Welcome to Leadership from the Balcony.
My name is Shawn Griesemer with my co-host Justin Dorroh. In each week we bring you a new leadership concept to inspire your growth and effectiveness as a leader in every area of your life.
Creative mindset which we are talking about today is the living after purpose, where the reactive mindset is really seeking self-preservation to mitigate threat.
If I show up creative, I might actually inspire people to be courageous, open to new possibilities, stimulate trust. And when there's trust in the environment, information sharing is much easier. If I show up reactive, they might start to feel insecure, constricted in their thinking of what's possible. And the truth is, if you live in that environment long enough, most human beings are going to be looking for the exits.
On today's episode, we're stepping into the world of mindset mastery as we explore the dynamic interplay between a creative mindset where possibilities flourish, and innovation thrives and a reactive mindset where challenges dominate and progress stalls. We want to uncover the secrets to unlocking your potential and shifting from a narrative of self-preservation to inspiration and discovery. Thanks for joining us on the balcony. We hope you enjoy peering over the railing to gain an expanded leadership perspective.
So, in talking about creative and reactive, we've talked a little bit about complexity of mind before and the VUCA environment that we live in, things are just getting more complex and reactive approaches, which we'll define here in a minute, but reactive approaches cause us to always be, I like the way that people put it, it's safety and self-preservation versus really living with purpose or after vision. One level they call the creative mindset to be that purpose and vision. You're trying to I love how some people call it creative tension. It's the thing that's out there ahead of where you are that you want to create towards. And that's that creative mindset, it s living out for purpose and vision that's beyond. The reactive mindset is generally trying to protect yourself or self-preservation, so you're constantly reacting to mitigate the threats that may come against you. I love those comparisons, the comparison of are you living after purpose or are you living after safety? And that creative mindset that we're talking about today is the living after purpose where the reactive mindset is really seeking self-preservation and mitigating you're reacting to mitigate threat. Right.
Jumping back a little bit in the conversation you were mentioning, a leader can kind of set the environment or set the stage and set the tone so to speak. And what's interesting is I think sometimes we get too black and white and hey, we're just trying to get the ball from this yard line to this yard line, whether we run it, whether we pass it, whether we get penalties, who cares as long as we move forward. I think this creative / reactive frame has a lot more invisible impact than we realize. If I show up creative, I might actually inspire people to be courageous in what they share, open to new possibilities, not afraid of what might be said if they share their thoughts and ideas. I stimulate trust and when there's trust in the environment, information sharing is much easier. Again, innovation, etc., versus if I show up reactive and I'm just trying to do whack-a-mole and get problems out of the environment, I can give away feelings that cause people to be cautious in what they say. It might feel like walking on eggshells. They might start to feel insecure, constricted in their thinking of what's possible. The truth is, if you live in that environment long enough, most human beings are going to be looking for the exits. How do I not be here anymore? It's funny. It's not always the feedback that you get that's the best feedback. Sometimes it's the feedback you don't get that is an indicator of health or not. If there's no conflict in your meetings, that could be problematic. There's not space for different points of view to emerge and people to passionately, hopefully not personally, but passionately disagree with each other that a more clear concept, idea, innovation can come to the surface. I just say all that to say, this creative reactive stuff shows up everywhere all the time. If you're listening to this and going, I don't know if I've ever seen it. I would just say it might be you haven't been made aware of it. The more you can cultivate your own self-awareness and others' awareness, team awareness, circumstantial awareness you'll start to see these mindsets surface, I would say, if not daily, at least weekly.
Yes. I heard somebody describe a reactive mindset as playing not to lose. It's risky to be in the creative mindset when you're going after something that is superseding all of the decisions being made. COVID. COVID comes along and we talked about that before, the complexity that COVID brought, and how do teams and organizations deal with it. There was a whole lot of reactive responding going on to just mitigate threats over and over again. Many people lost sight of what is the ultimate thing that we, what's the purpose, what's the vision that we're going for and staying true to that, even in the midst of all the things that were happening, because we're constantly mitigating the potential for loss. Playing not to lose, as opposed to playing to really advance. And I think that's a great marker when you're sitting in that moment and you're thinking to yourself, how am I making the decision I'm making right now? Is it to mitigate the potential of loss or is it to take the risk and say, no, here's the greater purpose that we are actually activating toward, maybe even being very risky and saying, we're still going to hold to that purpose or that vision that we're seeking to accomplish.
And it seems to me that this creative perspective or this creative lens is really deeply anchored in a long-term point of view. That's a great point. Yes. And if that's true, then I can handle quote / unquote the whitewater or the rapids because I see the mountain that this river is taking me towards, and I can navigate. But if all I see are two feet in front of me, I might be ready to get through the rapids and abandon the voyage because I've lost sight of what the whole purpose and goal is. So that purposeful visionary piece is really anchored into a long-term vision, not just short-term results. And it can be so easy to be anchored into short-term results if you're not clear and careful. Yeah.
