We are living in a time where we have access to everyone and can find any piece of information we want; however, we resort to isolation and binary thinking. Binary thinking is when we automatically go to two different options when faced with a problem or decision. For example, democrat or republican; stand or locker room. We do this unconsciously based on our developed values. It is much easier to default to something we already know or trust the opinion of someone we respect than it is to dig deep into every option there is. We all do this and it is a very dangerous mindset to have as a leader.
Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset, breaks down the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. A fixed mindset is when we are afraid to take chances and rely on past successes to avoid future failures. We refuse to attend a professional development session on something we think we “should” know at this point in our career. We just hope to get by without being discovered. We think that if we fail at something, our name is ruined. What is worse, is there are supervisors out there who reinforce this. The result: we don’t try things that challenge us or that we could fail at. By contrast, a growth mindset looks at new opportunities as learning moments. They strive for a successful result, but are more focussed on the journey than the result itself.
Why am I writing about unconsciousness and mindset? Because this is something we all struggle with and have to acknowledge if we are going to be the leaders who are truly dedicated to serving our teams. Society and our increasing inability to communicate with others is deepening the roots of fixed mindsets and binary thinking. We have become so laser-focused on the surface issues we never solve problems.
This is seen in two recent news stories. The first is the recurring issue of NFL players and the national anthem. Recently, the NFL stated a rule that players had to stay in the locker room or stand on the field for the anthem. This just fanned the flames further. Now, people are upset they are stripping away their freedom of speech rights. No one is happy and the real problem of police brutality against minorities is not one step closer to any real resolve. We all went binary on this issue from the start. It is too hard to talk about this touchy subject, so we took it to players ability to protest and views about how they hate the troops for doing it. We went binary. We should be talking about why minorities feel this way and express our views on why we feel the way we do and how can this problem be solved. Nobody truly believes these players hate veterans and we all know we have freedom of speech.
The other story circles the celebrity suicides of late. People are asking why they should be talked about when veteran suicide is being ignored. This could become another binary issue. Instead, lets take advantage of this and address suicide in general. All people could benefit from this and we can share the lessons we have learned to help others. It doesn’t matter who or what walk of life people come from; any suicide is one too many.
We only see two options. I know we are capable of more because another recent news story shows we can. That is covering where Lebron James is going to go after this season. Here we are able to break down the multiple variables (with Vegas odds) for a handful of potential teams. That is because, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. If we say he is going to Houston and doesn’t, we are not hurting anything.
Now take a look at the decisions you are making in your shop. Are you going binary on an issue? Are you solely referencing past successes? We need to have real conversations with those on our teams and get to the root of the issue. Then make a decision. I am willing to bet there is a better option for the masses than either of the binary choices.