Businesswoman presenting to colleagues at a meeting
ATD Blog

Are You Overlooking a Personal Attribute That Drives Your Effectiveness and Success?

Monday, July 2, 2018

Would you believe me if I told you that a three-minute video led one group of employees to have higher engagement, higher performance, and lower blood pressure two weeks later than another group of employees who had seen a different video?

Well, it happened! The study was conducted by Alia Crum, Peter Salovey, and Shawn Achor.

The video the employees saw was designed to change the employees’ mindsets about stress. The group with the positive outcomes watched a three-minute video about how stress is enabling. The group that had less positive outcomes watched a three-minute video about how stress is disabling.

One of the big takeaways from this study, and really all studies on mindset, is that our mindsets dictate our thinking, learning, and behavior. Correspondingly, our thinking, learning, and behavior drives our success. Thus, our mindsets are foundational to our success in nearly all facets of our lives, including our work and our leadership.

This leads me to another study, conducted by Peter Heslin, Don VandeWalle, and Gary Latham. They found that if managers have a growth mindset (they see people as being able to change their abilities, talent, and intelligence), they give more and higher quality feedback than managers who possess a fixed mindset (they see people as being unable to change their abilities, talent, and intelligence).

Despite decades of research and hundreds of studies demonstrating the role and importance of mindset, few talent developers give it much attention.


When we overlook mindsets, personal and organizational development is met with resistance. Yet, when mindsets become a focal part of the development process, personal and organizational development occurs naturally. I’ll demonstrate.

The figure below depicts the typical development process, where someone is trying to pull either success or thinking, learning, and behavior forward to a more positive state. But, when this is done without considering the role of mindsets, what ends up happening is that there exists a tension between where the employees’ or organization’s mindsets currently are and the development of the top two levels of the pyramid. Ultimately, this means that the development is more difficult than it should be, and likely not long-lasting, as the top two levels of the pyramid are likely to resort back to where the mindsets reside.

The development process looks much different if the important role of mindsets is considered. In such instances, talent developers push the mindsets forward, knowing that the top two levels of the pyramid will naturally follow. Further, the result of the process is much more likely to be successful because it isn’t met with the same resistance, and it is likely to be longer-lasting.
This might lead you to ask: If researchers have known about the power of mindsets, why is it common for talent developers to overlook mindsets in the development process?


I believe the primary reason why mindsets get overlooked is because most of the research on mindsets has occurred outside the management and organizational domains, and while there are a variety of different mindsets that have been found to drive success, they have not been brought together into one body—that is, until now.

Check out this mindset self-assessment that brings together multiple domains of research and evaluates individuals across four sets of mindsets that have been proven to dictate individual thinking, learning, and behavior.

Bottom line: Because mindsets drive our thinking, learning, and behavior, they are foundational to our success in life, work, and leadership. Knowing this, you are now empowered to harness the power of mindsets to bring about higher quality and longer-lasting development with your employees and organization.

Remove the comma after “learning” in this image—the serial comma is omitted when an ampersand is used. (Make the same change in the version that follows as well.)

About the Author

Ryan Gottfredson, PhD, is a mental success coach and cutting-edge leadership consultant, author, trainer, and researcher. He helps improve organizations, leaders, teams, and employees by improving their mindsets. Gottfredson is currently a leadership and management professor at the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics at California State University-Fullerton (CSUF). He holds a doctorate in organizational behavior and human resources from Indiana University, and a BA from Brigham Young University.

Gottfredson is author of Success Mindsets: The Key to Unlocking Greater Success in Your Life, Work, & Leadership. He also works with organizations to develop their leaders and improve their culture (collective mindsets). He has worked with top leadership teams at CVS Health (top 130 leaders), Deutsche Telekom (500+ of their top 2,000 leaders), and dozens of other organizations.

As a respected authority and researcher on topics related to leadership, management, and organizational behavior, Gottfredson has published more than 15 articles across a variety of journals, including: Journal of Management, Journal of Organizational Behavior, Business Horizons, Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, and Journal of Leadership Studies. His research has been cited more than 2,000 times since 2014.

Sign In to Post a Comment
Ryan I just took your mindset assessment and it gave me some really great food for thought. Some of the insights I already know (or at least I had already suspected about myself) but some of the questions and the outcomes of my assessments gave me points to add to my reflective journaling.
Thanks again for sharing such a powerful tool and at a cost that fits government budgets :) - I am spreading the word inside my own organization north of the boarder.
Keep up the great work!
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
Arbinger Institute's work on Inward/Outward mindset is very similar. They frequently reference a 2014 Mckinsey article that explores focusing on mindset to produced 4x greater success rate in organizational-change efforts than companies that overlooked mindset.
In deed, it is similar. I really appreciate Arbinger's work and all of their books. Thanks for pointing that out.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
Your mindset self-assessment was quite enlightening--thanks!
I am glad you found it helpful! Feel free to share it with others.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.