Buck Bond Group
A willing mindset for change

A willing mindset for change

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The story goes that legendary escape artist, Harry Houdini, as he travelled small-town America, would visit the local police station and have the local authorities lock him in the town jail. He would quickly break out of the jail cell, bringing great publicity and driving attendance at his shows.

There was, however, one town where he was unable to escape. The jailkeeper shut him in the cell and after three hours, Houdini asked to be let out. The jailer came and pulled the door open. It turned out, the door had never been locked at all.

There are times when I build a sort of prison in my mind, based on false notions and erroneous assumptions. I may feel confined, but I am really not. I’m conditioned to see an environment or set of circumstances in a certain way. I can’t imagine them to be any different.  I am only limited by my mindset.

An optimistic reality

As we are all aware, the COVID-related changes over the past months have impacted all parts of our lives. Our current environment has led to a seemingly continuous state of discomfort. It’s fluid, unpredictable and discouraging.

In the book “Good to Great” by James C. Collins, there is an interview with Commander James Stockdale, the highest-ranking U.S. Naval Officer and a POW in the Vietnam War. Stockdale speaks to maintaining hope while facing reality as being the key to his survival while held captive for seven years:

“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” This has come to be known as the “Stockdale Paradox.”


It’s important to be optimistic, but also accept the situation for what it is. Keep the faith…and lean in. 

Developing a resilient mindset 

I once heard a colleague say: “You can be a successful consultant if you’re articulate and analytical.” I believe there’s truth in that, but I would add one additional characteristic: the ability to deal with ambiguity. I believe most jobs these days require a significant level of flexibility… and resiliency. But there’s currently a more significant level of ambiguity which is not limited to a particular vocation – it’s pertinent in a much larger sense across society as we have faced the pandemic.  The importance of resilience has rarely been as critical as it is now.

Studies have shown that those who are willing to grow have a much higher ability to learn and change.   In the well-known book, “Mindset” by Carol S. Dweck, she speaks to the differences between a “fixed mindset” and a “growth mindset.”  Those whose mindset includes a willingness to learn are best able to adapt and will be able to navigate the challenges presented in the post-COVID workplace.

Flattening the dip 

I recently attended a webinar on how to respond to the volatile and uncertain conditions we are experiencing with the COVID pandemic. The speaker, Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School Professor Ranga Ramunajam, referred to a modified version of the Kubler-Ross Model of stages of grief: moving from denial to acceptance to commitment.

There is often a “dip” in activity and productivity as we try to react and come to terms with the changes brought about by a new environment. He specifically mentioned what it takes to minimize the adverse impact by “flattening the dip”: “People who know what to do (models and tools) and how to be (mindsets and reflexes) can moderate the dip and achieve impact earlier and more often.”

Embracing the change

In consulting with many organizations over the years, the most significant predictor of success is the willingness of the people to embrace ongoing change. This is true in a broader, more holistic sense across society as well.

Companies that most effectively navigate change initiate a three-phase process: engage, adopt and sustain.

  1. Engage: Having the awareness and courage to actively engage in handling the situation – realizing it might not be comfortable.
  2. Adopt: Accepting the situation and adopting measures and strategies to address it – understanding there may be a long road ahead.
  3. Sustain: Making a commitment to sustainable action – not only to survive, but to thrive in the new economic reality.

As many of us return to the workplace in the coming months, keep in mind that it is often our mindset that limits us.  The door may appear to be locked when in reality it’s not – all we have to do is open it. And we can, with a willing mindset, thrive in a new world.