The Learning Mindset

Leaders, or rather, people who lead other individuals in the pursuit of success, are required to answer one question: How can we get people to start fulfilling their potential?  Put another way, how can we get people to start behaving differently?

There are four basic principles that great leaders and coaches use to get their message across and instil their philosophy into the minds of their team members or followers. 

If you want to leave a mark on your team and environment, then you should employ the following methods and techniques that successful leaders use to create cultures with a winning mentality.

Remember, for anything to change someone must start acting differently.

The first, and my personal favourite, is that of Simplicity.

Great leaders are masters of exclusion and are able to communicate one simple message at a time.

To emphasise this point I use an exercise of throwing and catching a tennis ball. If I throw one ball to you, it is quite likely that you will catch it. Now if I throw you two balls simultaneously it will be quite difficult to catch both. Much more likely, in your confusion over which one to catch with which hand, which one to catch first and which one to catch second, you will succeed in catching neither. If I throw three, it is odds-on that all will hit the floor.

Once you have conveyed your simple core message, you must generate curiosity.  To be able to convey a simple core message and to ensure total understanding a leader must not only grab the attention of the audience but be able to keep it.  This is done through the second principle, that of creating curiosity and interest.

People need to be able to think.  It is much more satisfying to solve a problem for yourself than have someone else solve it for you.  Therefore, as leaders we must open “knowledge gaps” in our audience’s minds before allowing them to fill these gaps themselves through their own thinking and discovery.  By doing this we can engage them for a long enough period to maintain interest and get our ideas across.

The third principle is Example.   By harnessing the power of examples great coaches and leaders can make their ideas clear and easy to understand.

Great leaders know that speaking in practical terms is the only way to ensure that their ideas will mean the same thing to everyone in the audience.

Great leaders explain themselves in clear, understandable language.  They do not just explain theories or ideas but rather highlight their point by referencing real-life examples and hands-on experience.

“If you can’t explain what you are doing to your mother, maybe you don’t really understand it”

           Colin Powell  

They understand that, if people lack motivation it is usually because they are confused about what is expected of them or because they are unclear of how to complete the task at hand.  Therefore, as a leader it is imperative that you explain your ideas in terms of human actions and highlight them using practical examples.  

A great way of doing this is by using Analogies, stories and fables. 

By this stage, people should have a clear understanding of what they are trying to achieve, and how they need to achieve it.

But, in order to  get them to act on our ideas they need to understand why they are doing it.  To do this, we need to make them feel something.  

People not only need to understand what they are doing and how to do it, they also need to know why they are doing something.  This reason needs to resonate with them emotionally so that they care enough to take action.

By developing our Emotional Intelligence , the fourth principle, we can get them to buy into our ideas and respond in the right way.

To do this we need to understand a bit about how the brain works. 

The amygdala forms part of the brain’s limbic system – a set of evolutionary primitive brain structures involved in many of our emotions and motivations. These emotions are mostly related to survival like fear, anger and pleasure.

The pre-frontal cortex is the bigger part of the human brain and separates us from our ancient ancestors and the rest of the animal kingdom.  This part of the brain is responsible for our heightened sense of self-control and enables us to refrain from responding to immediate impulses and doing things we will probably later regret. It also enables us to  plan, weigh up different courses of action, and think abstractly. 

As people, when we are making decisions or choosing how to respond, it can often feel like there is an argument going on inside our heads between our “good”, rational side and our “bad’’, emotional side. More specifically, this argument is between our logical, Pre-Frontal Cortex and our emotional, amygdala. 

Great coaches know how to mediate between these two sides and help guide people to make rational, logical decisions rather than illogical, emotional ones.