Reading business books is a passion of mine—and a curse. I often buy one when walking through the airport shops, but I rarely finish it. Either I can’t find the time to read, or I become massively bored with business banter and decide to surf Facebook instead. However, The Outward Mindset: Seeing Beyond Ourselves by the Arbinger Institute changed all that.
This book had me engaged from the start, and it kept me intrigued as I relearned one of life’s most valuable lessons: the importance of minimizing yourself and turning your attention to others. Outward mind-sets are amazingly simple to implement on all levels—personal, professional, and across an entire team. A simple shift in thinking leads to amazing breakthroughs.
Seeing Beyond Ourselves
Outward thinking is a different approach to tackling life’s challenges. Whether your challenge is a dysfunctional department or a difficult personal relationship, applying the outward mind-set framework dramatically improves performance, collaboration, and innovation.
The first step is to truly see the needs and objectives of others. These include your organization’s executives, physicians, departmental managers, patients, peers, workforce, and direct reports. The lessons learned from Arbinger’s text can be applied equally across your entire organization. Here is an example from my company’s experience.
Inward Versus Outward
Agency Ten22 is a boutique healthcare public relations and marketing agency. Several of us have worked for provider organizations, including hospitals and physicians’ offices. Now, we serve healthcare technology and service companies. In our business, the inward mind-set prevails. Here’s how.
As defined by Arbinger, an inward mind-set keeps companies, their employees and their leadership focused on “themselves and their own perceived needs and challenges, usually to the detriment of the team and the enterprise .” In addition, an inward mind-set creates disconnects between healthcare technology vendors and the provider organizations they serve.
Instead of knowing which technical capabilities or service offerings hospitals need, vendors get stuck hearing only what internal company executives believe. Or, worse yet, vendors build new products and services in response to what their competition is doing instead of relying on industry research and user surveys. The result is failed product launches, flat marketing campaigns, and ignored media pitches.
The solution to this pervasive problem is to understand and embrace an outward mind-set.
Six Steps to an Outward Mind-Set
The first half of this book explains the rationale for moving from an inward mind-set to an outward mind-set, and the second half provides practical steps to achieve this goal. Beginning with chapter 7, the authors share multiple workplace scenarios where mind-sets shifted from inward to outward with dramatic success. One example even features a debt-collection company with valuable lessons for healthcare accounts receivable management teams.
Regardless of the challenge, building an outward mind-set begins with these six steps:
- See others’ needs, objectives, and challenges, including those of executives, physicians, managers, patients, and staff.
- Ask a lot of questions, and then ask some more.
- Take these people’s needs, objectives, and challenges into account.
- Consider the overall goals of the organization, team, or relationship.
- Adjust efforts to be more helpful to others while also achieving organizational goals.
- Measure and hold yourself accountable for the impact of final decisions on others.
The authors suggest remembering the pattern by using a simple acronym, SAM: See others, Adjust efforts, Measure impact. Dozens of workplace and business scenarios are shared in the second half of the book, and all are relevant to healthcare teams and personal relationships.
As I read page after page, I kept reflecting on my own personal communication style. I feel I’ve always been attuned to the needs, wants, and perspectives of others in my life, but I usually fall short in the tactical execution of Arbinger’s principles.
The Art of Listening: A Personal Reflection
Arbinger states that listening is a creative force. However, true listening—as defined by the outward mind-set—is much different than the listening pattern I use as a parent and manager. True listening requires focus and intent to learn.
This book shed a critical light on my own bad habits of poor listening and multitasking. From now on, I’m focusing first on the person and the conversation. I’ll ask my team to hold me accountable in the months ahead as I make this important outward pivot. Enjoy your reading!