Our mindsets are the foundation of our thinking, learning, and behavior. Awakening our mindsets will empower us to improve and enhance our success. Ryan Gottfredson, a Professor at CSU-Fullerton and Mindset Consultant, dives deep and gather his wisdom on how mindset works and applies to everything. Ryan shares how he categorizes the types of organizations with different sets of mindsets and how these make him reach outlets and generate business through speaking and writing. Discover more the teachings of Ryan on applying the right mindset in winning more in business.
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Publishing Articles To Grow Your Consulting Business with Ryan Gottfredson
I’m excited to have Ryan Gottfredson joining us. Ryan, welcome.
Thanks for having me on. You’ve got a great show. I feel privileged to be here.
You work with organizations, teams and employees to improve their mindsets and achieve greater success. How do you do that?
I’ve developed a framework. One of my founding beliefs and what I’ve found through my own research as well as looking into the academic research of others, is that our mindsets are foundational to our thinking, learning and behavior. Consequently, they’re foundational to our success in our life, our work and our leadership. If we can understand our mindsets awakened to them, then we become empowered to improve them at a foundational level in order to enhance our success. One of the big problems is that most people aren’t aware of what mindsets they need to have to be successful.
What I’ve done in my research and diving into the research of others is I identified what mindsets are out there that have been studied and have been found to move the needle on our thinking, learning and behavior and consequently, in our success. As I’ve done this research, what I found is that there are four different sets of mindsets. Each set ranges on a continuum from negative to positive. I present this framework to organizations and organizational leaders to help them awaken to their mindsets and find out where they stand along each of these continuums. It helps them identify the destination and what they need to shoot for in terms of improving their mindsets.When we have a fixed mindset, we have a tendency to shy away from challenges because we don't want to fail. Click To Tweet
A lot of people recognize the power of mindset. How have you found selling the improvement of one’s mindset like going into an organization? Is this something that people are actively looking for? Does it require some education? Do you need to come at it from a different angle to be able to get your foot in the door with organizations?
I’m going to categorize three types of organizations that I talked to. The best organizations to work with me are those that value mindsets. They’re already talking about mindsets, but they don’t have tools and expertise to be able to focus on them and move the needle on mindsets in their organization. They’re already bought into the mindset idea. They just need some help with it. Those are the ideal clients. Those are the clients that I try to shoot for because I don’t have to do any selling. They already get it.
The second group of potential clients is organizational leaders who know they need help and they want to be on the cutting edge. They value their people practices, they want to improve the leadership within the organization and they want to enhance the agility of the organization, but they’re not sure the best way to do it. In their searching, they want something new. They want something different. They’re a little bit open to the idea of mindsets. They’re not sure what they are and the power that they have, but they’re at least open to talking about it.
There’s the third group, which is probably the largest group, which is they know nothing about mindsets. They don’t have within their capacity or within their budget the ability to think strategically about moving the needle on leadership effectiveness and organizational agility. If I could talk to them, sit down with them for a short period of time and help them to see the value of mindsets, their eyes start to light up. It’s like, “I’ve never thought about this before. You’re right.” Depending on the type of customer, there are different levels of introduction to the topic that needs to happen.
Your ideal client is an organization that already understands the importance of mindset. You can’t go on to LinkedIn and use search filter criteria for companies that are mindset aware or looking to improve their mindset. What have you found is the best way to identify or get you closer to those organizations that are already thinking about that?
I’ve been solely focused on doing this for over a year. My full-time gig is a Professor at Cal State Fullerton. I’m a leadership professor there. I used to be a Gallup Consultant for a year. When I left Gallup to come back to Cal State Fullerton, I started up my own practice. This has been my focus. I’ve thrown almost everything that I could think of against the wall to see what sticks. I’m still in that learning process. I could talk to some of the things that haven’t worked and some of the things that have worked. One of the things that I thought would work well was public speaking, going out, trying to speak to different organizations and groups, do trainings within organizations. While that’s been beneficial in terms of bringing in revenue for my business, it hasn’t been beneficial in terms of identifying people who want to focus on mindsets where I’ve gotten the most traction has involved guest-posting for different outlets.
