Developing a manager’s mindset

When I started out as a manager, I thought I had something to prove. I was desperate to add value to my team, wanted to portray that I had everything under control and told myself that I should have all the answers. 

I remember being sat in the office on a Friday evening, long after everyone else had left, looking at my to-do list knowing that I couldn’t continue working in this way, but unable to see a way out.  

The fact was, the beliefs that I held around what makes a good manager were fundamentally flawed. They didn’t serve me, and they certainly didn’t serve my team. It was only when I started to change my mindset around my role as a manager that I started to become an effective leader.

How our beliefs influence our behaviour

Whether we’re aware of them or not, we all have beliefs. They arise from our upbringing, our experiences and our training and they can impact the way we respond to or behave in any given situation.

Beliefs are the filters through which we view the word around us. They’re the reason two people can watch the same show yet experience it so differently. 

Our beliefs influence every moment of every day

Sue Knight, NLP at Work

As a manager, the beliefs we hold can propel us forward, or they can hold us and our teams back. The challenge we have is that these beliefs tend to be held in our unconscious or subconscious, meaning that we often aren’t aware of them or their ongoing impact; positive or negative. 

As managers, we must become aware of, and continually assess our beliefs to ensure they reflect reality. It can be useful to consider what made you successful as an individual and which of them will and won’t work in your new role.

For example:

Individual contributor mindset: My validation comes from recognition of my performance.
Leader’s mindset: My validation comes from recognition of my team’s performance.

Individual contributor mindset: I achieve results on my own
Leader’s mindset:I achieve results with and through others

Individual contributor mindset: My personal deliverables are my number one priority
Leader’s mindset:Making sure my team is able to hit their deliverables while growing and developing is my number one priority.

Alongside more traditional mindset shifts relating to a change in role, it’s also essential that, as managers, we recognise any beliefs that  we hold about ourselves, our team and the business in which we operate. 

Moving from a specialist to a manager can mean that overnight, you go from being an expert at what you do to, back to being a beginner. It’s all too easy for negative patterns of thinking around your skills and expertise to start creeping it. Becoming aware of these early on and challenging your beliefs is essential for your development. 

A useful exercise is to start catching yourself when you start thinking something about yourself in your management role – both positive and negative. Ask yourself why you think that and if believing it will help you in your new role. If the belief is unhelpful, write down all the evidence you can think of that goes against the belief and then ask yourself what would be a more helpful belief in that moment. 

Beliefs table

The third exercise is to do the same with regards to beliefs you hold about your team. On the surface of it, nothing might initially spring to mind. But make a conscious effort to become aware of beliefs or biases as and when they arise. For example, it may be that you have subconsciously marked those team members who think like you as high potential. Or there may be an underlying reason why you ask one member of your team to join a project over another. 

Again, note down what you discover about the beliefs you hold over the next month or so in a table like the following:

As you become more aware of your subconscious beliefs, I encourage you to adopt a curious and non-judgemental mindset; two key principles in Neuro-Linguistic Programming. It is only by staying curious and non-judgemental that you open yourself up to powerful learning; what can you learn from others and what can you learn about yourself throughout this process?

Want further support in your role as a manager?

Our Intentional Manager Programme, developed for new and aspiring managers, or for those with up to 3 years’ experience is a unique, year long partnership to help maximise potential and deliver effective, lasting performance improvements.

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