Perspectives from the Top

Reflections On The Top - Paul Epstein

Episode Notes

Chris revisits the key points made by Paul Epstein, adds his own insights and gives listeners some suggestions for practical actions they can take immediately to help them get where they want to go.

Episode Transcription

Welcome to every one of our Perspectives from the Top community of listeners around the world to “Reflections on the Top”. “Reflections” is to help you get the best from the series by me reviewing the key points from our latest guest, giving you some of my insights and suggesting a few simple practical actions you can take to get the best out of what our guests said to help you get to where you want to be. Our last guest was Paul Epstein, C-Suite Sports Executive for multiple NBA and NFL teams, global agencies, and the NFL league office. He transformed NBA teams from bottom in league revenue to top two, broke records on revenue in the super bowl as NFL Sales Leader, opened a billion dollar stadium, helped save the new Orleans NBA and founded the San Francisco 49ers Talent Academy. And his recent book, Playing Offense, draws on his lessons from both his life and those experiences.

Now, Paul opened with some really interesting comments about the fact that low times that you have in your life, that we've all had when things aren't going well, are the times when you really do need a purpose to pull you through. His comment was, that purpose is the fuel of courage and resilience, and what gives you that purpose is a belief in the future. But to have a powerful belief in the future, you need a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. Now... You've probably heard these terms before, and for our listeners who don't know the difference, it's worth me just giving you an overview of the difference. Because once you understand the difference, it is a really, really powerful tool that will allow you to achieve more of what you want to achieve. 

So people with fixed mindset think that their skills or abilities are set in stone, determined at birth, so that there's nothing that you can do to grow, develop, and move forward. If you think that you're bad at science, you can't get any better, so what's the point in trying? If you think you're great at football, then that's good, but you're probably not going to get that much better. If you're not very good at music, that's it for the rest of your life, no chance. And that's demonstrating a fixed mindset.

Whereas with a growth mindset, people think that their skills and abilities can be improved through effort and hard work, and a good plan to achieve it. So when you take steps to improve yourself proactively, you're exhibiting a growth mindset. 

But don't fall into the trap of thinking that it's either one or the other. You are a growth or you are a fixed. Because it's not set in stone. It is perfectly possible to move from fixed to growth. And not only that... It is interesting, but you can be both at the same time in different areas of your life. So, to be blunt, if you're in a job that you don't particularly like very much, but you've got a great home life, you could be very growth-oriented around what you do at home, maybe in terms of sport or other activities. But at work, you have a fixed mindset because it's just what the environment creates in you, that you have no desire to do anything.

And also, it's not just about you. It's worth mentioning that it's not you creating this mindset just by yourself. The fact that other people can trigger and influence, whether you are a growth or whether you are a fixed, is something that you need to remember, both from your personal perspective and also if you are a leader. Because if, for example, somebody keeps saying that you aren't very good, you're not going to get any better, the classic is the teacher we've all had at school. Somebody somewhere said, "Hey, you... You're not much good at that. You're not going to get any better, so forget it." Now that impact on us is likely... Particularly if we are a child, to create a fixed mindset in our brain about that particular activity. Conversely, if you had a great teacher at school who encouraged you to grow and develop, they will have created a growth mindset about those things.

But think about it. The same applies to a boss at work. Some bosses will proactively encourage you to grow and develop in any number of areas, but other bosses will behave and basically write you off and say, "You're no good to do this. You're no good to do that." And they can even do that by not delegating things to you. So, this growth versus fixed is really important, but it's not just down to you.

I asked Paul about how you can start to change from fixed to growth, and one of the things he said was a useful tip is to review your past achievements and adversities and write them down, and write next to each of them, how you felt about it being an adversity or an achievement, what you did to achieve that or what you did to overcome the adversity, and then how you felt when that happened. Because that will then give you an example of evidence of you growing and overcoming adversities, which will then boost your growth mindset.

Now, the problem is though, that part of the fixed mindset is about a fear of failure. And that fear, Paul said, stifles your ability to grow. But if you flip around the perspective and say, "Okay... Look, if I succeed, I succeed. But if I get it wrong, it's just an opportunity to learn." That reframes the problem, and actually even failing can help you move into a growth mindset. My perspective is, in terms of work, but that can also happen as well if you're in a blame culture.

The other interesting point that Paul came out with said that one of his mistakes was actually studying the people who were most successful when they were most successful. And what revealed their growth and their growth mindset and their challenges and adversities, is looking at their career early on when they were growing. Because Paul had that experience as well himself. But he said, one of the problems was when he was having that experience, he was thinking, what he called his “Me” mountain at the beginning of his career. But having hard times and realizing the need to grow and improve, being encouraged to do so by friends, by mentors and other people, he realized that actually working with other people, having a “We” mindset, which became his second mountain, helped him out.

His research shows quite clearly, that leaders who have purpose to grow and develop actually perform significantly better. So his evidence was that if you're a purpose driven professional, you're 50% more likely to enter leadership, you're 30% more likely to deliver better performance, and you're 64% likely to get greater fulfillment. But if you flip that up to organizational level, Paul said, 10 most purpose-driven companies outperform the rest of the stock market by 1000%. And as for great places to work, those organizations identified as such, consistently outperformed S&P peers by a factor of four to five.

Now, in his example though... Really powerful example from the San Francisco 49ers, was that they implemented purpose in onboarding, development, engagement, evaluation, retention. And what happened was, after they did that, the revenues went up by 20% for the same product, which proves it works. 

So that then leads on to whether you are creating in yourself or if you're a boss creating at work, an environment where purpose and growth can flourish. This purpose is absolutely critical, because the fundamental thing is if you can create that environment, people will bring themselves to work. When I say all of themselves to work, not half of themselves to work. Because we all know from our own experience, there are some bosses and some organizations who we haven't really given our full effort for. And the data is quite clear. An awful lot of employees are perfectly capable of getting satisfactory evaluation scores and still withholding 30% of their effort.

So what would I say you should do in terms of actions, post Paul's interview? Three things. 

One, write down the three things that you would like to do in life and whether you feel that you are in a growth or a fixed mindset. So you could find that you're in a growth mindset at home, but a fixed at work. How can you change that at work?

Two, do you feel you have a sense of purpose? What are those three things you really want to do, which will help you grow and develop if you plan action to make them happen. And once you've written those down, write down a couple of steps to start the process of achieving those.

And finally, think about whether you are living a “We”, not “Me”, life. Are you creating belief and trust in other people which will then be reciprocated to help you. Because don't forget if you're at work, you have a brand. And your brand is how other people see you, whether you're a leader or whether you're just a simple member of staff. And it is your brand that is created by your actions that determine how you do, because people that work on “We”, not “Me”, are the ones that the evidence shows, succeed.

So, have a growth mindset, go and make it happen. Be great to hear your success stories. Contact me on LinkedIn or via email as detailed on the Perspectives website. And don't forget to sign up to Perspectives from the Top. It's free, so you don't miss any of the great episodes. And it's now, good luck to you and onwards and upwards.