Porch Time and the Big Mindshift

One thing is clear from the first 11 years of this century: the new realities of today’s marketplace require entirely new mindsets. But that statement leaves us with at least one unanswered question.

It’s a question worth answering, because mindsets form the starting point of a cycle that can be transformative for organizations. New mindsets lead to new behaviors; new behaviors, in turn, lead to more consistent (and consistently higher) performance, both individual and collective. As the new mindsets and behaviors generate results, people apply them to an expanded range of situations and contexts. Success breeds success, and organizations move from short-term performance to long-term sustainability.

But here’s the question: How do we absorb these new mindsets in the first place? How do we make them part of ourselves?

Let’s head out to the porch.

Really. Think about it. What happens when you settle in on a porch with a glass of wine in your hand as the dusk gathers (or the next morning with a cup of coffee or tea and the spreading dawn)? For many of us, it’s a time to reflect on the past day: the ways in which we showed up, the times when we were our best selves, the places where we could have done better. When we allow our minds to drift over the day, these experiences begin to settle in and take root. Experience turns into learning, and learning allows us to shift our mindsets more proactively—more in line with what it takes to do our best work.

Sometimes our meandering thoughts take the form of questions, and it is a good time to let them arise. What issues underlay the situations I faced today? Can I see a root cause? What might it feel like to stand in the other people’s shoes? Did I do my best work? Did I make the most of my talents, gifts, and skills? How could I have leveraged them better?

Let’s say I have trouble arriving on time for board meetings. The board speaks to me about it repeatedly, and I try to change my behavior. But I am only changing to avoid the implied threat of discipline. If, however, I give myself space to ponder the issue during Porch Time, I’m more likely to see the causes and motives behind my behavior. I might see how my late arrivals affect other people’s work, and I can consider how I would rather show up.

Through Porch Time, the change in my behavior emerges from my change in mindset. The results are much more likely to persist over the long term.

If this sounds too intangible for the bottom line, consider some possibilities. If Lehman Brothers executives had taken Porch Time, might they have pondered the larger impact of their work in derivatives—and seen the oncoming danger? If leaders from IBM had taken Porch Time in the 1980s, could their thoughts have uncovered the innovations to come (and anticipated the competitors who would take their market share)? If your managers took Porch Time, what improvements to your processes, your competitive position, or your marketing might they dream up?

Porch Time is a variation on the theme of “slowing down to speed up.” Some things only happen at a slower pace: the reflection required for making complex decisions, the open-ended discussions from which new ideas come, the hard work of resolving conflict. So whether alone, in one-on-one meetings, as a department, or as an organization, there is value in taking a deep breath and listening. As part of that process, we connect more thoroughly—with ourselves and with others—than we can if we just keep on rushing.

Then, as we reenter the go-go pace of our daily lives, we have different mindsets to bring to the table. We start to become the change we seek. We, and our organizations, are the better for it.