It will probably come as no surprise to learn that a manager’s mindset or focus, as well as their behaviour, can have a profound effect on the motivation of their team. In fact, the leader’s motivations and behaviours tend to set the standard for the rest of the team. However, new research from Michigan State University has found that managers can change their mindsets to produce certain outcomes in their employees. According to the research, there are two basic mindsets that produce different behaviours in employees. Part of being a successful manager is knowing when a particular mental state is required in their employees to achieve a particular task. The best leaders then adapt their own mental state and behaviours to bring about the required outcome in their team. Let’s find out more.

Two basic mind-sets

Promotion focus: The first basic mindset identified by the research is called a promotion focus or an innovative mindset. Leaders with this focus are more likely to be transformative leaders that elicit a similar innovative mindset in their team members.

Prevention focus: In comparison, the second main focus is more of a conservative one. This mindset is concerned with preventing mistakes or errors and so it tends to elicit a prevention focus in team members too.

So now that we have an understanding of the two focuses, it’s not difficult to see how the different mindsets can be influencing your team members to model similar behaviours. One mindset is not, however, more desirable than the other. Depending on the task at hand, there will be times when one is preferential to the other.

Learn to use both mind-sets

The trick is to recognise the situations where one focus may be more important than the other.  Knowing when and how to use these mindsets can be an effective way to motivate employees, drive performance and achieve the right outcomes.

A manager who, for example, wants to initiate a promotion focus may begin by talking to team members about ideals – the ideal team, ideal performance, ideal work and so on. Rather than focusing on what would happen if tasks are not completed and emphasising team members’ responsibilities as the prevention focus mindset might do; the promotion-focused manager models creative, curious and innovative behaviours to bring out the same in their team.

Similarly, a naturally promotion-focused manager that wants to encourage a prevention focus within the team might do so by closely monitoring the performance of team members, setting clear KPIs and presenting tasks with an emphasis on deadlines, procedures and job responsibilities.

In addition according to the research, in some situations, it may also be appropriate to combine both mindsets in what’s known as contingent reward behaviour. This brings in both a promotion and a prevention focus by emphasising both gains and losses and providing positive and negative reinforcement based on performance.

Being aware of how the mindset and behaviours you model as a manager affect your team is, therefore, important to know how to get the best out of employees. As a manager, your motivations are contagious and so depending on the task at hand, you may need to modify your mindset to achieve the right outcomes.