I guest post for Association for Talent Development, Training Industry, SHRM. That has a wider circulation base that’s worldwide. The people who read those articles are the ones who already are interested in mindsets generally. That’s one avenue that’s been good. The two other avenues that are similar are doing webinars for those same outlets or getting on podcasts like your own, where you’re talking to a lot more people. There’s a small percentage of people out there that already value mindsets. I’ve got to figure out a way to get in front of them. The odds of them being local to where I’m at, in terms of live-speaking engagements, is going to be low. If I could get out there in a mass quantity, then that’s going to be beneficial. That’s where I’ve seen the biggest bang for my buck.
You’ve clearly chosen a path where leverage exists. Getting into these other organizations or associations, they already have the list. They already have the membership, then you’re going to promote your content. Someone reading might go, “That makes a lot of sense to me. I can see how that could work. I’d like to get in front of my own audience through a leveraged approach as Ryan has done as well.” How did you do that? Was it as simple as reaching out to the executive director or someone on the blog or a marketing team? What were the actual steps that you took to go from initial conversation or outreach to getting your article up on one of these places?
I saw outlets that would be a reach, outlets that I thought, “This is doable,” and then more blogging. Where I focus is primarily within the organizational behavior, human resources and leadership development space. What are the best outlets out there? There are outlets like Harvard Business Review, Forbes and Entrepreneur. You’d even think about the Huffington Post and Inc. I identify those and I saw those starting out as my reach outlets. I identified what I would call the next tier down. Maybe this is even a little bit more specialized around the human resources industry for myself. This is the Association for Talent Development, SHRM and Training Industry. In addition to that, I’ve been looking into popular blogs. What are the best HR blogs? What are the best leadership blogs? What are the best talent and development blogs? I came up with the list of all these. I started writing articles and then pitching them to these different lists. You can identify how to submit to each of these outlets. It didn’t surprise me that it’s hard to get into that top tier. I’ve pitched there multiple times. I have yet to be accepted there but that next tier down, I’m batting about 100%.
What’s your approach? Let’s break that down and go tactical here. You’re already writing the article. Are you doing one publication at a time or are you sending the “pitch” to a bunch of different publications and seeing which one grabs at it first?People see challenge and failure as opportunities to learn, grow and improve. Click To Tweet
Mindset is great because it’s applicable to everything. That’s something that is unique to my topic. I would generally have based information that I want to convey. I can adapt maybe the introduction and the conclusion for that particular outlet and what they’re looking for. I did a little bit of that as I’m pitching to groups. The bigger outlets all got an email that’s like [email protected]. You submit there, you cross your fingers and you hope for something good. The next tier down level, you can generally identify a contact person that’s over maybe their blog or the guest post that they have. If you can’t identify that on their website, you could probably identify somebody that you can reach out to point you in the right direction. There’s a much more direct feel there.
That’s what I was able to do with the Association for Talent Development, SHRM and Training Industry. I was able to identify an individual that’s responsible for posting this material. I said, “I’ve got this article. What do you think?” All of them have been on board with posting whatever I have to write. I still occasionally will send out to Forbes and Harvard Business Review. I hope to do more of that in the future. I recognize that I need to develop my own reputation. There’s no better place to start than with some of these more specialized outlets and build up a reputation there, generate some success and some wins, which then hopefully at a future point in time, will catapult me into publishing some articles in some higher tier outlets.
You definitely will. We’ve seen this and spoke with many other consultants who have gone down this path. What you’re doing is planting the seeds. If you have the expectation that you plant and you can right away cultivate, it’s not going to happen. It takes some time. The other thing that’s smart about what you’re doing that others can learn from is by targeting those one tier down or more specialized publications. It’s the same in speaking or writing. You’re building up your track record. When you go back to the Harvard Business Review or whoever else it might be or whatever stages you want to get onto if it’s speaking, you can now show that you’ve been publishing in all these other places. That collectively adds to your credentials, to your visibility, authority and expertise. It helps you to get to those bigger and bigger places.
One of the elements that I do with my articles and with my practice that allows me to connect with clients better than most is I’ve developed a personal mindset assessment. People can take this to assess their mindsets and help awaken them to their mindsets. I have this personal assessment and it’s free. Anybody could go to my website and take it. I’ll try my best to embed an email collector into these posts or into my articles so that people say, “Read the article. It’s all about mindsets and how mindsets are important. You can click here and find out what mindsets that you have.”
