Part II: Developing the Leadership Mindset - Audit for Excellence
The most successful sports team in history is the New Zealand Men’s National Rugby team, known to Rugby fans as the All Blacks for their kit colour. Their win percentage, over 125 years of competitive games, is 77 percent. How does a team maintain an almost unbelievably high standard for more than a century? One of the factors allowing them to sustain their incredibly high performance has been the protection of their standards of practice, competitive play, and how they conduct themselves in their private lives.
With high standards known, understood, and protected, the accountability to adhere to them becomes the responsibility and privilege of each person/player. An environment of ‘all for one, one for all’ is created and all players commit to something much bigger than themselves. They work together to achieve their higher purpose, which for the All Blacks is national pride and identity.
Although this article is not about sport, the All Blacks provide an inspiring benchmark and parallel to the link between performance in business and the leadership mindset. I covered the seven elements of the leadership mindset in the previous article titled ‘ Developing the Leadership Mindset: Set your Mind, Manage your Destiny ’ published in the March 2019 issue of MaintWorld.
For those who haven’t yet read the article, here’s a quick recap…
Leadership Mindset Recap
The power and influence of our mindset is hard to overstate. My definition of mindset is the orientation of key beliefs that act as an internal compass directing how we think and act.
A leadership mindset is an exemplary mindset, one which allows individuals and organizations to make the most valuable and meaningful global impact. To understand how to cultivate what a leadership mindset is, I first set out to identify the elements that comprise it. I landed on seven elements which encompass this superpower perspective: purpose, potential, motivation, responsibility, capability, change, outcomes. The beliefs we hold around these seven elements can dramatically elevate performance and catapult life’s experience to a whole new level.
A leadership mindset is one which allows individuals and organizations to make the most valuable and meaningful global impact.
For example: Do you live and work with an understanding of the higher purpose? Do you understand the role you play in making the world a better place? Or do you see your job tasks as small and insignificant? The truth is not that relevant. But the beliefs you hold around your purpose, the purpose of tasks, and of other people have great significance.
In order to reach our potential, and travel our ideal path, we must develop and protect the right mindset. One invaluable tool to use is a self-audit.
The purpose of this sequel article is to provide a practical audit framework to progressively and successfully develop the leadership mindset.
Self-Audit for Excellence
Self-auditing has played a powerful role in my personal and professional development. I recommend two formats:
a daily reflection, and a monthly inventory. I’ve attempted to create the tools and a format which require the minimum effort to establish a valuable habit. Scale up or down as you need.
Business management guru Tom Peters importantly stated that excellence is not a long-term aspiration, it is a short-term strategy, and is determined in the next 5 minutes or not at all. Daily reflection allows us to adjust our behavior daily. It’s a short-term tactic for a short-term goal with life-long consequences.
Excellence is not a long-term aspiration, it is a short-term strategy, and is determined in the next 5 minutes or not at all
– Tom Peters
I practice and believe strongly in daily reflection. For me, this process has proven to be most enduring when I do it mentally for only a few minutes each evening. Quite simply, it’s a review of daily performance. If you prefer to write it down, go for it. Do what works best for you.
Before you begin your daily reflection, you must understand what standards you are reflecting against. Create your definitions for each of the seven leadership mindset elements. You can use what I defined in the first article as a starting point.
- Complete the audit either in your head or on paper in about 5 minutes (long enough to be valuable, but short enough to become a daily habit)
- Assess your daily thoughts and behaviours against one or all seven elements of leadership mindset. Remember, this is a high-level assessment, simply ask yourself, “Were my thoughts and behaviours today aligned with my leadership mindset, or do I have opportunities for improvement?”
- If you believe that you are doing well, give yourself a pat on the back. If you conclude that you’re doing well for more than 7 consecutive days, then you are either on fire, or you need to be a bit more honest with yourself.
- If you have opportunities for improvement, identify how you will respond tomorrow to improve your behavior and performance. How can you better align your behavior to your leadership mindset?
Below is an example of a completed daily reflection table. Even though I complete mine mentally, you can write yours down if you prefer.
The Monthly Inventory
Once daily reflection is an embedded habit, it’s part of your day, and you’re improving your performance through loyal adherence to your leadership mindset, you’re ready to take your self-audit to the next level with a monthly inventory. Taking a monthly inventory is like reading a map on a long road trip, it provides you with the ability to where you are in relation to your starting point and your goal. It provides perspective. For me, this audit is valuable to capture in writing.
- You should be able to complete the audit in about 30 minutes
- Write down your gains and growth over the last month.
- What powerful behaviours have you successfully adopted?
- How have your thoughts improved?
- What negative behaviours and practices have you eliminated from your performance?
- Identify the improvement opportunities you will focus on for the following month. What important gains you can make in how you think and act?
- Ask for feedback from those who will provide valuable and accurate insight. I suggest doing this quarterly to give you time to improve your performance, and for others to notice.
The adage, practice makes perfect is ‘fake news’. It makes for a simple message and a powerful headline, but it’s misleading. A more helpful and realistic, but admittedly less concise, saying might be something like, ‘purposeful practice produces better performance’. Being purposeful in practice requires at least: a goal, the right habits, and a robust auditing process to support informed continuous improvement.
Take the audit tools and what you’ve found valuable from this article, and make it your own. Develop the habits and continue to honestly reflect. Be proud of your incremental gains as you develop and strengthen your leadership mindset. And remember, give your best to the next 5 minutes. Excellence awaits.
Thomas J. Furnival
Director of Training Services
Marshall Institute, Inc.
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