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  • Writer's pictureAscent Leadership Program

Distorted Vision

Our team recently participated in an Arbinger Institute workshop focused on mindset. Mindset is so important, as it drives behaviors, which in turn drives results. Mindset is the foundation to getting the results we seek. I rarely encounter disagreement with this principle. Yet, most of our efforts seem to be focused on behaviors and action strategies. When it comes to mindset, there is usually two very different ways to approach a challenge or opportunity. Consider these two approaches.

One approach is what Arbinger calls an "inward" mindset. An inward mindset is focused on my results and others really don't matter like I matter or count like I count. When I'm inward, others are objects to me. I see them as 1) a vehicle that I use; 2) an obstacle that I blame; or 3) an irrelevancy that I ignore. I'm largely not alive to their needs, objectives and challenges. I'm self-focused in my approach to life and work. I don't see others clearly.

The other approach is what Arbinger calls an "outward" mindset. An outward mindset doesn't mean my results aren't important, rather, that I take into account your desired results. This means the focus is on OUR results. Others matter like I matter and count like I count. Others are people to me, not objects. I'm alive to their needs, objectives and challenges. I then seek ways to help instead of adding to their challenges and burdens. I see others more clearly.

An inward mindset is really a distorted view of others and myself. When inward, we always seem to know who the problem people are and oddly, we never show up on our own lists. It's as if we have darkened glasses on. We are together with people in a "separate kind of way" (C. Terry Warner). From this distorted view, we put great energy into feeding our own justification for how we see ourselves and others. When our mindset is inward, we constantly create behavioral strategies for mindset problems. We may even be experienced by others as "outwardly nice", even indulgent of them, but our mindset, how we really see others, hasn't really shifted. And others can really feel and sense how we really see them and what we really feel about them!

The good news is we can shift our mindset. I offer the following Arbinger mindset change approach, using the acronym of S.A.M..

  1. S is for See Others. This is about striving to understand others' needs, objectives and challenges. A good question is to ask "what are others in this situation wanting/trying to accomplish"? You strive to be highly curious about them.

  2. A is for Adjust Efforts. This is about leveraging what you learn about others and adjusting efforts to be more helpful. Key prompts to answer are "how have I gotten in their way or added to their challenges and burdens"? or "how have I mistreated or neglected this person"? This step ends with identifying something I could or should do for this person (or team) and seeing it through.

  3. M is for Measure Impact. This is about holding myself accountable for the impact of my work on others. Asking "how can I keep myself accountable for having a positive impact in this situation and on this person (or team)"? Is what I am doing, actually helping? Engage in dialogue to find out.

If you are interested in learning more about mindset and/or the Arbinger Institute please visit or reach out the ASCENT Leadership Program. We also recommend the book, "Leadership and Self-Deception". Our team plans to incorporate more Arbinger learnings and tools into our programs and services.

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Mar 15, 2021

This "outward" and "inward" mindset idea really reminds me of Gretchen Rubin's The Four tendencies! She says there are 4 types of people: Those who are motivated by their own expectations (inner, she calls these people "questioners"), those who are motivated by others' expectations (outer, she calls these "obligers"), those who are motivated by both (inner & outer, she calls these "upholders"), and those who are motived by neither (she calls these people "rebels"). Cool book and another framework to understand people. - Sarah W.

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