The way we look at high-performance teams has moved on since Jungian archetypes. How do mindsets affect team performance?
According to the man who founded analytical psychology, Carl Jung, we are all endowed at birth with a bias toward one of two basic attitudes—expressed in the well-known idea of the introvert and extrovert. Jung describes the introvert as a power-oriented person who focuses on their own internal image of how things should be. The extrovert on the other hand turns outward, losing themselves in another object.
Jung made the point that no one is wholly introvert or extrovert. We all occupy a point on the scale and, whether through our genes or upbringing, we’ll have our preference as to how we interact with the world. Building on this model, Jung went on to describe two other pairs of opposites that form the foundations of the human psyche: Sensation against Intuition, and Sensibility against Intellect.
Sensation refers to our capacity to use our senses to relate to the space around us—the sensory reality of the here and now. The sensates use sight, sound, touch, taste and smell to know the world. Intuition is the orientation that relies on instinct rather than conscious reasoning and intuitives seek out what’s possible based on an instinctive understanding of their life circumstance.
“Knowing what each individual is endowed with is not enough to make us understand how the whole behaves”
Sensibility refers to the capacity to feel, emotionally, all that life has to throw at you, whereas Intellect, as the word suggests, calls on faculties of thinking and reason. In the same way that we all occupy a position on the continuum of introversion and extraversion, we are also on a continuum with regard to sensibility and intellect or sensation and intuition.
Such individual building blocks form the foundation of many popular psychometric tools used in business, such as Myers–Briggs (Katharine Cook Briggs collaborated with Jung). Many organisations have used these insights to build a picture of the rich diversity within them. But knowing what each individual is endowed with is not enough to make us understand how the whole behaves.
When I took the Myers–Briggs test I was labelled as ENFP. That says little about what happens when I become part of a team. The orchestra, like any organisation, is much more than the sum of the capabilities of its musicians. Their mindsets also affect how they practise and perform.
Mindsets are a bundle of beliefs (in and about self and how the world works); attitudes (towards others and situations); heuristics (biases, shortcuts to decisions, actions) that directly and significantly shape a person’s outlook and behaviours (with feedback loops via learning); and interact with a person’s inherent qualities, source of drive, state and contextual orientation.
In his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the late, Stephen R Covey popularised the notion of the abundance versus scarcity mindset. People, teams and organisations with the scarcity mindset believe the world has a finite amount of the good stuff to go around, and the big choice is to determine who the winners and losers are.
In contrast, people with an abundance mindset see the world as unlimited in its bounty, and a share in that bounty is constrained only by imagination, intellect and a willingness to collaborate with others.
Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, has a theory that individuals can be placed on a continuum according to their implicit views of where ability comes from:
According to the late Chris Argyris, a pioneer of organisational learning and Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School, there are two dominant mindsets in organisations:
It should be clear that it’s important to develop a proper understanding of which mindsets cause the behaviours you see in your organisation. And also, to know which ones actually matter for performance and what their current baseline is. Without that, it’s not possible to effectively detail, prioritise and close the gap of those which lead to superior results.
This understanding is a key component of being able to propel leaders and the workforce into a brighter future, energised with the knowledge of how team composition and dynamics can be used to leverage individual capabilities and preferences.
The exciting part is that work is now being done to define the surveys and sensors capable of directly correlating particular mindsets and behaviours with actual organisational performance. This work is not being done in the abstract, but is grounded in the specifics of people in their workplaces, providing empirical answers as to which mindsets and behaviours are associated with, say, outstanding frontline bankers. Or likewise, how certain mindsets and behaviours can be directly correlated to performance in large complex programs of work.
When we move away from seeing the people we work with—and the teams we form for our projects—as mere objects on an organisational chart or cost items in a spreadsheet, we have taken a bold step. We trade the two-dimensional certainty of the abstractions that the org chart and spreadsheet represent for a richer and more dynamic model of the fullness of human experience.
We surrender to our ignorance of what lies behind the mask and are ready to be vulnerable in finding out. A vital component of being prepared is having a means of doing the analytics and committing to doing it on a regular basis. It is a sure way of providing invaluable insight into how to continuously improve performance.
Questions to think about
To explore the effect of mindsets and behaviours on high-performing teams, we’re partnering with Enjol to set up a national benchmarking survey in Australia. We hope you will join us by registering an expression of interest in your company taking part.
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