How Extraordinary Leaders Transform Employee Mindsets: Beyond Behavior Change

How Extraordinary Leaders Transform Employee Mindsets: Beyond Behavior Change

Ordinary leaders change employee behavior,

extraordinary leaders change their cognition.

I’m not sure how you conduct one-on-one meetings with your subordinates, but have you ever encountered these pain points:

  1. turning into reporting or task assignment meetings
  2. Or struggling to address behaviors from employees that you are dissatisfied with, wanting to point them out without being too harsh or critical
  3. unsure about what topics to discuss or what questions to ask to get the conversation going.

There are countless models for evaluating a leader’s leadership skills, but one that stuck with me is to categorize leaders into three levels:

Level 1: Leaders talk, but employees are indifferent.

Level 2: Leaders say some things, and employees start to act.

Level 3: Leaders say a few words, and the employee’s perception, thinking, and views on the matter are changed, and they take the initiative to act.

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As a leader, you may be confused, “Why do you keep making mistakes even though I’ve said this so many times?” Or “Why can’t you understand what I’m saying?” You may think it is a problem with the employee’s ability or willingness. In fact, there may be another possibility that their perception has not yet changed.

For example, a new employee named Benjamin Harrison has been taking a lot of time off and not attending team meetings. You may think that he has a poor work attitude or is not team-oriented and order him to attend team meetings in the future (even resorting to punishment or reward measures). However, perhaps the reason behind Benjamin Harrison’s behavior is that we are an international team, and he is worried that his poor foreign language will be laughed at by colleagues, or even looked down upon (a major assumption). Therefore, his perception may be that if his spoken English is not good enough, he will not be able to gain respect and support in this team.

01-Powerful Immune System – Immunity to Change

Harvard Professor Robert Kegan wrote a book “An Everyone Culture – Deliberately Developmental Organizations” (DDO), and I was fortunate enough to participate in the translation and promotion of DDO in China. Professor Kegan mentioned that people’s cognition is relatively stable, which gives us a sense of security and makes us feel “I am my own person”, and therefore our behavior tends to stay the same, and our attitude remains unchanged. Professor Kegan refers to this as “Immunity to Change” (ITC). I think “Immunity” is a very accurate and precise word choice. How many times have we seriously committed to changing ourselves but ultimately let our promise fall by the wayside because of the powerful immune system we have?

So how can we combat this “immunity” phenomenon? Professor Kegan offers a useful tool – the Immunity to Change Map template.

1. Commitment(Increase Goal)2. Actions that I Do Too Much (or Too Little)3. Hidden conflicting commitments4.Grand hypothesis
I promise myself in… do a better job

A tool like this needs a scenario to support and promote within the organization. Huddles provides millions templates that can help with the organizations. For example Huddles-Decsion Meeting Template.

In my opinion, one-on-one meetings between leaders and employees are the perfect scenario to practice conversations that drive “immunity to change.” Leaders can help employees create a vision that truly changes their understanding of how to approach things.

Once a person’s view of things has changed, they will spontaneously take action from within. Today, I will share with you how to conduct such a meeting.

02-One-on-one session on the topic of DDO for Mind Development

(From , Template Library – Advanced Organizations – 1-on-1 Sessions to Promote Mental Upgrading)

Step 1: Commitment (Increase Goal)

First, you need to determine your improvement goal. Choosing a good goal is crucial as the rest of the process starts with this goal. How can you determine your goal? Here are some recommended references:

  1. To perform current responsibilities more effectively, what areas do you need to improve on? To make a greater contribution to your organization or current high-priority plan, what areas do you need to improve on?
  2. What areas do you need to improve on to make your organization or department closer to the operating mode of DDO (a Deliberately Developmental Organization)? What changes do you need to make to your behavior?
  3. Pick any aspect of your life, work, family, friendship, etc., and ask yourself: What is most important to you? Now, after determining this, ask yourself: What is the best way to improve myself that will have the greatest impact on this most important thing?
  4. Have you tried to achieve certain improvement goals before, perhaps many times, but have been dissatisfied with the results or their longevity? What are these goals?

I commit to improving myself in the following areas:

Step 2: Actions that I Do Too Much (or Too Little)

  1. You need to create a fearless list that includes all the “doing” behaviors (or doing too much) and “not doing” behaviors (or not doing enough) that are contrary to your improvement goal.
  2. Make sure the items listed are actions and the more specific, the better.
  3. Each item should be the things you are(or aren’t) doing that go against your improvement goal.
  • Doing too much:
  • Not doing enough:

Step 3: Hidden Conflict Commitments

  1. The worry box: share your fears and worries. List the fears and concerns that arise when you imagine doing things opposite to each item listed in column two.
  2. I also commit to… Although we actively strive to ensure that the things we fear do not happen, we usually do not realize these commitments. Being aware of these commitments means being uncomfortably aware of our fears. Therefore, these commitments are often hidden outside our consciousness and strive to ensure that what we fear will not happen.
  • The worry box:
  • I also commit to:

Step 4: Grand Hypothesis

  1. The hypothesis refers to beliefs, that is, our ideas about ourselves and the world, is a mental structure, but we tend to regard these beliefs as truths, or rules about how the world actually is.
  2. The big hypothesis is the core belief behind your entire immune system and is the root of almost all your behaviors.
  • My Grand hypothesis:
  • The hypothesis I want to update:


It is not easy to truly practice such a conversation. My advice is to practice yourself before you fix others. Try to overcome your own immune resistance, gain some experience, and feel the value of DDO.

Author: Fiona Berton

Founder of Huddles, Meeting Effectiveness Expert

Deeply accompanying the organizational evolution of agile transformation in enterprises.

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