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The Power of Organizational Mindset

Just as individuals have a particular mindset that either nurtures growth or inhibits it, so do organizations.  An organization's mindset has everything to do with employee engagement, company culture, and, ultimately, success.  

Belonging is a fundamental human need. We all want to be accepted as a member of a family, group, team, community, organization, and more. To gain that acceptance, people subconsciously display the qualities believed to be valued by the other members in the group.

For example, a member of an activist organization is much more likely to be vocal about political issues in that group than within his church community. Likewise, the persona displayed with golf buddies is likely to be different from one displayed at work.

When people apply for a job, they strive to espouse the attributes and characteristics which they believe are most valued in that organization. When a leader assumes an air of superiority, the good little soldiers dutifully fill the inferior roles. Furthermore, when people believe that a company prioritizes certain traits such as genius over development, there is a natural tendency to shift their personal self-concepts to reflect the values of the organization.

Research shows that even when people do not particularly like the organizational mindset, this mindset significantly influences the way they portray themselves, the way they see themselves, and the way they interact with others. It even carries over to how they evaluate others.

A two-year study of Fortune 1000 companies was conducted by the culture-shaping firm, Senn Delaney, in collaboration with mindset guru, Carol Dweck and her colleagues. To define the existing culture of the companies, employees were asked whether they thought their company had a culture of genius or culture of development.

They also asked them to rate their agreement on statements about the company such as, “This company believes that people have a certain amount of talent, and they really can’t do much to change it.” High levels of agreement indicated the company had a fixed mindset; low levels suggested a growth mindset. The researchers then surveyed the employees to see if there was a correlation between mindset and job satisfaction, employee engagement, collaboration, and perception of culture as well as whether it impacted managers’ perceptions of employees.  

Their findings were illuminating. Employees in the culture of genius companies characterized the climate there as inequitable, mistrusting and dishonest. They reported extreme competition and unethical behaviors such as “cheating, shortcuts, and cutting corners” and “hiding information and keeping secrets.” Many felt that only a few employees were valued and respected and that the company largely didn’t care about the rest. They worried about being called out for failing, so collaboration and transparency were minimized significantly decreasing collective problem solving, creativity and innovation. 

Conversely, those employees describing their companies as having cultures of growth and development reported greater trust, a stronger commitment to the company, and stronger support for risk-taking, innovation, and creativity. They were 47% more likely to agree with statements related to trust in the company and 34% more likely to feel a sense of ownership and commitment to the success of the company. They also showed 65% stronger agreement that the company supported risk-taking and creative endeavors and 49% stronger agreement that they fostered innovative efforts.

Perhaps the most significant difference is in what people said about initiative and change. In the genius cultures, people demonstrated a lack of initiative and an entrenched resistance to change. Those in cultures of development assumed ownership over making improvements and sought out how their role impacted the bigger picture.

Learn more about the powerful influence organizational mindset has on company culture, employee engagement, and overall success in this free whitepaper.

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