This establishes a connection between me and the individuals who take the assessment. It allows me to connect with them moving forward. I’ve got a blog on the backend that I write weekly. People are hearing from me every week and they know what I do. This allows me to build trust with them. They say, “We’re doing a leadership development program. This guy is producing some interesting stuff in terms of content around mindsets. We’ve seen him produce this over a period of time. We want to pull the trigger. Let’s reach out to him and see if we can bring him in.”
That path of someone reading on a specialized publication or association website, they read your article, they click to the assessment that you offer, they fill that in, they join your list, you are sending weekly articles or content to them, is that converting into leads and clients for you?
Yes, for sure. Most of my time has been reaching out and trying to generate business. My hit rate is less than 1%. Taking a little bit of this more passive approach, trying to get out to more and more people, I’m able to get in front of certain individuals. It happens to be the right time. They’re already focusing on mindsets. They’re quite quick to pick up the phone and say, “This is what we’ve been looking for. We haven’t found anything like this before.” It’s the easy sell for me at that point. When somebody calls me up, my batting average is 100% if they have the budget. The only reason people haven’t gone with me is because they don’t feel like they have the budget to do so. It’s a high hit rate if I could get in front of people who are already looking for me.
Let’s talk more about mindset. This is your area of expertise. In your experience, can a consultant influence a buyer’s mindset before they become a client as part of the sales process? Knowing what you know about mindset, are there certain things that a consultant can apply as part of their conversation or as part of the sales process to be able to influence or win more business?
One of the things that I’ve learned about mindset and particularly the negative mindset. Let me give you a taste of what some of these negative mindsets are. One negative mindset is called a fixed mindset. When we have a fixed mindset, we have a tendency to shy away from challenges because we don’t want to fail. Another mindset is a closed mindset, where we want to be seen as being right. We’re not open to others’ ideas because that can be disconfirming to us. Another negative mindset is a prevention mindset where we’re trying not to lose. We don’t want any problems to occur. An inward mindset is the last mindset. This is when we see ourselves as being more important than others. Thus, we see them as objects.
One of the things that I’ve learned about all four of these negative mindsets is that they’re largely driven by fear. When we talk to clients, one of the things that we need to be sensitive to is what are their fears? If we can identify what their fears are, then we can identify what their mindset is. One of the most common fears that I see in potential clients is they have a fear of getting it wrong. They’re looking for a consultant. They’re looking for a trainer. They’re looking for a leadership developer. They’re fearful about bringing in somebody who’s going to miss the mark. That’s something that I, as the consultant, need to be sensitive, to begin with. I need to try my best to ease that right away. I’ve got to think about different ways that I can do that.You’re going to make mistakes, but you'll learn along the way. Click To Tweet
One example is I try my best to collect data around the speaking and training engagements that I do. I could say, “I’ve done X many of these. Here are my evaluation scores. I’m happy to share it with you. In fact, here’s a whole list of testimonials saying how great I am. I’m not doctoring these up. This is exactly the data from every training that I’ve done and the ones that I’ve been able to collect data for.” They’re able to see both the positive feedback and the negative feedback right away. Hopefully, that’s one step in removing a base fear and negative mindset that they have.
Let’s talk about the mindset of consultants. This is an area that I’m passionate about. It’s the reason that I wrote The Elite Consulting Mind book. In all of your research and all the work that you’ve been doing around mindset, what do you see as being some of the biggest blocks or limiting beliefs that hold back consultants and professionals from realizing more of their potential?
For everybody, it’s different, depending on the mindsets that they have. It revolves around the four mindsets that I mentioned.
Let’s take an example from one of those that you see is being quite common. Maybe it’s something that you used and experienced yourself, building your consulting business or you see quite often with other consultants.
Let me go to the closed versus open mindset. When we have a closed mindset, we’re closed to the ideas and suggestions of others. When we have an open mindset, we’re open to the ideas and suggestions of others and we’re willing to take them seriously. Most consultants, we see ourselves as experts. It’s important for us to be seen as being right. When we see ourselves as the expert and we value being seen as being right, what ends up happening is we have a tendency to not ask questions. We don’t want to invite new perspectives. When somebody disagrees with us, we may see that as a threat and get defensive because we think that what we know is right. That shuts us down from hearing the perspectives of others, even our clients. We’ve got to be able to listen. That’s when we have a closed mindset.
