We at Arbinger love the work we do. We find it intellectually fascinating and emotionally compelling. Most importantly, though, we find it imminently practical. For us, the change from a self-focused inward mindset to an others- and results-focused outward mindset isn’t just some interesting theory. It’s a very applicable, pragmatic way to live better lives, be better colleagues, and achieve more impactful results with those around us. An outward mindset lets us be more effective at work and at home. Learn about outward mindset fundamentals here.
The challenge is actually implementing an outward mindset in our lives and work. We can’t just say, “Okay, from now on I’ll be outward,” and have it be so. It takes some practice. (Well, lots of practice!)
We’ve found that framing our daily problems through an Arbinger lens can help with this implementation. From small, run-of-the-mill challenges to our biggest headaches, problems pop up regularly, allowing us a simple way to frequently check in on our mindset…and practice shifting to an outward mindset if we discover we’re inward.
What Does Framing a Problem Through an Arbinger Lens Look Like?
Part 1: Focus on Impact
The first step in framing a problem through an Arbinger lens is to focus on impact. Specifically, on our own impact on those around us. When we’re working in an outward way, we take into account our impact on others, adjust our efforts to be helpful to them, and check in with them to ensure our adjustments are actually helpful.
When problems arise, therefore, one way to ensure we’re approaching them with an outward mindset is to ask, “Am I framing this problem based on my impact on others, or am I focusing on others’ impact on me?”
For example, let’s say your team is working on a project that is past deadline and over budget. You are extremely concerned and want to finish the project as soon as possible. When thinking about this problem, do you think, “These coworkers of mine! If only they were more competent, faster, and more dedicated, we could finish this project today. They are really messing up my plans!”
Or do you think, “I wonder how my worries or way of working have affected the team. What can I change to be more helpful? If I change something, maybe it will help us finish this project more effectively.”
The first way of framing the problem reflects an inward mindset and will likely lead to frustration, more delays, and potential conflicts. The second reflects an outward mindset and will likely lead to new and better solutions.
Part 2: Consider Your Contribution to the Problem
A few years ago, we were talking to a leader who had recently attended an Arbinger training. She was excited about the material and wanted to put it into practice. To get started, we asked her to share with us any problem she was facing. She described a common problem in her industry.
But she framed the problem in a self-focused, inward way. She located the problem outside of herself. Outside of her leadership team, even. The problem, she said, was with the front line workers. If only they did things differently, this problem would go away!
Here was a person inspired by the recent workshop and committed to being more outward. Her intentions were in the right place.
Yet she had not thought about her impact on the front line workers or considered that she might be making their work more difficult.
And this is the challenge. People – all people – struggle to see how they might be part of the problem.
When framing problems through an Arbinger lens, therefore, the second step is to be open to the possibility that we are part of the problem, and to ask ourselves how we might be helping create or perpetuate that problem.
Part 3: Keep Trying!
We’ve written recently that mindset is a journey, not a destination. Along these lines, we can sometimes think that once we’ve changed from an inward to an outward mindset, we’ll stay outward forevermore.
Maybe some people can, but for most of us it’s an ongoing challenge. We have moments of outwardness in particular situations or with particular people, then we slide inward again, often when we feel challenged or stressed.
So the third step is to work through any discouragement, acknowledge that you’ve been inward, and start again at Part 1 by asking yourself how you’re impacting others.