you assess which is best for the given situation. You see, I don’t want you to see one or the other as bad or good. Truly there are positives from each type. What you want to see is where you tend to fall and how you can adjust it for maximum effectiveness as a leader.
- Journal your leadership experiences: by describing to yourself where your mindset is at the time of the decisions you are making or the mentoring you are doing with an employee. By disciplining yourself to do this on a regular basis, you will be able to go back and see patterns in how you handled situations. As you analyze those patterns, you will begin to see what was effective and what could have gone better. Journaling your leadership is so important – it’s why we give every student of ours a journal so they are encouraged from the moment they take our class to begin that practice of journaling your leadership. I’ve done it for most of my adult life now and it’s truly remarkable to go back through those journals and see where I was at one point of my career versus another part.
- Decide what actions to take: If you are a more fixed mindset person, own it and decide how you can practice adjusting your mindset to be more growth-oriented. Start with one aspect of your leadership. Look around at other leaders both within and outside of your organization and observe how they handle that situation. What do you admire? What do you want to emulate? Take note of those characteristics and write down your goals for practicing that new approach.
- Practice what you want to change: Just as you will never achieve a toned body without doing the workouts and weights, so too will you not achieve a growth mindset if you don’t practice. Now one of the more difficult things is that old patterns of behavior do die hard. It’s tough to change. One technique that worked for me was to “reframe” the situation. This was a constant challenge that over time actually became kind of fun to do. Take any workplace situation and however you would normally react, stop and reframe it from the other person’s perspective. In doing so, you are not only making your mind think differently, but you are actually practicing empathy by literally putting yourself in another’s shoes.
- Don't give up: Just as the Fleetwood Mac song says “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow,” be deliberate and intentional in your goals to improve. I talk a lot about finding your GPS moment for leadership growth and development when I teach. Just as you don’t get in a car without know point A and point B, you can’t get to leadership point B without knowing where your leadership point A is. Find your starting point. Realize that it isn’t all bad. By acknowledging where you are, you can begin to get to where you want to be.
Practice these 5 steps and make them part of your routine as a leader or parent. You will find yourself getting better steadily and surely. Will you be perfect all the time? Heck no, but by acknowledging where you are, you are taking the first step toward getting to where you want to be.
Let me know your thoughts on mindset and leadership. What do you do to keep your mindset in the right place? How to you help others create or adjust their mindset? At LHLN, it's all about learning from each other. That's how we grow and become the best leader we can become.
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