Four Mindsets of Developing Your Team

Four Mindsets of Developing Your Team
By Shannon Lee (she/her), Executive Director

  1. Positional Power vs Social Influence

I don’t know if I’m starting with this one because it’s so important or because when it is absent, it bugs me so much! Nonetheless…

Leaders who use positional power might sound like this: “Because I said so”, “Don’t question me”, or “I know best”. And even if you’ve not heard leaders say these things, chances are, you’ve seen these stances in their behavior.

Leaders who rely on positional power may unknowingly create a negative impact that appears as a lack of humility and confidence at the same time. Even if not intentional, this type of leader shows a lack of confidence by relying solely on their position to get things done.  Like all of us, they may be unsure of their abilities, however, they have not learned a more effective means of dealing with that internal environment. The end result? They might reject others’ ideas in favor of their own but not because their ideas are well-vetted or quality but because they have a belief that their ideas are inherently better due to their position.

Leaders who rely on social influence are not threatened by others’ ideas or input. They see this input as a sign of trust – something that is hard to come by these days. They understand their limitations, meaning, they know they have only one lived experience – their own. And because they have a singular lived experience, they understand the value of different experiences. They know the entire organization rises when the best idea is implemented, which a lot of the time, may not be their own.

A key issue with positional power leaders is that they view the world as “power-over”. According to Marshall Goldsmith who wrote What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, this is called “Winning too much: The need to win at all costs and in all situations – when it matters, when it doesn’t, and when it’s totally beside the point.” These leaders have an ‘ends justify the means’ mentality, leaving out the human cost from their equation. Often, they put pressure on themselves to always have the answers.

Social influence leaders see problems as something we can solve together. Envision two people sitting next to each other and the problem they are trying to solve is ‘out there’. The problem is not the person, but rather a specific circumstance and they together are going to work to fix it. These types of leaders create more leaders. Positional power leaders create more work for everyone. Why? Because so many of their decisions are ill-informed and everyone else is left to pick up the pieces.

  1. Principles vs Personalities

When making decisions, we must ensure our actions and responses are influenced as little as possible by the personalities involved and more influenced by our principles and values. This is easy to do when we feel neutral emotionally, but more challenging when there is tension and disagreement. And yet, it is in those difficult times our commitment to our principles of leadership is the most important. So, when you feel reactive to someone’s personality or the way they have shown up to an interaction, ask yourself, “Who and how do I want to be right now?” and then act accordingly. Even if the other person is being completely unreasonable, you can still choose to lead with your values and principles because it’s who you want to be.

  1. Conclusions vs Facts

The Conscious Leadership Group maintains that almost all workplace drama comes not from the facts of a situation but rather, from the conclusions we make about those facts.

Fact: The sales team didn’t meet their goal.
Conclusion: The sales team is unproductive and lazy.

If you deal with the facts, you are more equipped to make sound decisions that have the least chance of doing harm to others. Additionally, you are already in solution-finding mode. You create movement. Focusing on your conclusions has you in drama mode. Instead of dealing with the issue at hand, you are dealing with your own conclusions about the issue at hand. It’s a time waster. So, while your brain main jump to a conclusion right away, you don’t have to accept that conclusion as fact. You can remain curious and find out more facts to help you make choices aligned with your principles. Please note: it is vitally important t process your conclusions and the emotions that arise as a result… notably before you respond.

  1. Formative vs Punitive

In my early years in leadership, I really thought the only way to deal with a lack of performance or unmet expectations was to punish people. The punishment took the form of things like:

  • Performance improvement plans (often coded for ‘You’re in trouble’)
  • Loss of privileges
  • Passive-aggressive treatment
  • Reduced access to advancement and/or training
  • Fewer opportunities for new work challenges

None of these approaches worked; at least, not long-term. And what’s more important is, most of them do not honor the dignity of others.

As an educator, I was trained to understand that children respond remarkably well to formative actions versus punitive reactions. Once I stepped into leadership at the young age of twenty-eight, I think I lost sight of that truth. But once I realized adults in the workplace are still growing and developing their skills, a lightbulb moment occurred.

If the above list falls into the punitive category, what are some formative responses leaders can adopt if they are focused on development versus punishment?

  • Developmentally appropriate goal setting
  • Frequent, high-quality, proactive conversations on progress
  • Specificity in expectations with examples, templates, and resources
  • The understanding that growth isn’t linear, and everyone will mess up and need re-coaching around certain tasks and responsibilities

In many ways, it is the leader’s primary responsibility to create a safe environment for learning and growing. If your folks are afraid to mess up because of punitive reactions, growth cannot take place and you will continue to be frustrated with their performance. In fact, some research supports the idea that fear is the least effective motivator. What’s the most effective? Love.

I know love as a motivator might seem strange but hang in there with me.

According to an article by Natasha Bonnevalle on, to love is human, and “we don’t leave our humanness at home.” All of who we are walks into the workplace and that love can be nurtured or harmed just the same as it can at home. Natasha says these three things can help us bring more love into our leadership:

  • Make a genuine effort to understand each other
  • Accept that we are all flawed (including you!)
  • Have courageous conversations

At the end of her article, she links one of my favorite thought pieces on love in leadership: Research shows that people who work in a culture where they feel free to express affection, tenderness, care, and compassion for one another were more satisfied with their jobs, committed to the organization, and accountable for their performance.

I’ll take that kind of environment at work all day long!