Wednesday, 11 March 2015

What's your mindset?

"Mindset" is a recurring theme in my work these days. Whether I'm working with leaders, a team or individual coaching clients I've noticed so many of the questions and uncertainties stem from mindset; get that straight and good things can happen.

Coaching someone about career transition the other day, I asked them about what the point of a job interview is. "To trap me with hard questions," came their answer. I've had someone else describe job interviews as a necessary evil. "No one likes going to the dentist, but you have to do it."

These two responses say nothing about what happens at job interviews and everything about the mindset of the person I was coaching. Take the first response about using questions as traps. This response attributes motive to the interview panel (to trap me, to show me up, to make a fool of me etc). There's also a sense that the questions will be difficult or test knowledge that you don't have. Neither of these two things is necessarily true. Employers don't use the time of many people in the interview process just to torture outsiders! Employers with a vacancy to fill, have a problem to solve; they need someone to do the job. By inviting you for an interview, they're saying "we think you could be the very person who can solve our problem and fill the job".

But what about those hard questions you'll be asked? I've been a contestant on a few game shows and I love trivia quizzes. I'm often asked about how I came to know the answers to such hard questions. "No question is hard if you know the answer." Unlike most game shows, you know the main topic of the questions you'll be asked at an interview: YOU! The key to dealing with questions at an interview is to prepare. Think about the role and the organisation and think of relevant examples from your life (at work or other settings if relevant).

Imagine if my clients adjusted their mindset. Imagine what it would be like to go into an interview thinking: "I'm so pleased this company thinks I might be the person for this role. I think I am and it's great to have the opportunity to talk to them and show them I am exactly the person they're looking for. While I don't know exactly what they're going to ask me, I'm a subject matter expert about the main subject (me) and I've prepared by thinking of some examples. I'm confident that this will be a great conversation."

Suddenly, an interview is something to look forward to, rather than an ordeal.

So what? Whatever your mindset, it will show up. Whether you're in a job interview, talking to your teenager or negotiating an extension of time to pay your electricity bill, your mindset will be evident.

The other day I had to call a government department. I was on hold for 30 minutes before someone took my call. I really needed to talk to them, so was just eager that that happen while I was available to talk. I put my earpiece in and went about my business while I was on hold, so that was okay. When my call was answered I expressed relief and said I was really pleased my call had been answered. The response of the woman on the phone was to say, in a very clipped, harsh tone, "Yes, well it is a very busy time of year." I instantly felt put off. She didn't sound like she was having a very good day. I don't know what was in her mind, but she was displaying her mindset:"Oh great, another caller who has to talk about how long they've been on hold instead of just getting to the point. Doesn't she know we're busy!"

If her mindset had been about customer service and helping, she might have said something like, "Oh sorry you've had such a long wait, but I'm here now. How can I help you?" Right there, the mindset changes everything.

I won't go into all the details of the call here, but it was harder than it needed to be. My needs weren't being fulfilled and she told me that she could put me through the process but there was no point because she wouldn't be changing her mind. It's pretty clear what her mindset was likely to be.

I find that mindset is often closely aligned to purpose. Clarity about why you're doing something, or why someone is asking you something, helps resolve anxiety about motivation and just get on with it.

So, next time you're wondering how to approach something, especially if it's feeling difficult or scary, forget about the "thing" and get your mindset straight first.

What do you think? What's your mindset?


  1. I often in job interviews I'm thinking about whether I want to work for these people - I'm interviewing them. And for me, sometimes they don't pass.

    I've done best when I've gone into a job inteview with that mindset. Perhaps there is less need to please and no air of desperation. Probably more confidence. I'm the one with the power to choose if I take this job or not.

    Then again, maybe that's just a programming job thing.

  2. Thanks for sharing you mindset tip Mousicles. I agree with you - the interview is a conversation and it's so important to make sure the employer is the right one for you too. Often people are looking for work mainly to satisfy the need for money, they forget to interview the prospective employer! Not everyone has power to exercise in this space, but I still think full participation in the conversation shows a lot about your mindset!