What do entrepreneurship, parenthood, leadership and personal development have in common? This question sounds like the beginning of a lame joke, although the answer to it is much more serious and eye-opening.
They all require a specific way of thinking that is beyond the traditional common sense, the projection of the future based on past experience or the belief that what we know today is still going to be correct tomorrow.
Uncommon Mindset: The Future
Becoming an entrepreneur, leader or parent may or may not have been planned, but nevertheless, those roles will put you on a path of extreme personal development paved with pain and insights. Nobody knows when or how these trials will happen, but they are bound to happen in everyone’s life at some point. What we do know is that the more someone invests in their own growth, the more skills they develop, the better they will cope. But what are those skills exactly?
That was the question Jacob Morgan asked 140 top CEOs and 14,000 employees. His book The Future Leader synthesizes all the data into nine skills and mindsets to help leaders succeed in the next decade. As the original names are not too descriptive (i.e., Yoda, Chef) and less understandable without their definitions, I have taken the liberty to “translate” them for the sake of simplicity: growth mindset, teamwork, inclusion, global mindset, self-awareness, innovation, communication, coaching and technology.
The concept that encompasses eight out of nine of those skills, the ones that are directly linked to how well somebody understands themselves and others is called the uncommon mindset (as I’ve written about in my book, Uncommon Sense in Unusual Times): the ability to see the same situation from different perspectives in order to make better decisions and the capability of responding in the most optimal way instead of just reacting. It is a skill most people do not naturally possess; it is something most of us need to intentionally obtain through hard work and challenges we overcome. The question is if we choose to face obstacles head-on in order to grow or if we try to avoid them as life throws them our way.
Common Sense: The Mindset Of The Past
Common sense is based on the best practices of the past shared within a certain group of people. It makes life easier, more comfortable and a lot smoother when people think and behave similarly. Unfortunately, it also ignores the importance of cognitive diversity which would allow them to see a challenge or opportunity from different perspectives so they could make better decisions when they need them the most.
This is the hardest part. What happens when somebody disagrees with you? That is where the potential lies — either for success or disaster. It depends on how much we can move away from craving common sense (familiarity of the past) and move toward mastering the uncommon mindset (co-creating a better future).
People are unique, but they are predictably different. The visible layer of diversity is infinitely complex; however, there are only a few underlying values and needs that drive our behavior. The way we express those values and meet those needs is limitless, although there are limited internal levers to pull to do so, i.e., hunger signals are a universal need for eating. Nobody can see when we get hungry or how famished we are, but they can see what and how we eat. Similarly, everybody needs a certain level of significance or certainty. We cannot see that, but we can observe their behavior stemming from those needs if we know what to look for.
Implementing The Uncommon Mindset
Here are some proven and practical actions you can take today to start working toward the uncommon mindset.
• Get to know yourself. Some people want to skip this part, thinking they know themselves. However, research shows that 95% of our actions are driven by values and beliefs we are not even aware of, and we are just running on autopilot, especially after the age of 35. There are plenty of free psychometric assessments and videos online to get started.
• Get to know others. This is going to be even more tiring as our brain is designed to keep us in a familiar environment where we do not have to work hard in order to understand others. It is called homophilic diversity, which means that we are wired to hang out with people who agree with us (have common sense). So even if we are individually smart, we can be collectively blind due to our huge blind spot. Have conversations with others who disagree with you with the intention of learning from them instead of wanting to be right. It is easier said than done.
• Find even better ways. Best practices might have been the best but there might be even better ways of doing something. Be more committed to the desired outcome than the process and you might realise that working with people who think and behave differently can the source of your success rather than frustration.
Declining companies tend to focus on technology more than people skills as it seems to be more tangible and visible. Successful organizations realize that people skills are not optional; there is nothing soft about them. People skills are business skills.
The article was originally published on Forbes.com and it was written by Csaba Toth.
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