For decades, organizations have focused on nurturing values. The success of these efforts has been at best, mixed. The truth is, for many organizations, nurturing values is a never-ending struggle with no real hope for success. Why is this so? Why do many organizations struggle to nurture values?
We can attribute this failure to a deeper issue, MINDSET.
In striving to nurture values, the emphasis has always been on the right values, the right behaviors that demonstrate the values, and the demonstration of them with authenticity. Rightly so! However, what most organizations have paid little attention to, is the reason why people find it difficult to live the prescribed values. The link between values and mindset was seldom made or even more critically, never addressed; most frameworks have always placed values and beliefs at the bottom to represent the deepest influence on a person.
In a decades-long study about a problem called self-deception, what has become clear is that, deeper than our beliefs and values, is our mindset.
By mindset, we refer to how we SEE – how we see people, problems, challenges, circumstances, opportunities and so on. And basically we operate from two mindsets. In one mindset, we see others as they are – as people, who have needs comparable to ours and they matter to us just like we matter. The Arbinger Institute calls this an outward mindset. In the other mindset, we see others as objects – others only matter in terms of the value they give us. When we see others as objects, they don’t matter like we matter. It is all about us. The Arbinger Institute calls this an inward mindset. In an inward mindset, when we see others as objects – we see them as vehicles we can use, obstacles we can blame or irrelevancies to ignore.
If values and beliefs drive our behaviors, then, our mindset has a huge influence on how we perceive, interpret, experience and manifest our values and beliefs. Let us look at two values that a lot of us hold dearly: Respect and Teamwork. How would we demonstrate these values if others are people to us? And how would we demonstrate these values if others are objects to us?
Would it be the same? Clearly no!
Values are not simply a set of behaviors, they are deeply indicative of our mindset.
Consider this: When interacting with others, can I hide my true intentions/motives? Unlikely. People are somehow able to figure out our true intentions/motives no matter what right behaviors I demonstrate! So, values are not simply a set of behaviors, they are deeply indicative of our mindset. If values are deeply indicative of our mindset, should leaders and organizations not pay more attention to mindset instead?
As a consultant, working with client organizations, helping reframe how to nurture values has been invigorating.
The common question we are asked is: “What can we do to strengthen the living of values in our organization?”
Our response is: by not focusing on values but on mindset. This response usually surprises them and challenges conventional wisdom!
Consider the following values that are quite universal and adopted by many organizations: Respect, Teamwork, Collaboration, Integrity, to name a few. Is it reasonable to assume that most people understand what they mean and what therefore is expected of them? Likely yes!
Is it also reasonable to assume that many people struggle with living those values? Likely, yes again.
So, if most people understand the values and what is expected of them, but are struggling to live and demonstrate them, the problem may not be that they don’t understand or know what behaviors to demonstrate in support of the values. Our inability to demonstrate what we know needs to be done, can be attributed to a problem in mindset.
And mindset problems cannot be solved by behavioral solutions.
Mindset problems require mindset solutions.
With an inward mindset, when others are objects to us, no training or behavioral strategy can bring out the values in the spirit they were intended. At best we can fake it. With an outward mindset, when others are people to us, our authenticity comes through. People on the receiving end seem forgiving, even when our behaviors are rough and unpolished. They see through the roughness and connect with the authenticity and earnestness of the outward mindset nature of the person. By helping leaders and organizations nurture and strengthen their individual and collective mindsets, we notice individuals, leaders and teams are naturally demonstrating behaviors that support the values they hold dear. Hence, to live our companies core values effectively, our key strategy must be to develop and implement an outward mindset.
To learn more about mindset and its impact on our efforts to nurture values, you may wish to read Arbinger’s bestsellers, Leadership and Self-Deception, The Outward Mindset and The Anatomy of Peace or contact an Arbinger office and attend an outward mindset training course near you.
By Senthiyl S S G, Director (Consulting), (Arbinger Institute (Singapore/Malaysia). Senthiyl has been supporting leaders and organizations with mindset change for more than 15 years in nearly 20 countries.