Skillsoft Blog

Throw Back Thursday: Your mindset matters

We receive so
much valuable content from our customers, partners and internal subject-matter
experts. On Thursdays, we thought it would be fun to do a “throw back” and
bring back an older post that was valuable to our audience. Today’s throw back
is about how mindset impacts leadership.

skills training lesson: Hit a wall? Your mindset matters

By Shawn Hunter

I have never seen one. But I have heard they exist in the minds of some

– Thor
, innovator, adventurer, and border-smasher

I have
a friend who installed the same invisible dog fence I did, but he admitted he
didn’t bother with the training and simply installed the underground wire and
shackled his dog with the electrical buzz collar which would shock the dog
whenever he got near the line. His thinking was the dog would just learn the
boundaries himself and violà – a dog self-trained to stay in the yard. I asked
him what happened, and he described that as his young boisterous dog started to
run and play as usual he would get shocked and, since he didn’t associate the
pain with any clear boundary, he eventually sat in the middle of the yard
shaking in fear, paralyzed to move. From that point on all the dog wanted to do
was stay in the house.

There are many dimensions
to this story – not least the owner’s choice and behavior – but what I want to
address is the dog’s perspective. The dog, not understanding why the random
shocks, arrived at a state psychologists call “learned helplessness.” It’s the
point at which they (we) are capable of believing that nothing we do matters,
and regardless of our action, we’re going to be punished or bad things will
befall us. A sense of control, and a sense that our behavior matters, is one of
the most important predictors of happiness, and in turn workplace productivity,
collaboration and creativity.

In a
2002 study from the Families and Work Institute, researchers
concluded the following six criteria for creating an effective workplace:

Providing job autonomy;
• Creating learning opportunities and challenges on the job—where employees can
learn, and advance;
• Developing environments where supervisors support employees in being
successful on
the job;
• Developing environments where coworkers support each other for job success;
• Involving employees in management decision-making; and
• Creating flexible workplaces

All of
the above offer workers more, not less, control and autonomy over their team,
their task, their technique.

Carol Dweck,
author of Mindset, in a series of studies, has found that people
fall into two gross categories – those who believe their intelligence and
aptitude is fixed, and those who believe their intelligence and capabilities
are malleable and can change over time with effort. When people are in a
learning, instead of a fixed mindset, they continually keep getting better
because they try harder and constantly put themselves in positions where they
might fail. And keep getting better because, or despite of, the challenges they

In the
invisible fence example, think of the ways in which you bump up against
boundaries and how you react to them. Do you run back to the middle quaking, or
spend time probing to understand that invisible boundary and then concoct ways
to circumvent, or leap beyond it? Or maybe tunnel under? And if you are the
boundary-creator, ask yourself why? It could be a legitimate boundary – we do
it to our kids all the time for health, or safety, or learning, etc… But in my
experience, when you give trust, you get trust, and sometimes exceptional


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