Allison's Book Corner - Oct. 2023: The Outward Mindset

This quarter’s Book Corner examines the Arbinger Institute’s book, The Outward Mindset. It discusses improving your work relationships not by expecting others to change but by looking inward for the change.

Although a quick read, the book’s ideas are difficult to apply. Specifically, The Outward Mindset challenges you to be a better coworker and person. Whether you’re an individual contributor, supervisor, or manager, there’s something here for you.

To start, here’s how the book defines both the inward and outward mindsets:

It’s easy to think, Well, clearly, I’m an outward mindset person. But check out this statistic: “On average, all employees in an organization think they are nearly 50% better—more collaborative and less blameworthy—than their coworkers.” The book blatantly calls this self-deception.

Ouch! That’s a hard pill to swallow. Mathematically, it’s troubling because it reveals that essentially everyone thinks they’re better than everyone else at work. This delusion puts us on a higher plain in our mindset, wishing everyone else would care more and try harder—basically, be more like us. Scary!

Accountability is another facet of this discussion. What do you think when you hear that word? Perhaps you envision certain people—your boss or a customer—to whom you’re accountable.

The Outward Mindset encourages us to think about accountability in terms of how our actions (or inactions) impact others’ performance at work.

The book offers three ways to have an outward-mindset:

1.    See the needs, objectives, and challenges of others

2.    Adjust my efforts to be more helpful to others

3.    Measure and hold myself accountable for the impact of my work on others

It’s easy to tell ourselves we’re helpful, but what an outward mindset requires is proactive helpfulness: regularly asking those we work with what they’re experiencing and what we can do to help them. An important component of this mindset is accepting that those around you may not reciprocate. That occasional lack of reciprocity may be tough to accept. But what matters is that you’ve done your part to be empathetic and useful to those around you.

Another takeaway from the book is the encouragement to shrink distinctions at work. This means leaders should be willing—in fact, actively looking for ways—to collapse the “trappings of difference.” Here’s a list of questions you can ask yourself to reveal areas where you could shrink distinctions:

•       What am I doing to value and understand employees?

•       What can I do to collect and stay open to feedback from people at all levels of the organization?

•       Whose voice needs to be heard?

•       Do I need the prime parking spots and the best office space?

A thread running through the book is the characteristic humility, what the authors say is the single most important leadership quality for anyone, anywhere, in business.

Make the commitment to being more outwardly minded, helpful, and humble. Join us in the new year on January 22nd for our related training course, Finding Your Voice and Personal Power. It’s part of CPS HR’s Women in Leadership series. See you there!


Allison Horak is a speaker, trainer, and attorney. She helps organizations work more efficiently through better leadership and communication practices.

This quarter’s Book Corner examines the Arbinger Institute’s book, The Outward Mindset. It discusses improving your work relationships not by expecting others to change but by looking inward for the change.
Allison's Book Corner - Oct. 2023: The Outward MindsetDOWNLOAD
Allison Horak

Allison is an independent training consultant and a member of the California and Oregon State Bars. While working as in-house counsel for an Oregon corporation, she handled litigation matters, as well as training and educating corporate members on various legal issues. Allison has also been a solo practitioner, managing various transactional, litigation, and probate matters for clients.

About CPS HR Consulting

CPS HR Consulting is a self-supporting public agency providing a full range of integrated HR solutions to government and nonprofit clients across the country.  Our strategic approach to increasing the effectiveness of human resources results in improved organizational performance for our clients.  We have a deep expertise and unmatched perspective in guiding our clients in the areas of organizational strategy, recruitment and selection, classification and compensation, and training and development.