Transform Your Mindset, Transform Your Results

MindsetA balancing act faced by many leaders involves transactional and transformational leadership. It’s a balancing act worthy of effort.

Many leaders have an abundance of good transactional skills. What they often need is more transformational skills—the ability to create a psychological case for action as well as a technical and business case for action.

So what’s the difference?

A transactional leader focuses on routine and regimented activities. He invests most of his energy in making sure meetings run on time, that administrative details are properly handled, and that completed tasks are noted on checklists. A transformational leader focuses primarily on initiating and “managing” change. He influences people to improve, to stretch, and to redefine what’s possible.

Transactional things involve making sure the train runs on time. Transformational things involve ensuring that the train is on the right track, that it’s headed in the right direction, and that everyone who wants to make the trip has a ticket.

All that may sound like academic gobbledygook. But in the real world of real work, it matters.

Hugh Blane has a new book that lends helpful perspective to the topic. It’s entitled 7 Principles of Transformational Leadership: Create a Mindset of Passion, Innovation, and Growth.

Rodger Dean Duncan: You write about a mindset you call JDTM—Just Doing the Minimum. What contributes to that perspective among individual workers and in a workplace culture?

Hugh Blane: The number one contributor is lack of purpose. For employees or leaders to engage in doing their very best work they must have fallen in love with a hope, dream or aspiration that, when done well, creates value for customers. When they do, they are more enthusiastic, exert more energy, and are vastly more persistent in overcoming obstacles and breaking down barriers to underperformance. These are the employees who are running to work in the morning because of the contribution they want to make.

There are also employees who are running from work at the end of the day. They run from work because they are not passionate about their work, so the demands of their job become a burden. These employees don’t have a purpose that’s compelling so they do only 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.

Duncan: What are a leader’s most productive tools in combating a JDTM mindset?

Leaders must have a leadership purpose that is noble, uplifting and that enables employee flourishing. This eradicates the JDTM mindset and converts an employee’s mindset away from accepting the minimum to encouraging the maximum.

Duncan: Many people simply feel overwhelmed in the workplace. What contributes to that and what can leaders do to help relieve the pressure without compromising productivity?

Blane: There are three contributors to feeling overwhelmed. A negative mindset, an indifferent heartset and a poor skillset. A negative mindset says “this isn’t fair,” an indifferent heartset says “I’m really not committed to my company and my work,” and a poor skillset says “I don’t know how to do this.” When all three are present the likelihood of feeling overwhelmed is guaranteed.

Leaders can relieve these feelings as well as improve productivity by clearly communicating their leadership purpose and enabling employees to find theirs. When employees have a clear purpose, they’re no longer concerned about fairness, they’re concerned with doing their best work. Their mindset then shifts to the belief that work has the potential to make the lives of other employees or customers easier or better. When employees experience such a mindset shift, they embrace continual learning and growth. This leads to both a reduced sense of being overwhelmed as well as increased skillset and productivity.

Duncan: in many work environments, everything is a priority so nothing is truly a priority. How can leaders identify and focus on the two or three priorities that provide the greatest leverage to sustainable success?

Blane: The number one priority of most leaders is accomplishing their to-do list. For many they have become “a human doing” as opposed to a “human being.” The good news about priority-setting is that increased effort isn’t the answer. The answer is a ruthless determination to take one action every day that is aligned with their purpose and their promises.

How does a leader do this? One simple exercise is to create a to-be list. This is a list of the top three to five traits, attributes or values that are non-negotiable. This list helps prioritize the type of day a leader wants and directs their energies beyond their ever-expanding list of priorities on their to-do list. Every leader has a finite amount of time and resources. It’s only by crafting the type of day a leader wants to create that they can prioritize their day and take action to create it.

Duncan: What role does praising play in effective leadership, and what are the key ingredients?

Blane: Praising is rooted in one essential leadership imperative. Praising builds the confidence employees have in themselves as well as in you as a leader worthy of being followed. Praising also encourages experimentation, risk-taking, and learning while also infusing hope and optimism into the workplace.

Praising becomes invaluable when it comes to enabling employees to flourish.

The three ingredients of effective praising are: be sincere, be timely, be specific.

Praise must be sincere. Praise that is mechanical, obligatory, and/or delivered in a rote manner is seen as artificial and contrived, and fosters a relationship gap that undermines giving full effort to performance.

Praise must be timely. The most potent form of praise is the type that’s delivered in real time. Catching employees doing something noteworthy and commenting on it immediately raises the well-being not only of the person receiving the praise, but creates a culture in which appreciation and continued growth become strategic assets.

Praise must also be specific. Generalized praise such as, “Good job!” pales in comparison to specific praise such as, “Your project management work on the Carson project was incredibly helpful. You lived out our strategic goal of improving our customer experience and let the client feel confident and at ease with your performance. They said they loved working with us. That was really good work.”

This column by Dr. Duncan was also published by Forbes where he is a regular contributor. Follow on Twitter @DoctorDuncan

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Rodger Dean Duncan

Rodger Dean Duncan is bestselling author of CHANGE-friendly LEADERSHIP and a regular contributor to Forbes and Fast Company magazines. He is widely known for his expertise in the strategic management of change, for organizations and for individuals. In 1972 he founded Duncan Worldwide to train and develop leaders. His clients have included some of the top companies in the world, as well as cabinet officers in two White House administrations.

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