Mindsets are developed over time and they are the unwritten rules that influence behavior. What is important to understand is that leaders create the unwritten rules by their behaviors, which may or may not be consistent with the expectations they communicate.

Edgar Schein is the author of Organizational Culture and Leadership and in his book he writes about changing culture and mindset through embedding mechanisms.

Primary embedding mechanisms:

  1. What leaders pay attention to, measure, and control on a regular basis
  2. How leaders react to critical incidents and organizational crises
  3. Observed criteria by which leaders allocate scarce resources
  4. Deliberate role modeling, teaching, and coaching
  5. Observed criteria by which leaders allocate rewards and status
  6. Observed criteria by which leaders recruit, select, promote, retire, and excommunicate organizational members


The key and consistent message in Schein's primary embedding mechanisms is that people will pay attention to what leaders do. These are the behaviors that create the unwritten rules, mindsets, and culture.

There are also secondary embedding mechanisms, which will not change mindset or culture alone, but if used, need to be consistent with the primary embedding mechanisms.

Secondary embedding mechanisms:

  • Organizational design and structure
  • Organizational systems and procedures
  • Organizational rites and rituals
  • Design of physical space, facades, and buildings
  • Stories, legends, and myths about people and events
  • Formal statements about organizational philosophy, values, and creed


The most important thing to understand about mindset and culture change is that it will not come from a change in the organizational chart or posters on the wall. Mindset and culture change will only come from a change in leaders' behavior.

So the bottom line for leaders is this, if you're not sustaining results it's likely because behaviors aren't changing; and if behaviors aren't changing it's probably because you aren't doing what's needed to change them.