The open mindset is different. Rather than being focused on being right and being seen as being right, we want to find truth. We want to think optimally. When that’s what we value and that’s what we’re after, then we’re open to the perspectives of others. We invite new ideas. We ask questions. We listen. When somebody disagrees with us, we don’t get defensive. We see it as an opportunity to learn. We believe that we don’t know everything, that we could be wrong. There are two places where I see this play out when it comes to consultants. One is when we have a closed mindset, we have a tendency to be closed to the ideas of mentors or others who say, “You’re going down this path, but I’m not sure that’s the best path.” We might be a little close to saying, “I want to go on this path over here. That’s where I feel my mission and my purpose is.” We close ourselves off to what might be a great idea because we want to do what we want to do, which isn’t the best thing to do.
We had an interesting example. I’m thinking of a conversation that happened with a consultant who reached out and said, “I want to grow my business. I want to be able to attract more clients consistently.” We talked with them about what they had done to this point and offered a few suggestions. Their initial response was, “I’ve done all of that.” We said to them, “What does your revenue look like?” We went through all that stuff. They’re generating less than $5,000 per month in revenue. We said, “Maybe you tried some of that stuff before and maybe you’ve done these things, but if you’re only generating $5,000 a month in revenue, you clearly haven’t done them as well as they could be done.”
It’s not about that person per se, but back to your open versus closed mindset, if someone says, “I’ve tried something once. I did some of it,” and in their mind maybe they’ve given it a good go. An open mindset would be more, “I’ve tried this but clearly, I haven’t done it to the degree that I should have. I must be missing something because I’m not getting the results that I should be getting from it yet.” Our most successful clients are the ones who look at a challenge that they’re having and they’re not closed to trying new things or even approaching a little bit differently. They’re going to be as open as possible to adapting, making changes and that’s where they see the greatest success.
That leads into another set of mindset, which is the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset. When we have a growth mindset, we believe that we can improve our talents, intelligence and abilities. When we have a fixed mindset, we don’t believe that we can improve our talents, intelligence and abilities. When we have a fixed mindset and we don’t believe that we can improve and if we were to fail, then we’re left interpreting that failure as though we are a failure. We don’t think that we can improve. When we have this fixed mindset, we develop this fear of failure. With this fear of failure, we also have a fear of challenges because a challenge leads to a likelihood of failure. Those are what a fixed mindset get to focused on, “I don’t want to fail. I don’t want to try anything new because I’m scared of what that might say about me if I don’t do well.”
Those that have a growth mindset don’t even think in that regard. They see challenge and failure as opportunities to learn, grow and improve. That’s one of the big mental limitations that people have internally. They probably don’t even recognize it. Internally, they don’t believe that they can grow, develop and improve or at least they think that it’s too hard to do so. When they’re challenged with something, they’re like, “That’s asking a little too much of me.” Whereas somebody who has a growth mindset, they take the attitude, “Bring it on. Let’s try it out. What do I have to lose?”If we can identify what people’s fears are, then we can kind of identify what their mindset is. Click To Tweet
It doesn’t mean that someone who has a growth mindset is going to always be positive and never worry. I see this all the time with successful consultants and even the way that I feel at times, where there’s some worry or there’s some concern. That’s a sign of wanting to improve. If you’re always happy with exactly what you have, you’re not looking and applying critical thinking to your business, and if there’s no worry at all, there’s a good chance that you’re going to become complacent. The best idea is that the greatest growth happens when you continue to look at what you’re doing and how you can improve it, which connects directly back to the whole growth mindset. I couldn’t agree more with what you said about this idea that if you have a growth mindset, you might still feel fear around a challenge.
You might still feel like, “I’m venturing to new waters. This is uncomfortable.” The difference is that you know that you need to do that in order to get what you want. In order to be able to grow, you have to try new things. You have to put it out there. You might not get the result that you want, but you’ve taken one step closer to getting the ultimate result that you want because you’ve eliminated what doesn’t work. I have found that the greatest failure is not to try because if you don’t, you’re going to regret. Regret is probably the worst failure that you can have. There’s an easy way to avoid that, which is simply to take action and to learn from that. In every single business that I’ve ever been involved in and in studying the most successful people over the years, one thing that they all do consistently is they take action.
Sometimes they take action before they even have all of the answers. What I’ve observed is that many consultants like to try and have things perfect. They want to have all their ducks in a row, everything lined up, everything perfected before they go and take action because there’s fear of “What if it doesn’t work out?” The most successful people don’t wait for everything to be ready. They go and they take action now. They recognize it, “I’m going to make mistakes, but I’ll learn along the way.” That’s why they’re much further ahead than those who wait and try and perfect everything. They’ve already gotten out of the gate. They’ve already made those course corrections. They’re much further along than the person who’s still at the starting line preparing to get going.
