Your Mindset Matters in Leadership

Your mindset matters in leadership more than you might think. It’s like a muscle that needs “worked out” regularly. I’ll explain, but first, a story.

I used to have a rotation of people that I would talk to or call at work when something would go awry. Whether it be a bad meeting with a client, a competitor that won business over us, or something stupid or annoying my boss did, I had a rotation of coworkers that I would call “just to vent”. Venting really meant complaining, talking crap, and generally whining about things not going the exact way I wanted them to or thought they should. My coworkers would indulge me, share their grievances, and if I was lucky some new gossip of their own. The more I vented, the more I wanted to vent, talk crap about people, complain, and gossip. It was a monster that I had to keep feeding. Looking back, I’m certainly not proud of it, but at the time I needed it to feel validated and whole at work.

One day, a colleague of mine and close friend who I would call for one of my “venting sessions” said to me, “Jessica, you can’t call me to vent anymore. It’s too much negativity. I can’t deal with it.”

“Uhhh, ohhhkay,” I said. 

When I hung up the phone I thought to myself, “Pshh. I’m not negative.” I wrote it off and just took that particular colleague out of the rotation for my venting sessions. What I didn’t realize at the time was how negative I had truly become.

Negativity is a disease that keeps spreading. The more and more you allow yourself to be negative, think negatively, or complain, gossip, and “vent”, the more it drags you down into the this endless spiral that eventually consumes you. It doesn’t just consume you, though. It’s contagious. It poisons the proverbial “watering hole” and spreads to the people you interact with – and then they spread it some more. Once you’re in the negativity spiral, it influences everything you see, hear, and interact with. It makes everything suck. The job sucks, your boss sucks, the project sucks, that client sucks, your co-workers don’t pull their weight, you’re team doesn’t do things the right way, you got passed over for that promotion, you didn’t get tapped for that project, you don’t make enough money, you need a vacation, the expectations are unrealistic, you can’t, you won’t, you don’t. It keeps spiraling, pulling you further and further into the pit. 

You become tired, burnt out, edgy, impatient, pessimistic, and disinterested. Your view on work, life, and relationships becomes clouded by the negativity and it colors everything a terrible shade of gray.

Ever been there? I have. Maybe you’ve been there too, but perhaps not as deep into the spiral as I was. 

When you’re there, that mindset, it impacts your work. It impacts your ability to be an effective leader. That space prohibits you from being inspirational, motivational, creative, engaging, and productive. Your work – and the work of your team – suffers. 

I didn’t realize how bad it was until two years later. I was taking a class online at the beginning of the pandemic. I would sit on the zoom call and simultaneously be texting a friend (who was also in the class) about how annoying other attendees were or how ridiculous some of the stuff they said was. It wasn’t until I got called out by the instructors that I realized how negative I had become, how bad my mindset really was.

It was the wake-up call I needed. 

In today’s world we talk a lot about physical fitness. We talk a lot about leadership skills. What we don’t talk about enough, is building a strong mindset. Our mindset is like a muscle. It needs to be stretched, worked out, and made stronger, regularly. When we don’t do the mindset work on a regular basis, we fall victim to being pulled back down into the negativity spiral. When we’re in the cycle of negativity, we can’t bounce back from challenges as easily, we take everything a little more personally, and we look for the bad, instead of the good. When we take the time to train our brains and work on our mindset, we’re inherently more resilient. We look for the positives in even the most challenging situations, we’re able to be more creative and inspirational, and our work, our colleagues, our team, and our clients bring us joy. When we do the mindset work, it’s not that we’ve learned how to “not be negative” or stop gossiping; It’s that we no longer have a desire to. 

After I was called out, I started doing daily mindset work. I chose to do a daily gratitude practice as a way to pull myself out of the negative spiral and work to improve my mindset – as a human, a partner, mom, and leader. It. Was. Not. Easy, but it did have a monumental impact on me, my mindset, and my ability to lead others effectively. 

There are lots of ways to work on your mindset. A gratitude practice is just one of them. There’s meditation, yoga, journaling, breathing exercises, reading, listening to music, podcasts, books, setting goals, working on a hobby, getting more sleep, going outside, evaluating your diet, surrounding yourself with more positive people, and so much more. There are so many ways to improve your mindset. The challenge isn’t finding what to do, the challenge is prioritizing the work of building your mindset. However, the impact on your life and your leadership will be significant. Here’s some tips to get started:

  • Find something small that you can do daily as a way to get started. Pick something that you can do in under 15 minutes and can do easily. It should be something you’ll actually enjoy, too.
  • Choose to do the activity at the beginning of your day, whether when your feet first hit the ground or when you first sit down to work. Mindset work is a great way to set the tone for your day.
  • If you’re making time for it in your work day, block the time on your calendar. Eliminate other distractions, too. Put your computer in focus mode, turn on “do not disturb” and give yourself a 15-minute break from the “busy”.
  • Give yourself permission to suck at it, in the beginning. Remember, if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. That discomfort you feel is growth.
  • Don’t expect perfection. If you miss a day, don’t count it a failure. Just pick it back up tomorrow. Miss a couple days? No big deal. Don’t give up because it’s not consistent or a streak. Remember that any work you do on your mindset was more than you were doing before.
  • Just get started. You don’t need special equipment or a membership to something to do it. Just start and don’t overthink it.

If you are interested in a gratitude practice, you can sign up for our free Gratitude Challenge (here) in the month of November to help teach you how to build the practice and devote time to it daily. 

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