Time to Adjust Your Work Mindset

This week we are going to talk about the "mindset" you bring to work each day. It might be more crucial than you think.

What is the context that you bring to work each day? What's your personal way of seeing the world that influences your problem-solving and decision-making at work? I think a worker's mindset is one of the most important, and least talked about, issues in today's workplace.

Why? Because I think most of us go to work each day with the wrong mindset. To fix that, it's best to understand the different types of attitudes and think how they might affect you at work.

Here are the five most common mindset "M's" that I see in today's workplace, along with a few of the problems that are associated with each.

1. MOTIVATION. "How to Win Friends and Influence People" is the landmark title from Dale Carnegie that says everything you really need to know about motivational management. Carnegie was a master salesman who created the fundamental techniques of handling people (don't criticize, condemn or complain; give honest and sincere appreciation and arouse in the other person an eager want). Unfortunately, what is pure gold in the hands of a master like Carnegie is often distinctly unmotivating in the hands of a novice.

2. MILITARY. Max Weber believed that the most efficient way to get a job done was through a rule-driven, impersonal bureaucracy. His most influential book title tells you everything you need to know about his world view -- "The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism." It's easy to make fun of Weber's rules. But look around your workplace and you'll see that the only thing more resilient than a cockroach is a bureaucracy. Ironically, even the U.S. military is encouraging the troops to show more creativity and initiative these days.

3. MACHINE. This is one of the most popular ways to look at work. With proper fuel and maintenance, work will work like… well… a machine. The "father" of the machine mindset at work is Frederick Taylor. For example, he broke down the process to make Ford's Model T into 7,882 steps. He then determined that of these steps, 715 could be done by men with one arm and 10 by blind men. The only problem is that Taylor's world really has no place for creativity or intelligence. Oops.

4. MEASUREMENT. Walk into the Toyota building in Tokyo and you'll see three portraits. The first is of the company's founder. The second the current chairman. The third is of an American mathematician, W. Edwards Deming. Lean production, quality and reducing waste were all hallmarks of Deming's teachings. But my favorite lesson from Deming is No. 8 of his famous 14 points: "Drive out fear." Deming's measurements can do a remarkable job of improving quality, but once again this philosophy is extremely limited when it comes to creating new markets and products.

5. ENTREPRENEURIAL. [Yes, I realize this is not an "M" word -- it's a trick of sorts, and I use it to explain an aspect of "mindsets" that can often hamper your work. Does your mindset box you in and limit your flexibility when something surprising is thrown your way? If so, might be time to adjust.] Do you know when the word entrepreneur was first coined? J.B. Say, a French economist, first coined the word in the early 1800s. Peter Drucker talked about how systemic entrepreneurship is the secret behind many of the most revolutionary innovations in the workplace. The only problem is that most organizations can only maintain an entrepreneurial environment for a relatively short period of time before bureaucracy begins to gum up the works.

Take the online ballot to vote for your favorite mindset. And let me know if I forgot any important ones that you bring to work on a regular basis.

Next time I'll talk about an entirely new mindset that you can bring to work. One that is complex enough to allow you to apply to your life and tackle those really tough challenges at work.


"The handwriting on the wall may be a forgery." -- Ralph Hodgson


From "Innovation and Entrepreneurship" by Peter Drucker (Perennial, 1985)

"Stories of the obtuseness of the high and mighty in the face of a knowledge-based innovation abound. Typical is the anecdote which has a king of Prussia predicting the certain failure of that new-fangled contraption, the railroad, because 'No one will pay good money to get from Berlin to Potsdam in one hour when he can ride his horse in one day for free."'

Blog Ballot Results

Here are the results from a recent Working Wounded Blog/ABCNews.com online ballot:

Do you have the information and resources you need to do your job?

   Yes, I'm armed and dangerous, 16.1 percent

   Never, I'm firing blanks, 38.7 percent

   Sometimes, it depends on the day, 45.1 percent

Bob Rosner is a best-selling author, an internationally syndicated columnist, popular speaker, and a recent addition to the community of bloggers. He welcomes your comments at bob@workingwounded.com.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.