Let me give you a quick case study of myself. I’m not proclaiming myself to be the most successful consultant in the world. I’m wanting to head in that direction. During my journey of trying to figure out how do I make this successful and I’m throwing everything against the wall, one of the things that I felt I was encouraged to do by other podcasters and other coaches was, “You need to look into doing an online course.” I thought, “An online course would be cool.” Everybody was talking about, “This is a great passive stream of income. It establishes you as an expert.” I’m thinking, “I want a passive stream of income. I want to be seen as an expert. Why don’t I do this?”
I had a vision for this big leadership development online course. I thought, “Before I do this big course, I know nothing about online courses. Let me do something that’s a little bit smaller scale to help me learn the process.” I was a little bit strategic there which was good because I didn’t feel like I was putting all of my eggs in one basket. What I ended up doing is I developed a small online course about how to develop your résumé. I have some previous experience working with résumés. It’s an hour-long course called Stand Out! Resume Course. I developed it and it wasn’t as successful as I would have liked. I learned some valuable lessons through that process. One, an online course is not near as passive as what I was led to believe. It’s a lot of work to make it successful. I focus on mindsets. I don’t focus on résumés.
My résumé course was a side hustle to my side hustle. I didn’t have the bandwidth to focus on my side hustle to my side hustle. I would count it, monetarily, as a failure. I look at it as a success because now I have greater precision in the direction that I need to head down to be successful. I’m not ruling out online courses moving forward in the future, but I’m not in the place where I feel like I could capitalize on that in the way that I need to. It was a great lesson for me in terms of trying things out and learning from failure. Even if they fail, if you do it for the right reasons, whatever you do, you’re going to win. You’re going to end up in a better and more secure place.
It’s quite a common question that we get asked by some of our clients in our clarity program who have heard the same thing, “Create an online course. It’s a great way to leverage your time and generate passive income, make money while you’re in your pajamas and sleeping.” It is a lot of work. I’ve found and observed that, in most cases, it’s a lot easier and a lot quicker to go out and get a consulting client or get some gig related to a workshop than developing a course and making it profitable. Creating the course is the easy part, but there’s the marketing behind it and being prepared to invest dollars into advertising and get it up and running. It works. We’ve done this many times over the years with a lot of success but it doesn’t happen quickly. It does take a lot of work.
Starting a course or starting some digital product is like starting a new business. It does take focus. That’s important for people to consider. When you have all these different ideas that come your way, you’ve got to get clear on what is the end result that you want. Look at which path is the one that’s going to get you there fast. If your end goal is to generate $250,000 this year and you want to work X number of hours, maybe doing the course isn’t the most efficient and effective path for you. Maybe it only takes one or two more clients for you to reach that number with the number of hours that you want to work by providing consulting. There is no right or wrong. There are many people out there that say, “Courses are the best, webinars are the best.” That’s all rubbish. It’s not about finding the best. What is the best for you, for your specific situation and then leaning into that?
I’m not trying to stir people saying online courses can’t work for people. I learned through the process. It wasn’t for me on what I was trying to do and what my goals were. That’s okay. It’s not to say it isn’t that way for other people.
Ryan, I want to thank you for coming on and sharing your story and your experience of building your consulting business to this point. I’m excited to continue hearing how it develops. I know you’re going to have continued greater success. I want to make sure that people can also learn more about you, maybe have an opportunity to take that mindset assessment that you’ve created and read more of your work. Where’s the best place for them to go to do that?
Thanks for being willing to let me share this. The best way is to go to my website, which is RyanGottfredson.com. On my homepage, you can find my Mindset Assessment. If you were to take it, you will get some results that will compare your mindsets along with each of the four continuums that we talked about. Compare that to thousands of others who have taken the assessment. You will see where your mindset stacks up relative to everybody else. It helps you awaken to where you’re at and where you need to go to unlock greater success within your consulting business. Hopefully, that’s an awakening thing for you and inspires you to see the world differently so that you can operate differently as you go about your business.
Ryan, thanks so much for coming on.
Thank you. I appreciate it.
- Ryan Gottfredson
- Association for Talent Development
- Training Industry
- [email protected]
- The Elite Consulting Mind
- Stand Out! Resume Course