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In addition to competence and training, an optimal mindset leads to better results

Posted on 13 February 2012

By Joanne Liou, editorial coordinator

Dave Walls, Transocean

A peak performer not only has a strong skill set but also an optimal mindset, Dave Walls, VP-QHSE, Transocean, said at the IADC HSE&T Conference & Exhibition on 8 February in Houston.

To describe a peak performer, commitment, skills, drive and focus come to mind, among other positive traits. Dave Walls, VP-QHSE for Transocean, believes the attributes of a peak performer can be divided into two parts – 30% skill set and 70% mindset, and it’s the latter portion that is often overlooked in employee development. “Training and competence is typically what we focus on when we aim for the results that we want in performance,” Mr Walls stated at the IADC Health, Safety, Environment and Training Conference & Exhibition on 8 February in Houston. But “why do we focus on training and competence and not these mindset skills?”

When things are going well, it is easy to work at optimal levels and stay positive; the difficulty comes when things are not going well. “It’s difficult to always be of an optimum internal mindset, but we need to know what it means to be when you’re not,” Mr Walls said. “Our behavioral language, the way we speak – we become other people’s positive or negative circumstances.”

A leader chooses how to present himself or herself, which helps mold peoples’ immediate perceptions. “If we project a certain image and people expect that they will get the problem solved,” Mr Walls explained, “it doesn’t matter what we say; it’s how we say it” and how we behave and react. The way a message is conveyed is key, and sometimes today’s modern communication outlets can get in the way of a message’s meaning. “By far the biggest conveyor of that message is the body language,” he said. “That’s why in email, very often, the message is misunderstood or taken out of context because there is no inflection in email.”

The way a leader physically projects himself or herself also can affect the attitudes of others. “What do you look like when you convey positivity to your team? Practice that, because pretty soon that will become the way you conduct yourself and the way you carry yourself,” Mr Walls said, “and your team will see the results.”

Leaders often refer to the equation E + I = O. E is the experience, I is the internal response and O is the observable behavior. It is important to focus on what is wanted rather than what is not wanted. “That’s what our team sees. That becomes your team’s experience,” Mr Walls said. Further, people’s actions are based on the influences of beliefs. “We, under our own interpretation, make assumptions based on those (cultural and personal) meanings, and we draw conclusions based on those assumptions,” he explained. “We adopt a system of beliefs,” which ultimately leads to an action.

Training and competence are often brought to the forefront, while the shaping and understanding of the mindset can fall to the wayside. Realizing that we are human and we make mistakes is a step to better understanding employee behaviors. “If I make a mistake (in the office), there often is a backspace on the keyboard,” Mr Walls stated. “When people on the rigs make a mistake, very often it’s something far more severe. Equally there’s an error that was unintended, and that’s what we need to focus on. In most cases, it’s not about training and competence; it’s about understanding our own people’s mindset and understanding people all make mistakes, unintentionally.”

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