Start With Seeing

An outward mindset begins with making more of an effort to see and understand others—their objectives, their needs, their challenges, and their circumstances.

I invite you to think of two people with whom you work-one who tends to make things harder for others and another who makes everything easier. If you are like most people, you yourself are both of these people: You make things easier in some situations or for some people, and harder for others. The question is: Why? Why are we sometimes the very kind of person we don’t want others to be?

Inward vs. Outward Focus

People who make things more difficult for others do so because they are inwardly minded—that is, they are self-focused in the way they see and execute their work. Being self-focused, they create trouble for others without realizing they are doing so. They may hold themselves accountable for hitting their own targets, but they are blind to how they make it more difficult for others to hit theirs. They lack others-awareness and as a result lack self-awareness.

By contrast, people who make things easier do so because they are outwardly minded. They see and execute their work in ways that take others into account. They hold themselves accountable not only for achieving their own goals and objectives but also for doing so in ways that make it easier for their colleagues to achieve theirs. As a result, they multiply effectiveness across their organizations.

Companies filled with outwardly minded people outperform companies filled with inwardly minded people. The trouble is that people whose mindsets are inward are typically blind to their inwardness.

One of the ways this blindness shows up is in the difference between how people rate their own mindsets compared to how they rate the prevailing mindsets of their organizations. Arbinger’s data, collected from thousands of individuals rating themselves and their organizations on an inward-to-outward continuum, shows that, on average, people across organizations rate themselves as being 50 percent more outward than their organizations. This massive difference is due to the problem of self-deception. To turn organizational cultures more outward, organizations need to adopttools that increase self-awareness.

However, the self-awareness that needs to be raised is not primarily an awareness about ourselves but rather an awareness of the extent to which we are unaware of others. Becoming more aware of others and their objectives, needs, and concerns is the first step to turning individual and collective mindsets outward.

The Story of Chip

Consider the experience of Charles “Chip” Huth, a major in the Kansas City, MO, Police Department (KCPD). For more than a decade, Chip led two of the S.W.A.T. squads in the department—squads that did the most violent work in the community. Chip and his teams served high-risk arrest warrants on dangerous and violent suspects. They busted in a lot of doors, damaged a lot of personal property, and shot a lot of dogs. On average, community members filed three lawsuits per month against KCPD in response to the work of Chip and his teams.

His effect on others was such that a few months ago, when Chip arrived to give a speech to a large military audience, a woman in the front row immediately stood up and left the room. A decade earlier, she had been a dispatcher with the KCPD, and the mere sight of Chip sickened her.

But today, Chip is an entirely different person and leader than he was before— a reality that this woman came to realize when Chip sought her out to apologize. He then asked her to join him on stage to tell the audience about what a problem he had been for her and for others!

A little over 10 years ago, Chip began implementing outward mindset approaches in both his leadership practices and in the approach his teams took with suspects and community members. Because of this effort to lead and work with an outward mindset, zero complaints have been filed against the KCPD S.W.A.T squads over the last decade. And over that same period, they have recovered more than twice the volume of illegal guns and drugs as they did over the prior decade.

Outward begins with making more of an effort to see and understand others—their objectives, their needs, their challenges, their circumstances. Start with seeing, and see what happens.

Jim Ferrell is a managing partner of the Arbinger Institute and a bestselling author, speaker, and thought leader on mindset and organizational change. Join his session, “Future-Proofing Your Organization Through an Outward Mindset,” at the Training 2018 Conference & Expo in February 2018 in Atlanta.

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