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Mindset and the Basics of Arbinger’s Work

06 Sep 2017 2:28 PM | Randy Pospisil (Administrator)

By the Arbinger Institute

*ATD Hawkeye Chapter is excited to offer Arbinger’s Developing and Implementing an Outward Mindset training as part of our Fall Conference. To set some context for this event, Arbinger has written this blog post about their research, approach, and client results.*

Why Does Mindset Matter?

Leadership and organizational development experts have struggled to explain why 70% of organizational change efforts fail. One of the critical reasons is that change efforts usually focus on behavior, rather than what drives behavior: mindset.

Put simply, mindset is how we see. It is the lens through which we see our work, our relationships, and our world. It is at the foundation of all that we do and shapes how we do it.

In the behavioral approach to organizational transformation, leaders adjust systems and processes with the aim of motivating or incentivizing employees to behave in certain ways. They might try to inspire employees to adopt desired behaviors, or enact policies that require them. In most cases, once the initiative is over—once leadership’s attention focuses elsewhere—people revert to the behaviors that reflect their unchanged mindset. Without a change in mindset, newly adopted behaviors won’t stick and results will suffer. In fact, studies show that efforts to change both mindset and behavior improve outcomes by 400% over efforts to change behavior alone.

Two Mindsets

Arbinger’s research indicates that people operate at any given time from one of two mindsets: an inward mindset or an outward mindset.

From an inward mindset, we focus only on our own personal goals and objectives, without consideration for our impact on others. With this self-focused inward mindset, we see others not as people with their own needs, challenges, and objectives, but as objects. We see them as:

  • Vehicles to achieve our own objectives and results
  • Obstacles that are in our way or causing problems
  • Irrelevancies that can be ignored

When we have an inward mindset, we are blind to what others need and therefore can unwittingly get in the way of others’ efforts. We might blame others for our own frustrations or failures. Focused only on our own objectives, we might even hamper our organization’s effectiveness or results while thinking we’re doing a good job!

By contrast, with an outward mindset we see others as people who matter like we do. We take into account their needs, challenges, and objectives. And we focus on collective results. We feel responsible to do our jobs and do them well, but also to do them in a way that supports others in doing their jobs—because we know their jobs contribute to the organization’s results just like ours do.

When we have an outward mindset—when others matter to us—we naturally want to be helpful to them. So we adjust our own efforts to make their work easier however we can. Sometimes simple adjustments on our part can make a big difference to those we impact. Rather than blaming others for our frustrations or feeling like victims of our circumstances, we begin to see new possibilities and solutions to our most vexing or long-standing problems. 

What Kind of Mindset Change is Needed for Organizational Transformation?

You guessed it—a change from an inward mindset to an outward mindset.

Because organizations are made up of individuals, organizational mindset shifts as the individuals in the organization change. Organizations can only resolve internal problems and achieve breakthrough results by maximizing the extent to which their employees work with an outward mindset, taking into account their impact on others and focusing on the needs of the organization as a whole.

Shifting to an outward mindset is the one change that most dramatically improves performance, sparks collaboration, and accelerates innovation.

What’s Possible with an Outward Mindset?

With an outward mindset, organizations are far better prepared to address their challenges and achieve superior results. An outward mindset is the foundation from which common and complex problems—including weak individual performance, lack of accountability, ineffective leadership, poor teamwork, interpersonal conflict and functional silos—can be effectively addressed and resolved. Results include lower employee turnover, seamless communication and decision-making, and greater profitability.

We encourage employees at all levels to experiment with an outward mindset. What would it look like to really see your leaders, coworkers, customers, and direct reports as people? What would it mean to account for their needs, challenges, and objectives? And how could you apply this new mindset to the problems you face today?

To learn more about mindset change and outward mindset, please visit www.arbinger.com.

To register for our upcoming event, please visit ATD Hawkeye 2017 Annual Fall Conference.


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