In the introduction, you share a powerful story from your childhood and your conclusion that 80% of a leader’s success is mental. You’ve seen “mindset” make or break careers and businesses. How much is hardwired and how much is learned?
Mindset is almost all learned. I learned from my parents that money and financial security are fleeting; I learned from my high school track coach that I was a fast runner, and I learned from a mentor that I was capable of living a flourishing life rather than a floundering life. What’s interesting about the question of whether mindset is hardwired or learned is that all of our experiences hardwire our beliefs, we just don’t know it.
The good news is that when leaders understand that their words, actions and values are creating a mindset with employees and customers, they can hardwire the mindset of their choosing. By doing so, they harness the power of mindset not solely for themselves but also for their customers as well as their bottom line.
“The jumping off point for greatness is a clear and compelling purpose.” –Hugh Blane
Just do the minimum “JDTM”. Why is it so prevalent?
The number one reason is a lack of purpose. In The Purpose Principle, I say purpose is a hope, dream or aspiration that has grabbed hold of you and won’t let go. When employees and leaders have a purpose for their professional lives, they are more enthused, exert more energy, and are vastly more persistent. These are the employees that are running to work in the morning because of the contribution they want to make.
There are also employees that are running from work at the end of the day. These employees don’t have a purpose that is compelling, and they do enough work to keep their jobs and not get fired. But there is no fire in the belly, and they are simply going through the motions of work.
“Priorities without purpose are a catalyst for lower performance.” –Hugh Blane
You’ve been researching personality and leadership for decades. What are some of the more surprising conclusions you’ve reached?
Surprisingly, that the same traits that drive individual and team performance and those that derail effectiveness haven’t changed in the last 50 years. While almost everything associated with the world of work now evolves very quickly as technology transforms every 18 months per Moore’s Law, humans are quite similar to Stone Age humans.
There are four key domains of personality in play: Grit: the Task Mastery Traits, EQ: the Teamwork Traits, Dominance, and Deference. Broad research identifies behaviors associated with Grit and EQ as key drivers for leadership, teamwork and communications. FortuneMagazine editor Geoff Colvin calls them “high-value skills.” Broad research also identifies behaviors associated with Dominance and Deference traits that derail leadership, teamwork, and communications. Others refer to these derailers by different names like over-aggression, difficulty managing emotions, failure to build teams, excessive caution, but they are rooted in basic dominance and deference behaviors.
Interestingly, Grit and EQ appeared latest in human evolution – called phylogeny – and also appear latest in individual development – called ontogeny. And a basic law of human development is ontogeny follows phylogeny. Neuroscience shows that for many people, the full maturation of the frontal cortex goes on into the mid-twenties … and for many people, this might be required for their full maturation and thus ability to access Grit and EQ. In contrast, Dominance and Deference behaviors are almost inborn and evident in toddlers – and in other animals. Some people develop Grit and EQ, but many do not.
One lesson for emerging professionals is to be aware of a need to think before they act to summon and leverage Grit and/or EQ – which may not be abundant naturally. One way is to suppress Dominance and/or Deference habits and behaviors if they are prominent, as they actively interfere with Grit and EQ. Grit requires planning and thinking about projects and work; EQ requires attending to and considering people and relationships.
“Personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures.” –F. Scott Fitzgerald
Share an example of a personality trait and how it impacts leadership.
Sure. Consider someone very high on Need to Control, a Dominance trait. They are domineering and bossy, opinionated and like to advocate ideas rather than listen or seek collective intelligence; they get impatient and are vulnerable to the confirmation bias; they may act before thinking it out. Not too surprisingly, Need to Control is negatively associated with leadership, teamwork and communications … Now, Skip, of course personality traits do not operate in isolation, so what also matters are the other traits in a Profile with Need to Control!
The LMAP assessment is a Circumplex model where traits are organized on a circular chart that represents how they interact with and are influenced by the presence or absence of other traits. I’ve been building systems like this since 1984 – how weird is that! Anyway, in my book and in our assessments, the focus is on overall Personality Profile – combinations of 13 personality traits – rather than one trait.
So consider High Control and:
Add high Rigidity, Hostility, Competitiveness (Dominance traits) and I can guarantee there will be problems and it will be unpleasant.
Or add in Achievement Drive and/or Conscientiousness and/or Innovation – better yet, all three Grit traits – and you get a high performer, great at cranking results but not to lead and positively motivate a team – without at least average EQ.
Finally, take away Hostility and add in even-average Helpfulness or Sociability and it looks like the Profile of a super effective Managing Editor of a major newspaper I assessed, an introvert with high Control, Conscientiousness, Achievement Drive, Innovation and about-average Helpfulness: a great editor and leader in a tough business and a journalist coach and mentor for his direct reports.
