I have mentioned Carol Dweck’s concept of a “growth mindset” versus a “fixed mindset” which she offers in her book Mindset. An individual with a fixed mindset is stuck in a rut, unwilling or unable to grow and see anything new or different. Rigid, fixed thinking can get you killed on a SEAL op, and will get you metaphorically killed in a leadership role.
A team can have a fixed mindset too. A fixed mindset team is unable to take and hold the perspective of another individual or team as valid. Therefore, they can’t make a new, more informed perspective. This deficiency causes them to get stuck in a fixed view of the world and their role in it. What follows is a narrow world perspective characterized by dogmatism and inflexible beliefs. That prevents the team’s energy from flowing, and the entire team gets stuck in a lower state of performance. Rigid, fixed thinking–exemplified by excuses, finger pointing, and negativity slows the team down and destroys team spirit.
A growth mindset is what you must model as a leader, and what you must set the conditions for the team to develop. Learning, growing and challenging each other to achieve the mission and maintain an agreed upon standard of excellence maintains team flow day in and day out. The elite team mindset is positive, energized and bound by trust and respect.
Get the Team Un-stuck
The journey up the five mountains of growth will allow you as a leader to see the plateau where your teammates’ conscious awareness has settled. As you learned in lesson two, these plateaus represent worldviews and attitudes. Growth occurs organically to a certain point, but can and will get stuck based upon an individuals propensity for growth, and their BOO. But one’s environment can “unstick” an individual… that is why the SEAL Teams were such a growth engine… they are growth-minded and the entire culture and system is geared toward unlocking massive growth in all team members. Cool… you need to set up those same conditions for your team!
An elite team is committed to constant growth—unsticking the individuals so they and the team can climb ever upward to higher plateaus. Your teammates don’t have to be at your same level of development as each other, or you as a leader. But getting the group’s buy-in to a growth-focused training plan will set you well on your way to becoming an elite team. As the team leader, it’s your responsibility to cultivate an elite team’s growth mindset that encompasses an intimate level of care and cooperation among your teammates.
A culture with this mindset of “me, we, and mission” will lead to great commitment, an ownership attitude and care for the assets of the company. You will also see spontaneous innovation as the team is energized to solve problems and evolve rather than just “work for pay.” Perhaps most lacking in modern organizations, they will have a sense of their team as a “second family.” You don’t have to be best friends with your teammates (nor your real family for that matter!), but sharing joys and suffering together creates a unique and invaluable bond that can only be known to those who experience it. Let’s revisit perspective taking for the team. This is a good exercise to do with your team to engage them in appreciating the multiplicity of perspectives that exist amongst the team. Taking the perspective of others, and combining and distilling to make an entirely new, and more powerful perspective, is a key skill elite teams employ.
Exercise: Integrated Perspective Taking and Making
Imagine that your office has become extremely dependent on its sole contracting expert. If she left, it would be nearly impossible to replace her, and your organization would be in serious trouble. You were in a meeting with senior management where they discussed their belief that she isn’t promotable, and they made it very clear this information was not to leave the room. Then one day, this contracting expert comes to you for career advice. Take the following perspectives and write two to three sentences describing each person’s view of the situation.
- the contracting expert
- a supervisor/team leader
- an employee/staff member
- senior management
- the organization
Discuss these perspectives with your teammates, then break into two teams. Each team should use 10 minutes to come up with a solution that takes into account as many of the perspectives as possible.
Step 1: Discuss how to and then coordinate all the perspectives into a response to the dilemma. What framework, method, or criteria do you want to use?
Step 2: Coordinate the perspectives following your plan from Step 1.
Step 3: Have each group present its solution in a few sentences.
- What action would you take and why?
- How does this approach take into account as many perspectives as possible?
- What principles guided your approach?