Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Bringing the Wrong Mindset to Work

May 10th, 2010 | Bob Rosner

Image: Bob RosnerMindset. What is the context that you bring to work each day? Your personal way of seeing the world that influences your problem solving and decision making at work? I think mindsets are one of the most important, and least talked about, issues in today’s workplace. Why? Because I think most of us go to work each day with the wrong one. Here are the 5 most common mindset “M’s” that I see in today’s workplace along with a few of the problems that are associated with each.

1. MILITARY. Max Weber believed that the most efficient way to get a job done was through a rule-driven, impersonal bureaucracy. His most influential book title tells you everything you need to know about his world view—“The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.” It’s easy to make fun of Weber’s rules. But look around your workplace and you’ll see that the only thing more resilient than a cockroach is a bureaucracy. Ironically, even the US military is encouraging the troops to show more creativity and initiative these days.

2. MOTIVATION. “How to Win Friends and Influence People” is the landmark title from Dale Carnegie that says everything you really need to know about motivational management. Carnegie was a master salesman who created the fundamental techniques of handling people (don’t criticize, condemn or complain, give honest and sincere appreciation and arouse in the other person an eager want). What is pure gold in the hands of a master like Carnegie, unfortunately is distinctly un-motivating in the hands of a novice.

3. MACHINE. This is one of the most popular ways to look at work. With proper fuel and maintenance, well, work will work like a machine. The “father” of the machine mindset at work is Frederick Taylor. For example, he broke down the process to make Ford’s Model T into 7,882 steps. He then determined that of these steps, 715 could be done by men with one arm and 10 by blind men. The only problem is that Taylor’s world really has no place for creativity or intelligence. Oops.

4. MEASUREMENT. Walk into the Toyota building in Tokyo and you’ll see three portraits. The first is of the company’s founder. The second the current chairman. And the third is of an American mathematician, W. Edwards Deming. Lean production, quality and reducing waste were all hallmarks of Deming’s teachings. But my favorite lesson from Deming is number eight of his famous fourteen points. “Drive out fear.” Deming’s measurements can do a remarkable job of improving quality but once again this philosophy is extremely limited when it comes to creating new markets and products.

5. ENTREPRENEURIAL. [Yes, this is not an “M” word. And that is another aspect of “mindsets,” do your box you in and limit your flexibility?] Do you know when the word entrepreneur was first coined? J.B. Say, a French economist, first coined the word in the early 1800’s. Peter Drucker talked about how systemic entrepreneurship is the secret behind many of the most revolutionary innovations in the workplace. The only problem is that most organizations can only maintain an entrepreneurial environment for a relatively short period of time before bureaucracy begins to gum up the works.

Next time I’ll talk about an entirely new mindset that you can bring to work. One that is complex enough to allow you to tackle those really tough challenges at work.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Also check out his newly revised best-seller “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

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