So, let's talk about that for a second. How does somebody go from living with a reactive mindset to being able to live with a creative mindset and really be living on purpose and toward a vision and not constantly reacting? One of the things you just said that I thought was so good is, do you have purpose or vision for different areas? You talked about if I can only see two feet in front of me as opposed to long-term. And I relate... We do OD, organizational development work with companies, and we're talking about what is their vision and what is their mission. But you can even reduce that to your own personal life, whether it's you personally, your marriage, relationships you have, parenting, any number of things where if you don't have some idea of what's your vision for this area or what's the purpose for this area, even in your marriage or just in your personal life, just the things you engage in. If you're volunteering for a nonprofit, what's your purpose in doing that? And the ability to have that is a first step for being able to live after that purpose and not just be reactionary at anything that comes along.
And creating that clarity around vision and purpose at a personal level gives you, at times the willingness to persevere when it's difficult and when things aren't going according to plan. If this purpose or vision is just something you write on a piece of paper, but it's not actually in the depths of your psyche, it won't withstand the difficulties that life just brings. And so, I think in a lot of ways, how do we build alignment in organizations? It's getting everyone to get clear personally and then connecting that into the organization, which is a part of that creative capability of purposeful visionary. And that sense of going to another resource, the Fifth Discipline talks about Personal Mastery or what's that deep personal why and how does my why connect to my work? Doesn't really matter what you do, it's why you do what you do that creates a sense of meaning and meaning creates engagement.
Yes, that's really good. And we're talking about leadership here, really. There are a lot of reactive approaches when you are responding in certain ways that it only matters to you, not only matters to you, but you're the only one being affected, it's not near as big of a deal. It's when you're in a leadership position to have a mindset that is your own self-preservation, then it's going to matter to a whole lot of people. And that's where having that mindset that's more on, okay, what's the greater good in this situation? What is the purpose that we're organized around and moving toward? When you lead from that place, you can be a whole lot more effective. And here's a perfect example, things like vision and purpose and strategic focus or being decisive in a healthy way can all be very effective in leading people well. If you are not careful and you don't combine with that good relational building team dynamics really well or mentoring your people, collaborating with your people, and all you're doing is driving after decisive strategic focus without doing the people side, you are going to be experienced as being driven and autocratic, and those are going to be very reactive because the individual who's being driven is, we've got to get it done! We've got to get it done! We've got to get it done. But if you bring the people side into that, then they feel that you're really being effective in your leadership and not just being driven toward a goal. Right.
I think the other thing that's helpful is, you know, if a leader, no matter where they are, is asking the question, okay, I'm connecting with what you guys are saying. How do I even know where I'm at? And at some level, everybody needs help. Whether there's maybe in your organization, you already have like a 360 that the organization uses. We use one called the Leadership Circle Profile. It's very helpful, very thorough. The feedback, at least when I did it, was very consistent. But you need something objective to give you some data, to give you some information. And then you probably need someone outside of yourself, to help you make sense of it. Because it's too easy to have bias when I read someone's feedback and go, well, this, this, this, and this weren't captured, or they didn't know these sets of facts. And it's like, man, that's going to keep you in that cycle. And you need someone to help disrupt some of those stories that you tell yourself.
This is one of the hardest areas for most leaders to gain awareness, self-awareness, on their own. Right. To just be able to know, how am I perceived? We all have a perspective that, like we talked about in a prior podcast, the mind trap of being the hero in your story, of simple stories, or the mind trap of rightness. So, our perspectives are always skewed initially to a benefit for ourselves. So, to see yourself in a light in anything other than very visionary and very looking for the best is hard to see. Most of us have that as a blind spot. So, engaging good tools that will use data like a really robust 360, or hiring a coach, or bringing people around you who will give you honest perspective, it is really hard to gain this type of self-awareness any other way than inviting other people's perspective on how they've experienced you into your life. I remember one time when we were learning more about these types of mindsets and how to recognize them in ourselves. I went into a meeting and you, and I had already started developing a lot of our, how we do our OD work and done a lot of reading and started working with some clients. And you and I got pulled into a meeting and somebody was presenting basically how to do an organizational development and design process with the organization that we were sitting with at the time. And I sat there thinking, well, Justin and I know how to do this. Who's this that's presenting to us? And I sat there thinking to myself, I have the information, let me talk. And, you know, one of those reactionary tendencies can be, one of those reactive tendencies can be just that arrogance of I know best. And I was sitting there just thinking to myself, well, when's he going to get done talking so I can share my brilliance? And I remember having that moment right in the middle of this guy making a presentation and thinking, wait a second. I'm doing it. I'm doing it right now. I am reacting. People won't see me as valuable in this meeting if I don't have the opportunity to share my brilliance. And I sat there for a moment just in my angst of I need to be relevant or I need to bring value and thinking to myself, what's best for this organization right now? And it was not to add my own voice, but to let the voice, because everything the guy was saying was great. I had nothing to correct. He was the one with the brilliance. Being tapped on the shoulder. Yeah, exactly. And concerned like, will my value not be seen? And coming to that place in that moment internally wrestling like crazy. And it was one of those just reaching into, can I in this moment seek what's better and what's the broader purpose for this organization and not what's just better for me? And it was very, almost a visceral moment for me of feeling, wow, my tendency, that reactive tendency in me is to want to go for, how do I be seen with value? And realizing, man, that would be the least effective thing to do right now.
