The 4 Key Mindsets of Great Managers

by Jason Evanish, CEO Get Lighthouse, Inc.

When you take the leap from individual contributor to managing a team, a lot changes. That's because great ICs aren't necessarily great managers.

Your day-to-day is suddenly filled with meetings and you become accountable for not just yourself, but the results of everyone on your team.  Unfortunately, many of the skills you learned in being great at your own job do not translate to being a great manager.

What's now required of you is a shift to a general manager mindset; you need to focus on the bigger picture: how your behavior reflects on the team you lead, what you need to do to motivate them, and how you can get better performances from them.

The way you operated before and thought about your peers will not succeed as if you want to become a great manager.

Luckily, there are things you can do to prepare. Great managers have learned to adopt key mindsets that make them and their team members successful. By keeping them in mind, it's easier to take the right actions and avoid key mistakes day to day as a servant leader.

Here are 4 of those key mindsets and how you can learn them:

  1. The Servant Mindset
  2. The Growth Mindset
  3. The Multiplier Mindset
  4. The Positive Mindset
great managers have a servant mindset growth mindset and others you can learn about on our blog.

4 Key Mindsets of Great Managers (and how you can learn them)

Great managers know they have to deal with difficult circumstances and challenges beyond their control from time to time. Mistakes happen, people get frustrated, but it's how you react that defines you as a leader.

While there are things you can't influence, your mindset plays a huge role in how you'll think about solutions to your problems.

In today's post, we discuss the Servant Leader Mindset, Growth Mindset, Multiplier Mindset, and Positive Mindset as key ways to overcome adversity and become a better manager.

servant leader practices servant leadership like gandhi

1) The Servant Mindset (AKA - the Servant Leader Mindset)

Servant Leadership means exactly what is sounds like: as a leader, you serve your team.

As a servant leader, you are focused on the needs of each member of your team and how your efforts can help them succeed and do their best work. You have to stop thinking about yourself and start learning about your team.

Get to know each of them. Ask questions like:

  • What makes them tick?
  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • What do they need to do their best work?
  • What problems do you need to fix on the team to make it a well oiled machine?

These questions, and the act of finding the answers to them, will push you to think about your team with more empathy.

It's also about changing your management mindset for success.

As an individual contributor, you are judged only on your own work and results you deliver. As a manager, you are now judged on the results and success of your team.

Great managers focus on getting the best from each of their team members as well as helping the team as a whole succeed. They also ensure their people each get the credit they deserve, because they know that their people are who made it happen.

How you can learn the Servant Mindset: Start with our detailed guide to the servant leadership model, and check out this great breakdown from the famous Zingerman's Deli on the subject.

Then, dive into books like Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People and John C Maxwell's 21 Irrefutible Laws of Leadership.

carol dweck growth mindset great managers

2) The Growth Mindset

Anyone can learn any skill. Really. You have to believe this for your own success in life and especially for your team.

Developing talent from within your team is powerful and motivating; people, especially A players, want to learn new skills and grow in their careers. It is usually when they're stagnant and doing the same things for too long that your team members will think about leaving for newer, more exciting opportunities.

As a manager, you're the coach. You should be putting everyone in a position to succeed and grow.

To do that, you should embrace the growth mindset: you can learn any new skill and so can people on your team.

Never accept statements like, "I could never do that", or "they're a natural and I'm not." Show them a path to being great, demonstrate your belief in them and they'll never leave.

How you can learn the Growth Mindset: Read the book Mindset by Carol Dweck or watch her talk at Stanford here. It changed the way I look at the skills I have and those I do not.

I also now try to be a growth mindset manager by regularly talking to team members and friends to remind them that hard work can make you good at anything you put your mind to. Finally, you can get help with common questions managers have growing their team, and check out this post on professional development goals for managers to help in your own growth.

ralph nader quote about great managers

3) The Multiplier Mindset

Your time has always been valuable, but especially now that you're a manager, you have to be mindful of how you invest it. Because you are no longer an individual contributor, you need to think about what work you can do that has a multiplier effect for your team.

Let's get specific. Consider the value of your time to your company: If you make $100,000 per year, working 50 hours a week for 50 weeks a year, that's $40 per hour that your time is worth.

If you spend even a few hours a week doing administrative work and manual tasks each week, you could be wasting over $6,000 per year that an application or an assistant could do for a fraction of the cost.

With that time savings, you could invest in multiplier activities like thinking about strategies that will grow your business, unblocking your team, or finding more efficient ways for your whole team to work.

Realize in particular that fixing problems on your team is a huge multiplier opportunity. If two people are at odds, the rest of your team will be taking sides and gossiping about it. If the issue was defused and settled, they'd be moving forward collaboratively instead.

Likewise, helping an employee who is stuck or frustrated can again relieve the whole team as it removes a bottleneck, which hurts the whole team's morale and productivity.

Look for every opportunity to tackle things that have massive gain for your team instead of just your own incremental individual work to complete.

How you can learn the Multiplier Mindset: To better value and apply your time, start with our post about trading time management for priority management here.

Then, read legendary management author Peter Drucker's, The Effective Executive. To learn more about multiplying the efforts of your team and a lot more, read What Got You Here, Won't Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith.

indra nooyi assume positive intent like great managers do and a key part of being a servant leader

4) The Positive mindset

As a manager, you have to stay positive as best you can. Not only does your attitude influence your team, but how you react to things will change their outcomes.

Staying positive is critical whether it’s coming from a team member who disagrees with you, or something goes wrong and you need to respond appropriately.

Indira Nooyi, former chairman and CEO of Pepsi, understands the importance of having a positive mindset (as we quoted her above). A positive mindset means assuming positive intent behind people’s actions or words - even if they’re seemingly aimed at criticizing you, or a situation looks bad.

This idea is shared by writer Don Miguel Ruiz in his classic book “The 4 Agreements”. As Ruiz explains, taking things personally can be dangerous:

 "Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about ‘me'.”

When someone says something about us, they're really revealing things about themselves and their point of view, not you. That's why Ruiz and Nooyi urge us to be less impulsive and reactive. 

Give people who criticize or disagree with you the benefit of the doubt. Assume that there is something constructive behind their words, and try to understand their reasoning. Take on the role of someone who rises above the drama on your team, not creates or fuels it.

Your reactions can create a ripple effect across your team and company culture, so the best thing you can do is start from an assumption of positive intent, not hurt. This is what having a positive mindset is all about.

How you can learn to apply a Positive Mindset. Start with this post on How to use a Positive Outlook to be a Better Leader and learn to be more self-aware as a leader and Overcome Your Personal Weaknesses.

You can also learn a lot from Don Miguel Ruiz, including the importance of not taking things personally, in our post on Don Miguel Ruiz's The Four Agreements, and read the original book here.

Jason Evanish

Jason Evanish

As the founder and CEO of Get Lighthouse, Inc, Jason and the Lighthouse team have helped managers grow their leadership skills in dozens of countries around the world. They’ve worked with a variety of companies from non-profits to high growth startups, and government organizations to well known, publicly traded companies. Jason has also been featured in publications including NPR, the Wall Street Journal, and Fast Company.

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