How your mindset can hamper your performance

Have you ever wondered how someone you manage, or you yourself, can be remarkably effective in one situation, and completely at sea in another, similar one?

With one person, you are consistently persuasive, inspiring and eloquent, while with another you struggle to find the right words, make mistakes and feel uncomfortable and off balance.

Or one of your team members has outstanding customer skills and creates great, long-lasting relationships with clients, while within your team he or she is abrasive and edgy, always reacting to things others say, and causing friction and upset.

Surely, if you have a set of skills, you should be able to employ them consistently whoever you are dealing with and wherever you are? You would think so, if you believe the claims made by skills training courses and ‘improve yourself’ textbooks, but in our experience, there’s more to it than that.

So what’s really going on?

The secret lies, not in acquiring more skills, or going on more courses, but in exploring and shifting the mindset that underlies the skills. Taking the two examples we began with:

  • If you are persistently more effective with one person or type of person than another, an honest assessment of your mindset will quickly reveal that you have very different underlying feelings about them. This may be caused by a number of things – maybe there’s some ‘baggage’ or some unfinished business with the person you feel off balance with, that causes you to lose your natural eloquence and self expression. Maybe they simply remind you of someone from your past with whom you felt a similar lack of self-expression. Whatever the cause, until you deal with it head on, no amount of positive thinking or new skills will help – it will forever be as if you have one of your feet nailed to the floor!
  • In the second case, it’s very likely that your team member has some underlying feelings about their place in the team or about other team members that prevent them using the people skills they routinely use in situations where they feel confident and on top of the situation. Again, it’s pointless to set them targets for improving their behaviour, or send them on a course, without getting to the bottom of why they behave in this way.

On Wednesday, we’ll explore how to shift mindsets, whether in yourself, or in other people.