What happens when we realize we’re part of the problem?
Michael Lazan had a highly successful career in the consumer product goods industry, working in executive-level marketing management. At the top of his game, he was highly focused on results, and didn’t think he had time for training opportunities or insights from visiting consultants. At one company, where he was head of marketing, he grew very frustrated with his colleagues on the executive team, whom he thought were not collaborative and as a team, quite dysfunctional.
To Michael’s very good fortune, it was then that he happened upon a book by the Arbinger Institute, Leadership and Self-Deception. Reading through, he had an awful yet awakening a-ha moment: he was part of the problem. The fact he had this realization was enough to convince him of the power and importance of Arbinger’s work.
Fast forward, Michael has now been with Arbinger for almost 15 years. What he knows for sure is that Arbinger’s work isn’t about delivering a program or a lesson: it’s about helping people and their organizations.
Outward vs. inward mindset seems like a no-brainer, but the human brain is a tricky thing. It needs to practice regularly to make a change. Worth it? Read on for an interview with Michael Lazan who recognized his need to change, and how he now helps others to do the same.
Q&A with The Arbinger Institute’s Michael Lazan (ML) and Smart Savvy (SS)
Arbinger Institute, founded in 1979, bases its programs and methodology on 45 years of research in the psychology of human behaviour and motivation. Arbinger works with organizations worldwide.
Our team sampled learnings from the book of the same name, and we reached out to Michael Lazan to get an insider’s perspective on the importance of having an outward mindset, and how Arbinger’s workshop rolls out for participants.
SS: Thinking about the participants in your past workshops, why do people choose to come and learn about Outward Mindset?
ML: There are as many reasons as there are participants, but there are some common themes as to why people attend. Individuals often are looking to get “unstuck” in their careers or are trying to resolve some seemingly intractable work or personal relationship. Organizations often send employees to improve intra-team and inter-team collaboration, to create more inspiring leaders or to create a greater sense of accountability among their employees. No matter the reason they come, at the end of the day, it’s about transforming people and organizations.
SS: Of your usual participants, are people generally more outward or inward in their mindsets?
ML: I really don’t know the answer to that. What I can tell you is that most of us are much more inward than we would’ve guessed, and we contribute to issues in the workplace and personal lives much more than we realize. The workshops create that awareness – and once somebody has that awareness, they can’t unthink it, so even the workshop alone tends to have a long-term impact on people. With that, however, the most powerful, lasting effects come about when individuals and their organizations embed the outward mindset in the way that they work and live. While we provide the tools as well as support for doing so, the real impact comes about when the individuals themselves use those tools regularly.
SS: What happens when people in your workshop get hit with that big “a-ha” and realize, just like you did, that they’re part of the problem?
ML: It’s absolutely transformational for them and an amazing thing to see. While much of the transformation takes place after the workshop, even in the workshop itself I’ve witnessed people mend professional and personal relationships that they considered beyond repair. For example, one company I worked with had a longstanding, toxic relationship between two senior-level leaders that was hurting not just the company’s morale, but also their business. The two leaders were in a workshop together, and as clichéd as it might sound, ended up working out their differences, and yes, they even hugged it out. And here’s the really interesting thing: that company is now earning record profits, which they attribute directly to working with an outward mindset. The outward mindset not only has a powerful impact on relationships, but on the bottom line as well.
Editor's note: This article has been edited for clarity and relevance.
Smart, Savvy + Associates are experts in helping marketing and communications leaders find people and develop teams that thrive and deliver inspiring results. As a people performance company, we specialize in finding marketing and communications talent in the Pacific North West. We also offer training programs for leaders and teams as well as options to become a certified coach or get coached.