3 October 2023

A change of mindset

People matter. This is the focus of all DHEF’s activities. So it is important that the managers and volunteers who run DHEF’s many and varied projects work effectively to fulfil the organisation’s mission.  How can DHEF support its teams in their efforts to work together happily and collaboratively?  One organisation, it seems, has the key; the Arbinger Institute.  

Mercedes has been a volunteer in different DHEF projects over many years.  She and others were inspired by the ideas in Arbinger Institute books and felt that this organisation would really help DHEF.

Increasing the synergy

“Working in a team has its challenges no matter where you are or who you work with”, says Mercedes. “It’s always possible to increase the synergy between the members of a team. For that to happen each individual has to be ready to put the priorities of the whole team, and of each of the other individuals, on the same level as their own.”

A whole day in June was set aside for a dedicated workshop run by the Arbinger Institute, with participants coming from Pembridge, Ashwell House, Dawliffe Hall and Bracklyn, amongst others.  The workshop was led by Rachel Smallwood, an organisational psychologist with a 27-year long career in the armed forces.

Outward Mindset

The theme of the workshop was to explore the concept of “Outward Mindset”. In a nutshell, if you have an outward mindset the people around you matter to you as much as you do.

It was this fundamental principle which struck a deep chord with DHEF.

“In DHEF, women, who are often undervalued in society, are at the centre of our projects”, says Mercedes. “No matter what their circumstances, people are people, with their own needs, their own dreams, their own baggage; and all of that matters and has to be respected and valued. Learning to have an outward mindset helps us to achieve this.”

New and compelling reasons

Chris is part of the Management Team of Ashwell House Student Residence.  She assists in the practical running of the house, developing and leading a programme of cultural, spiritual and social activities for the residents and managing Ashwell House’s social media. She also mentors students who live there.

For Chris, the workshop was not about learning new facts so much as seeing new and compelling reasons to examine her attitude towards others and herself. “An inward mindset prioritises personal needs and goals over others, which can be highly counterproductive for team goals and personal relationships,” she says. “The difficult thing is that, while we don’t want to be inwardly focused, we often don’t know that we’re ‘trapped’ in an inward mindset. The first step is learning how to identify when we are ‘closed in’ and growing our ability to switch to an outward mindset.”

But an important takeaway for Mercedes was that she mustn’t forget herself: “Until I attended the workshop, I had interpreted the basic Arbinger principle as not thinking myself to be more important than others. At the workshop I discovered that I can also fail in that principle by giving others more importance than myself, if I don’t treat myself with due compassion and care.”

During the workshop Rachel shared practical self-awareness tools and gave helpful insights into human psychology. Arbinger’s pyramid of influence offers a step-by-step progression towards supporting individuals. The biggest input is at the bottom of the pyramid – improving your own mindset and attitudes. The next step is to build the relationship with the individual you are helping. Climbing up the pyramid helps things to go right and it takes you to a place where you can more easily put things right should they go wrong.

Heading for the same goal

So what was the verdict on the workshop? “As a charity dedicated to the well-being of women and girls, I think the outward mindset approach will benefit DHEF hugely,” says Chris. “If we all work on it, it can only lead to increasingly better teamwork and leadership. The workshop was challenging but ultimately uplifting. We want to do better – and now we have a way to do that!

“In the end we’re all heading for the same goal: helping others to the best of our ability.”

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