Here's a question. Is that a good indicator for someone to pay attention to when they're sitting in meetings and paying attention to the thoughts going through their mind around some of those mental models you just stated? I need to be seen as valuable. I have thoughts on this. I could do this. Because I just wonder, if that's a good exercise for increasing self-awareness, if learning how to pay attention to those narratives that we are swimming in, and maybe even writing them out, because there could be some work to go do on understanding why is that the story that I tell myself. And learning how to hopefully rewrite those stories. I know that's not an overly simplistic process, but that is part of the process, is learning to identify, understand where it came from, and then begin to rewrite those narratives and take some new steps of experimenting with maybe my assumptions aren't true, and I need to, not in an overly risky way, but in small steps, put to test those new narratives that I could help to come out of that reactive. I just thought that was a great example and just curious, could that be somewhat of a practice that people could begin to experiment with?
Absolutely. I think the book, Immunity to Change, by Kegan and Lahey, gives great research data behind What puts us in that reactive frame of mind is so often the messages that we grew up having to use belief systems that we built and narratives, stories we tell ourselves in different situations that when we're younger are very helpful to survive and to navigate hard situations, to navigate junior high, high school, which are helpful at those ages. The problem is, they get so ingrained in us that they stick, and they become a part of our identity. So, you're right. I'm sitting there in that moment. I'm thinking I have to be seen as valuable, therefore I have to add, why did I feel that? I was telling myself a narrative at that moment that wasn't just because of that moment. It was because years and years and years of having a belief system that was being cultivated in me to matter, to be valuable, takes voicing something that is a contribution in the moment. However, at that moment it would not have been a profitable contribution.
It might've been open mouth insert foot.
It very likely could have been. And to be honest, everybody else in the room may not have thought a thing about me adding. Of course. It was me and what was going on in me. And I didn't have anything new or additional to add. I just needed to be seen as the one who was of equal value. So, you're absolutely right. It is about identity and how you see yourself. But it's oftentimes those beliefs or narratives that have been there for years and years. So, to pause, just like you said, to be able to pause and even write it down. What am I thinking right now? Asking yourself those questions. Why do I want to make that next comment? And people who process really quickly oftentimes and those are the people that if they can slow down enough to say, what am I about to say? Why am I about to say that? What's motivating that? You ask yourself those questions in a moment of pause in a meeting. Yes, you can start to gain that self-awareness. Yes.
No, that's really good. That's really good.
And then you have the opportunity to rewrite the narrative.
Once you, if you don't know what the narrative is, it's almost impossible to...
That's exactly right. Which is why it's so difficult about self-awareness, right? If I don't expose my perspective to someone or even to myself on a piece of paper, depending on your age and how much responsibility you have in life, those fleeting thoughts that really could be the seeds of change, are gone in two minutes because you're onto the next thing that demands your attention. So, there really is a level of self-discipline to exercise here to really pay attention and at least have some kind of simple system to capture some of those thoughts that maybe later you can go back and reflect upon. That's right. Yes.
So, we want to encourage people as a leadership experiment for you this week, debrief a recent meeting you've had with a friend or just in your own head a time of reflection. It may have been an actual meeting, a decision-making time, and ask yourself what was going through your mind, the things you were adding, and it may even be in the moment. Do a practice of before you speak in a meeting, ask yourself, why do I feel I need to share this and assess, am I doing it for something about you being better or not being threatened or whatever else? Or is it going for, man, here's the greater good in this situation that we're seeking to propagate as opposed to something that propagates just benefit for me. So do that as an evaluation in a meeting or in a decision-making time. There's also the option of sitting back and asking yourself go through some different areas of your life and see, do I have vision? Do I have a really defined purpose in, again, like we talked about, in some relationship or in your parenting or in your job or somewhere that you're volunteering? Because if you don't know what you're doing and why you're doing it, it's very hard to make decisions that go toward purpose and vision. And all you're left with is to constantly be reactive in your decision-making.
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