In a vertical organization, employees work together to achieve meaningful goals. They are fully engaged, constantly learning, and focused on creating excellence for their customers.

One of the main roadblocks to moving from operating horizontally to operating vertically is the failure to realize that a company is made up of individuals. The only way to create real and powerful organizational innovation is to first align the mindset of every individual to vertical thinking.

The mindset of each and every leader and employee determines what they see, what they feel, how they think, how they act, and the outcomes they achieve.

Horizontal vs. vertical mindset

The horizontal mindset

The vast majority of people tend to have a more horizontal mindset. When people have a more horizontal mindset, their main focus in life is to survive. They are likely to have two key motivators that drive their behaviour: fear and greed. Fear prevents them from doing what they want to do, and greed gives them a sense that something is always missing. So, despite the fact that many people with a horizontal mindset may be achieving success at work and financially, they still have a sense that something is missing.

People with a horizontal mindset share some common characteristics:

  • Their main focus in life, at a most fundamental level, is to “survive”.
  • Their behaviours are motivated by fear and greed.
  • They are constantly waiting for something better to come along, which means that, right now is not as it should be. Therefore, they complain about what is happening now but do not have the right tools and mindset to do something constructive about it.
  • They perpetually live in the past (this is the way it used to be) or attached to the future (this is the way it should be), and are rarely living in the present. The past tends to define who they are today, and they constantly look to the future in terms of waiting for something bigger and better to happen.

Can people with a horizontal mindset achieve success?

On the outside, many people with a horizontal mindset can appear to be successful. They can achieve what society defines as success. They can reach high levels of management, run large corporations and accumulate masses of money and all the toys needed to demonstrate this success. However, they are never satisfied. This “success” is never enough. They will always have a deep underlying sense that something is missing. This stokes their desire to go out and get more, whatever it may be to fulfill their needs. And as long as they are driven by fear or greed, they can be good, but never great, leaders.

The vertical mindset

It’s estimated that less than 15% of the population has a vertical mindset.  When people have a vertical mindset, their purpose, their core motivation, is moving forward and creating something new. They jump out of bed everyday inspired to create something that is significant and meaningful to them.

What they create may be something of personal significance and meaning (like an artist who creates); it may be something that is socially significant and meaningful; it may be something that is significant to a business (like the entrepreneur who creates a product or service that adds utility to our society); it may be something that makes other people happy (like the person who serves you coffee and delivers you a remarkable service experience that brightens your day).

The more vertical people are, the more authentic they are. They aren’t focused on survival so they don’t have to manipulate situations or others to get their way. They are just being who they are and giving 100% at each moment.

Individuals with a vertical mindset share some common characteristics:

  • They operate more in the present. They do refer back to the past to learn, and do look to the future to create a vision and goals, but they live and operate in the present.
  • They care more about the whole and see the big picture; they have a huge capacity for caring. This is because they are less focused on survival—where the primary goal is in protecting oneself—and are able instead to be compassionate and empathetic with others.
  • They are more alive and energetic and more likely to be engaged, productive and successful.

Make the shift from a horizontal to vertical organization

Is your organization, like so many others, stuck operating at a Horizontal level and having trouble meeting the performance goals that you’ve put down on paper? Find out what you can do to move your organization from an expectation of mediocrity to an expectation of excellence in the eBook, The Vertical Organization.

Contact us to learn more.