For this fellow, the prominent Dominance wasn’t a derailer because he had just enough EQ traits to temper it… And managing editors of major newspapers must have strong opinions. But take away his average EQ and mentoring style and then his dominance would go unchallenged and impair his leadership effectiveness. I like how Angela Duckworth, the University of Pennsylvania Professor and Macarthur Genius Grant winner, says in her book Grit: “As a psychologist, I can confirm that grit is far from the only—or even the most important—aspect of a person’s character . . . There are many other things a person needs to grow and flourish. Character is plural.”
My friend, author and speaker Shawn Murphy is the CEO & Founder of the leadership blog, Switch & Shift. His new book, The Optimistic Workplace, is a guide to creating and maintaining a powerful, positive, optimistic culture that creates results.
Previously, Shawn shared with us the powerful implications of positive, contagious emotions. I wanted to go deeper into the research for his new book, and so I asked Shawn to share more about the leadership insights he gained from decades of working with business leaders.
“Optimistic climates support employees’ exploration of purpose.” –Shawn Murphy
I was fascinated by the research on eyeblinks. How does the eyeblink reflex relate to purpose?
Researchers used startle probes to measure the reflexive eyeblink caused by a stimulus, in the case of this research it was an image. The images ranged from positive, to neutral, to negative.
What researchers learned was the length of the eyeblink gave insight into the person’s emotional response to the pictures. The longer the eyeblink, the more unpleasant the response to the picture.
How this connects to purpose is that the researchers, Carol Ryff and team, found that those who had a clearer sense of purpose in life recovered faster from negative images. The research gets at a person’s resiliency. Purpose in life strengthens the core of our identity. The clearer our sense of purpose, the stronger our resiliency is; we can recover faster from negative stimulus in our life.
In a work context, we can summon our purpose to guide us through difficult times at work. It can also help us make better decisions, as purpose serves as a guide in decision making: Does this opportunity support my purpose?
“Resilience can be strengthened when a person has a sense of purpose.” –Shawn Murphy
To cultivate optimism in the workplace, you say, “Start small,” and, “Forget about the ‘big bang.’” Most people who have a passion for culture want to jump right in with sweeping initiatives and major change. Why start small?
In my 20+ years as an organizational change management consultant and in leading change in my own company, I’ve learned that the big bang causes more confusion, comes across as rah-rah, and alienates people from what the change purpose and message is.
“Workplace optimism is the belief that good things will come from hard work.” –Shawn Murphy
So, rather go for broke, start small. Create a pocket of excellence. The change starts in a small group within the organization. The group is typically a supporter of the change. Let the small group experience success and gradually widen it to other pockets within the company.
Word of the success travels through networks of people. This approach organically builds support through achieved success and not through possible success. It’s the latter that is the focus of big bang change efforts. It’s what disillusions people about change efforts.
Research: You can transform the work experience by focusing on the best positive realities.
This is a guest post by my friend, author and speaker, Shawn Murphy. Shawn is the CEO & Founder of the leadership blog, Switch & Shift. I’m excited that his book, The Optimistic Workplace is now available.
As a leader, you have the greatest influence on those whom you lead. A good day for you can lift the spirits of your team. Research shows that your positive emotions are contagious. Certainly the opposite is true. Yet, there is greater significance when you spread positive, contagious emotions. That is the focus of this article.
“Your presence has a powerful influence on your team.” -Shawn Murphy
Distinguished psychology professor Barbara Fredrickson has devoted much of her research to positive, contagious emotions. She defines them as emotions such as joy, love, or inspiration. When these or other positive emotions are present, they expand our thinking and actions to complementary effects. Positive emotions drive related behaviors that inspire others to mimic them when observed. For example, if you are feeling inspired in a brainstorming meeting and you show it, it will likely rub-off on others who will model similar behaviors. Thus the emotion becomes contagious.
“Positive anything is better than negative nothing.” –Elbert Hubbard
Positive, contagious emotions benefit your team and help drive towards desired organizational outcomes. These emotions help shape the work climate to be optimistic. Individuals thrive because of these two influences on performance.
Simply put, positive emotions make you feel good. And when you feel good you perform at higher levels. It’s easier for you to reach peak performance. When you regularly experience positive emotions, you continually grow toward optimal functioning. A team influenced by positive, contagious emotions performs at higher levels.
When you feel good about yourself and your contributions, you are more likely to experience higher levels of creativity and resiliency. What Fredrickson has learned from her research is that positive emotions have an encouraging influence on a person’s identity and well-being.
Relationships are stronger and healthier where positive, contagious emotions are prevalent. Employees are seen as key partners in the success of the team and ultimately in the organization. Employees want to know that they are valued and not just some number built into the company’s balance sheet.
“A team influenced by positive, contagious emotions performs at higher levels.” -Shawn Murphy
As a leader, you personally benefit by demonstrating actions that evoke positive emotions. The implications listed below have significant influence on your own satisfaction as a leader. The implications also help shape the climate so that workplace optimism can emerge.