After her meeting with Bob, Barbara felt like she was walking on air. She couldn’t remember the last time her spirits were so high.
She felt like Bob really heard her and saw her. Cared for her. Like she really mattered and he saw her in a way that even she had forgotten.
There are some people who can make you feel like you’re on the only person in the room. They are enormously effective and have great impact.
What was it that Bob did? Listen? Sure, and it was more than that. Bob had a well-developed outward mindset vs. an inward mindset and so that meant that he was focused on her — her needs, her objectives and her challenges. He left his needs and his ego out of the conversation.
How does someone do that?
Start with mindset.
The Arbinger Institute‘s latest book The Outward Mindset – Seeing Beyond Ourselves proposes that what makes people like Bob so impactful is a mindset that is focused on others.
Arbinger makes a distinction about mindset: it’s not so much about our self-beliefs; it is instead how we regard our connections and how we regard our world and the people and circumstances in it. An outward mindset is about being alive and interested in other people, and focused on their objectives and needs and not on our own.
It’s deeper than shifting behavior. Mindset drives behavior and behavior drives results.
People with an outward mindset are engaging and can tap into other people’s enthusiasm and bring out their best selves.
Basically, it’s about shifting our focus from self to others, and can be immensely practical.
Some possible applications come to mind.
With a direct report: shift from issuing a directive and how to get things done to helping that person see what is possible and how they can achieve an ideal outcome. Emphasize their professional growth and development.
With a boss: how can we support them in their role to reach their objectives. Make their success a priority.
With a significant other: how can we focus on attending to their wants and needs, with no keeping score and with no strings attached? Put their happiness ahead of our own.
Arbinger notes the cost of an inward mindset (when people focus on themselves and not their impact) is wasted effort, less collaboration, curtailed innovation and employee disengagement. Not to mention less than satisfying relationships.
While it’s certainly easy to lapse into a default of focus on self, it’s about progress. Efforts to take on an outward mindset will be rewarded.
Those who have an outward mindset take responsibility for their impact and hold themselves accountable. Arbinger created a simple acronym to help remember that process – SAM. These people:
- See the needs, objectives and challenges of others
- Adjust efforts to be more helpful to others
- Measure and hold themselves accountable for their impact
Why doesn’t this happen more? Too often, we’re waiting for another person to make the first move. People are generally concerned about themselves and worry that if aren’t vigilant, they will lose out.
If we believe that what we send out, we get back (albeit not always right away), then initiating with an outward focus can be generative. One challenge is to take the risk of making the first move and to do so somewhat boldly. Arbinger warns that a tepid start will result in a tepid response.
So, the invitation is to embrace the challenge and just start. You may trigger a reciprocal response in the near term and you may not. No matter, you will be sowing seeds for the future. The immediate opportunity is to be a catalyst and be useful in the process.
Think for a moment about some impact you would like to have. What are you willing to risk by shifting to an outward mindset to try to achieve it? A little ego? A little vulnerability?
It’s your move.
Ball’s in your court.