Dr. Michael Gervais is a high-performance psychologist who has worked with NFL players and Olympic athletes , along with artists, musicians, and Fortune 100 CEOs, to help them perform at their best. He spent nearly a decade with the Seattle Seahawks, and he works regularly with other organizations and companies, including Microsoft. Gervais’s specialty is mindset training, or honing the skills that help people face challenges and reach their full potential.

WorkLab podcast host Elise Hu checked in with Gervais to find out about the secret power of cultivating mindsets to drive real impact on any team. What’s his particular formula for business leaders, as many companies rethink their longstanding practices and explore new, more flexible models of where and when people work?

Three memorable moments from the conversation:

  1. On his work with the Seattle Seahawks: Gervais says there are three things a person can train: their craft, their body, and their mind. When he worked with the Seahawks, the team made sure that training the mind was not something “extra” the players did at home, or “right before you go to bed when you're exhausted,” he says. “We made it part of the DNA of the organization, and we made psychology a tall tent pole.”

  2. On cultivating disciplined optimism: There are only two essential outlooks for thinking about the future—optimism or pessimism, Gervais says. And “I haven’t met a world’s best who is pessimistic.” Optimism doesn’t mean just staying positive, says Gervais, who sees optimism as central to mental toughness. “This is a discipline about how to make sense of the facts in front of you, and how you interpret those bits of information to think about your future.”

  3. On what today’s employees need: In simple terms, Gervais says, a thriving organization is made up of thriving people. What do employees need to succeed at work? It’s not about having a ping-pong table and a coffee shop, he says. “It’s having that right intensity between support and challenge.” It’s having a sense of autonomy, agency, and empowerment. People who thrive at work “understand how their work ladders to the purpose of the company.”

To delve deeper into the theme of how mindsets affect performance, we check in at the end of the episode with Kayla Woputz, a paratriathlon racer who is also a Microsoft data research scientist.

WorkLab is a place for experts to share their insights and opinions. As students of the future of work, Microsoft values inputs from a diverse set of voices. That said, the opinions and findings of the experts we interview are their own and do not reflect Microsoft’s own research or opinions.

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Here’s a transcript of the Episode 5 conversation.

ELISE HU: This is WorkLab , the podcast from Microsoft. I’m your host, Elise Hu. On WorkLab , we hear from leading thinkers on the future of work—economists, technologists, researchers. They all share surprising data and explore the trends transforming the way we work. Today we’re looking at the power of our mindsets and the huge role they play in our success and happiness—at work and in life.

MICHAEL GERVAIS: Winning without the spirit of the human being part of it is a failure. And that’s where many businesses have been. I’m an entrepreneur. I understand the demands that must get done. If we don’t invest in the psychology of the humans—those companies that missed this opportunity, it’s as if they’re pushing off from the docks, but their nose of the boat is just about four degrees off of center.