It’s no secret that today’s business leaders are tasked with decisions they never thought they’d have to make.
- Do we let people work from home full-time, part-time, or not at all?
- What’s our contingency plan if we have to close the office down again?
- How do we attract new customers?
- Is what we’re doing (or the product we’re making) still relevant?
- Do we have the resources to continue operations for the next year?
These questions and more are being examined by business owners and C-level managers worldwide as companies tentatively emerge from pandemic status like Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog Day.
It’s Time for a New Game
In his book The Infinite Game, author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek provides guidance for those playing to win in a game that has no definite end. Unlike football, basketball, or hockey, the game of business is always in play. There’s no time clock or finish line — unless you’re an entrepreneur who’s decided to close up shop and retire. Players are in continuous rotation, changing positions, moving to another team, or dropping out of the game entirely. Moreover, in the game of business, there are no set rules to determine who wins and who loses. It’s all a matter of perspective.
So how do business owners succeed in a game like this?
Sinek suggests employing an infinite mindset, one that allows the game to continue indefinitely for the long haul. A leader who operates out of an infinite mindset knows the race is a marathon, not a sprint. And while short-term promotions and accolades feel good in the moment, the buzz quickly wears off as the next hurdle looms on the horizon.
A manager with a finite mindset plays to beat the opponent. It’s a very limited way of looking at things. A manager with an infinite mindset plays strategically to maintain a healthy position within the competitive playing field. This leader knows there will always be another opponent ready to take them on.
Infinite vs. Finite Mindsets
Here are a few differences between infinite and finite mindsets, as noted by Sinek:
“Us” vs. “Me.” An infinite-minded leader focuses on the big picture. How does the business impact customers, employees, and business partners? A finite-minded leader thinks only of him- or herself, climbing the ladder to attain personal goals.
Long-term vs. Short-term Viewpoint. The infinite-minded leader focuses on long-term goals and results. Finite-minded managers focus only on the short-term. Yes, it’s great to make those monthly sales numbers. But that has to be done over and over again to keep the momentum going. Taking a farther-ranging viewpoint and working toward long-term strategic goals helps prevent burnout and boredom.
Short-term vs. Long-term Threats. Businesses under infinite-minded leadership remain stable no matter what’s going on around them. Economic, political, and environmental concerns don’t rattle them. Nor do competitive threats. These leaders assume change will come, and they’re prepared for it. On the flip side, finite-minded executives often resist threats, pushing against them to try to maintain the status quo — even when it no longer makes good business sense. This attitude wears everyone out and eventually leads to low employee morale.
Proactive vs. Reactive Approach. A proactive approach to business puts the organization in a stronger position than does a reactive approach. Rather than waiting for something to happen, infinite-minded leaders go out and make things happen. Finite-minded leaders, on the other hand, sit back and wait for something to happen, and then they make their next move. A proactive approach sets the company up for long-term success, while a reactive mindset only gets the company through the immediate need.
Resilience vs. Stability. While remaining stable in the face of change is good, it’s much better to be resilient and able to flex a little when things get rough. Just as a sapling must bend in the wind to strengthen its trunk, a business needs to be able to flex under pressure. This keeps it from breaking. An infinite mindset leads to resilience and strength.
Here’s How to Lead with an Infinite Mindset
Sinek offers these tips for leading with an infinite mindset:
- Advance a just cause, an inspiring big-picture vision that stands for something, not against something.
- Build trusting teams of people who feel safe around each other.
- Study worthy rivals, those competitors who are better than you at some aspect of the game. These are the opponents you can learn something from.
- Be ready to pivot to stay true to the just cause at a fundamental level.
- Lead courageously, continually working toward a better future for the company.
Businesses led by infinite-mindset managers often enjoy increased revenues for longer periods than those run with finite mindsets. The infinite mindset leads to unlimited possibilities and long-term success, while the finite mindset enjoys success only in the here and now.
Which do you prefer?
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