You know when a person has something of value to share when they present
information that is powerful in both its message and the ability to cause you to think a little differently. In my interview with Dr. Mary Lippitt, an award-winning author of “Brilliant or Blunder – 6 Ways Leaders Navigate Uncertainty, Opportunity and Complexity,” and founder of Enterprise Management Ltd, you will learn about the relevance of mindset in leadership.
There are six key mindsets in her Leadership Spectrum Profile, where she not only helps leaders to understand where their thinking is currently operating but gives concrete action steps and definitive questions that guides one for success in leadership.
As a pioneer in focusing on results, Mary has been consulting for over 30 years enabling organizations to thrive in a world of constant change. As you read through this interview, you will have a sense of what it takes for breakthrough performance and maximizing leadership skills.
EB: You are an author, leadership expert, and columnist. Your book, Brilliant or Blunder, reveals six key mindsets that leaders can choose from before making a costly error. Please share what is most important in our mindset that will guide us to success.
ML: My book highlights the need for people to actually think. Organizations tend to go with their gut, intuition, habits, and past practice. These are great when a situation is routine and is about tradition. But, when we face complexity, uncertainty, and change, I’m suggesting we actually step back and think about something in a slow way.
My goal is to give people a blueprint, a checklist, so they can achieve results. What they need is an open mind, a lot of curiosity, and a willingness to accept the world as it is, rather than what they want it to be. The ability to let go of habits, reflect on things, and confer with others is critical. We cannot rely on the past to guide our future.
EB: Leadership requires decision making and positive influence. As a thought leader, what have been the best decisions you have made for your career?
ML: I found, writing the book was a great decision since it organized my thoughts. I am also pleased with the decision since I see that as a gift to help leaders make the right call at the right time. Being able to help others translate theory into reality is rewarding.
For example, entrepreneurs are so focused on the new idea, getting to market & funding, they don’t always see the whole picture. The Mindset checklist is a tool they can use effectively to avoid mental blinders.
EB: How do you positively influence your clients?
ML: I have an ethical standard that one of my roles is to make sure when I leave a client, they have the tools to carry on without me. I leave them with a mindset checklist they can hold onto and apply. For every mindset, there are eleven questions they can ask, so when they are confronted with a complex situation, they can run through the list and make sure they have all the information. This also becomes a tool they can use with their staff.
Frequently leaders are frustrated when their staff does not finish assignments with the expected quality or timeliness. As a result, they stop delegating robbing others of developmental opportunities and overloading their plates.
By using the checklist, it improves autonomy and job satisfaction. If you don’t apply the work right away, it gets lost.
There are six mindsets and each focuses on a distinct goal and outcome. The chart below depicts their point of view:
I have worked with HR teams from being HR specialists into being an HR business partner. Instead of remaining narrowly specialized, they offer more services and are more effective in influencing up the chain of command.
EB: Why do you believe communication is key to success?
ML: Communication bridges the gap between leaders and my clients. A lot of leadership communication has been about the personal style: Is someone trustworthy, competent, open and respectful. What this means is that we are overlooking the bigger part of the communication, which is, what are your goals and what are my goals? Conflict starts when you disagree with the action I’m taking.
Over time, the person begins to hear:
“you’re pursuing your personal agenda”
“you’re not listening”
“you are stubborn”
“you have a personal agenda”
Conversation around communication must deal with “facts” before you can delve into the personality. I believe we can reduce conflict in half if we could understand how to discuss the difference from a factual point of view.
What information do you have?
What is the benefit?
Now, you can have a conversation that is not a knee jerk reaction, which personalizes it. If you can depersonalize it, communication will improve. Every department looks at the organization differently and if executives can look at it in a more comprehensive way, executive teams would actually work!
EB: You are an authority in developing leadership judgment. For professionals who want to be an effective leader, would you give us some insights into how this helps with potential.
ML: Judgment comes from being able to weigh the facts. If we can’t collect the facts, we can’t evaluate them to make smart choices. The six mindsets collect the facts first, and only then can we accurately judge the opportunity and ramifications.
All of the six mindsets will be represented in large groups, so communication should take this into consideration. I make choices based on my reality, at this moment. We think everyone thinks like we do, so everyone will approve of our decision. And, we are wrong.
EB: What have been past struggles that have helped you to reach the level of success you have achieved and how did you overcome them?
ML: I have a strong commitment to learning. I like to take a step back and ask, “what do I need to learn?” What this means is I am telling myself I don’t know everything. I have to accept I don’t know everything.
I’ve been a consultant for 30 years, and continue to learn and I want to keep learning.
EB: The road to success can be inspiring and uplifting. What were some of the signs you have had along the way showing you were on the right path and making decisions to ensure your success?
ML: When people who came into my life and supported my direction, it was encouraging and very helpful. Meeting new people and learning from them is a real gift.
For example, Dennis Pitocco, provided insights into blogging. And, sometimes we do not know when we “spark” or inspire another. It is lovely to recognize that sometimes we uplift others and at times they uplift us.
Another sign that I was on the right path is through research. In a study of 862 General Managers of the hospitality industry, I found that the current mindset accurately reflected which GMs were exceeding sales goals.
I also found a McKinsey study that says, if you know your mindset before you do a change effort, the likelihood of a successful change increases by 400%. Wow, that’s a big jump!
These tidbits came into my life, telling me I am adding knowledge and that it will be helpful to others. It’s those gifts from nature, universe, whatever you want to call it. The people who boost and support me along the way are part of my success. We all stand on the shoulders of others.
EB: How have you developed and used your skills to set and achieve your goals?
My father and uncle were in this field starting in the 1940s. I started by assembling training notebooks when I was seven. I learned a lot about group interactions and personality. However, I also experienced that the impact was limited.
So, I focus on lasting impact or what I can retain and use. I hope to help with how to handle real world issues and changing challenges.
I want to help others move the needle.
That’s a different standard than saying, “did people learn something?”
The whole concept of helping people learn to be masters of their own mind is very different than teaching somebody a task.
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