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Mindset vs. Skillset: What Really Sets You Apart?

Over the past fourteen years, the research for The Mindset of Success has shown that how we think is the new frontier of performance. The difference between the good and the great is the difference between your mindset and your skill set. In a world where skills are bountiful, and increasingly outsourced to cheaper parts of the world, we need more skills to survive, let alone thrive. Mindset separates the best from the rest: the right mindset drives the right habits, which drive the right performance.

Skills focus has three traps for the unwary manager:

  • Skills are in plentiful supply and becoming a commodity. Even the once-prized master’s degree in business administration (MBA) is becoming devalued. The United States is producing over 125,000 MBAs annually, up 74% in 10 years; worldwide there are over 1 million MBAs granted each year.

  • Skills are not a good indicator of performance, as one CEO put it: ‘I hire most people for their skills and fire most for their values.’ The right skills are normally abundant; the right mindset is a rare commodity that is greatly valued.

  • Skills requirements change when you are promoted. This is deadly for managers: the success formula that got you promoted from your last job is not the same as the success formula you need in your next job. You have to learn new roles and new skills. All the best leaders are still learning; even though they appear to be at the top of their trade, they never stop learning new skills.

  • Today’s skills may be redundant tomorrow. Oxford University estimates that 47 per cent of US jobs are at risk from technology in the next 20 years. We have to be agile and adapt throughout our career. We cannot rely on one skill set for life.

The joy of mindset is that it is hidden. You may have the same skills set as others, but with the right mindset you can do more with those skills and learn new skills as well. Your improved performance will be visible, but the causes of your improved performance will remain invisible. And that is probably what you already see in your organization. Many of your colleagues will have similar skill levels, but some outperform others by a large margin. They simply act differently and better. There is no point in trying to ape their actions: copying symptoms is pointless. You have to deal with the root causes. You have to understand why they act differently: you have to find their mindset. That is very hard to do. If you asked them about their mindset, you would be met with a look of blank disbelief. And that is the purpose of this book. It makes visible the invisible advantage that the right mindset gives.

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