Learn Through Play

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Coaching Leaders Towards a Playful Mindset

Overcoming challenges requires us to do things differently, and the mindset we approach challenges with has an impact on how effectively we overcome them.

An effective coach helps leaders navigate through professional challenges, guiding them to identify necessary actions and move forward in the face of uncertainty. While there are many possible strategies, we believe inviting leaders to adopt a more Playful Mindset is a valuable tool for navigating challenges with more ease, efficiency, and optimism.

What is a Playful Mindset?

We define Playful Mindset as a curious, lighthearted, and learning-oriented mental attitude. Individuals with a playful mindset seek to find joy in ordinary situations, and continually seek out learning opportunities for the fun of it. When it comes to achieving challenging goals, leaders with a playful mindset know that learning and risk-taking is a necessary part of the process.

The opposite of a playful mindset is a fearful mindset, which many leaders experience when faced with professional challenges. They may resist taking steps forward because they are afraid of failing, being judged by others, or experiencing negative outcomes. A fearful mindset limits growth and is often unhelpful for effectively overcoming challenges. 

In coaching, we help leaders shift away from a fearful mindset by offering them alternate, more playful perspectives. These alternate perspectives, or reframes, are based on qualities of playfulness that enable learning and growth in challenging situations.

Playful Mindset Reframes

Fearful Mindset Playful Mindset ReframeWhy It’s Valuable
I need to do this perfectly.This is a fun experiment!Seeing new approaches as fun experiments reduces hesitation and enables leaders to show up with a more light-hearted, learning-oriented mindset. It also enables their teams to approach uncertain situations with more excitement, optimism, and curiosity.
I am a failure.I am a learner.Seeing yourself as a failure is draining and demotivating. Seeing yourself as a learner is inspiring and also helps the people around you learn productively from their mistakes.
I am scared of what will happen.I am curious about what will happen.Being scared of what might happen limits possibility and causes hesitation. Being curious enables creative thinking and taking action.
What do I have to do so I don’t fail?What can I try to be even better?When learning is motivated by avoiding failure, it is often stressful and draining. When it’s motivated by the desire to improve, the process is more enjoyable and rewarding.
This is a serious problem.This is an exciting opportunity for growth and learning.Leaders who view challenges as exciting opportunities for learning are more likely to take necessary risks and learn from their mistakes. They also enable others to be resilient and inspired in the face of challenges, which promotes a culture of learning.

The Challenge

For many leaders, the idea of shifting to a more playful mindset sounds ridiculous if not dangerous! They worry that if they “lighten up” their thinking, they will drop the ball or make a serious mistake. But taking on a more playful mindset doesn’t mean you throw caution to the wind – it simply means you become willing to be curious about the possibilities and positive potential of a challenging situation. 

For Coaches: Applying the Reframes

To help leaders see the value of adopting a more playful mindset, invite them to consider how they might approach a challenging situation with the mindset statements in the chart above. How would they feel personally? What might their teams feel? What kind of energy would they have? How might it impact their teams? 

For Leaders: Develop a More Playful Mindset?

Check out our Executive and Leadership Coaching Programs! Our coaches specialize in helping you achieve meaningful results by learning how to learn with more optimism and ease. Adopting a more playful mindset will benefit not only you, but everyone you serve.

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