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Adopting the Mindset of Success


How, as a leader, can you lead with strength and dignity, passion and compassion? Ali Stewart, a licensed practitioner of Leading & Developing High Performance, developed by Dr Derek Biddle, explains this approach.

What do high performing leaders actually do on a day to day basis? What happens to the team when you are a skilled leader and how do you get these skills? How do you make the journey from transactional to transformational leadership?

According to Dr Biddle, a chartered occupational psychologist, you adopt the mindset, the process and set of skills that the country’s highest performing leaders use innately.

His research, carried out over a decade in a diverse range of industries across the public and private sectors, identifies two key findings about high performing leaders: they were remarkably similar and consistent in what they did and they were not ‘charismatic heroes’ but ordinary people who had found a particular way of working.

The essence of this way of working was captured, and the ‘Leading & Developing High Performance’ approach was formed. It draws on and pulls together many of the tested management theories around (McGregor, Maslow, Moss Kanter, Herzberg, Skinner, Bass, Berne, Hersey & Blanchard) and adds the essential ingredient - the underlying mindset.

The mindset of the highly effective leaders was one of high challenge and high support, used in powerful and equal combination. If you get the balance wrong, the consequences are not healthy.

Too much challenge and the situation is stressful, achievement ranges from moderate to high in an inconsistent fashion, and development of team members is random. We have all been in environments like this!

Too much support and the situation is very comfortable - people are never pushed to achieve their potential. This results in moderate achievement, development may happen but is not guaranteed.

Too little of either and you get apathy, nothing gets achieved, development is extremely low - you may as well not get out of bed in the morning! Surely no-one wants low, moderate or inconsistent development from their people, but this is what many organisations seem to put up with.

This central mindset of high challenge-high support is underpinned with strong concepts and attitudes which are important to understand. The concepts are expectations and reinforcement theory:

•Expectations theory is very simple, if you expect your team to deliver great results they will, and if you expect low levels of achievement then that is what you will get. Basically if you set your expectations too low you are condemning your team!

•Reinforcement theory is all about catching someone doing something right, instead of ranting when things go wrong. Things that don’t go as expected are useful learning experiences, but should not be what the leader focuses on. How many times have you as leader concentrated on what went wrong? And how many times have you been on the receiving end of this kind of approach?

Now for the key attitudes - positive regard and genuineness – many of us find they are not always easy to deliver!

Highly effective leaders demonstrate that they have positive regard for those around them – in other words you respect them and believe in them as people. This does not mean you are necessarily satisfied with their performance, it just means that you respect them for who they are.

Genuineness is being honest about your feelings and truthfully expressing your reactions to another’s behaviour. An example of how this can be expressed is: “When you did X, I felt Y”, which is very different from saying: “You made me feel Y”.

Those who know about transactional analysis (Eric Berne) will easily be able to see how this fits with the "I’m OK, You’re OK" quadrant – the place we all aspire to be.

Moving on to the process, this is a four step one - visioning, mobilising, developing, enabling – which the high performing leaders applied rigorously and consistently. When supported by the central mindset, the process gives leaders a clear ‘track to run on’. Leaders can relate to it at the intuitive level because very simply it makes sense. Typically we all have a preferred style and tend to get stuck at one or two stages of the process, never seeing it through from start to finish, stuck in our own comfortable way of operating.

The mindset, process and set of skills fit together like a wheel – with the mindset being the strong hub in the centre of the wheel, the four step process forms the outer rim and the skills make up the 15 spokes of the wheel. Very simply, without the strong underlying mindset forming the hub, your wheel sooner or later will collapse.

With that strong hub, the results are amazing, you and your team will surf the waves of change well, ensuring there is no performance loss. The result of high performance leadership means:
•Team all go in the same direction
•High personal and team morale, involvement and commitment
•High levels of achievement
•Team gains reputation for service
•Team can meet special demands … and
•Team can manage change effectively

High performance is 'caused to happen' by a leader rather than a mere manager, completing the four step process takes you on that path from transactional to transformational leadership.

Ali Stewart is a life and business coach. You can contact her through the website


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