Why A Growth Mindset Is Important
In a world where there is increasing change, whether it be at work or in your personal life, the need to be resilient and open to change is becoming increasingly important. The ability to adapt and learn new skills is essential for arguably most of your life. As a manager, encouraging a growth mindset will help your team to be more productive and engaged in their work.
For over 40 years Stanford University’s psychologist, Carol Dweck, studied why some people struggle in the face of challenges and do everything they can to avoid difficult work, while others thrive when they need to overcome obstacles, and bounce back after a set-back. Her research showed the distinction of a growth vs a fixed mindset and why it was important to adopt a growth mindset to succeed. Her research proved that a growth mindset gets better and sustained results.
A Growth Mindset vs a Fixed Mindset
A growth mindset is when people believe that their abilities can be developed whereas a fixed mindset is when they believe that there is a limit to their ability.
A person with a growth mindset sees challenges as interesting; they learn from their “mistakes”. They can resolve problems and learn to become more resilient. They like feedback as they see this as an opportunity to learn and adapt. They realise that the ingredient for success is to continue to learn from trying things out.
By contrast, someone with a fixed mindset will shut down in reaction to feedback as they take it as a personal “assault”, avoid stretch goals, be motivated by seeking approval, avoid effort and see other’s success as a threat. Approval is seen as a form of success or failure, rather than an opportunity to learn. This limits their growth and potential.
Encouraging a Growth Mindset
Carol Dweck’s research showed that the correct type of praise is important to develop a growth mindset. If you praise someone’s process, the strategies used, the focus they had, the perseverance not to give up, etc. then they will create a more sustained learning environment which creates greater confidence and exponential ability to grow and develop. To put this into a business context, a manager should seek to ensure that any feedback, whether a formal performance appraisal or an informal ad hoc discussion, focusses on their employee’s effort which has generated results, not their talent. They should reward them for their growth and learning, not just their output. This is not to imply that only positive feedback is required; areas for improvement can be discussed by looking at where their employee should focus their effort to generate the outcome required. Furthermore, rewarding them for this growth, not just what they deliver, will help to reinforce a growth mindset. Typically, organisations’ remuneration is focussed solely on output.
The Power of a Growth Mindset
As an executive coach, establishing that my client has a growth mindset is a pre-requisite for ensuring that they can develop a new skill effectively or anticipate and adapt to change either in their career or their organisation. I have coached many clients using experiential learning techniques to “test out” new skills. They see their development as an iterative process, which requires testing out new strategies, reflecting on what worked well and what didn’t (based on their own and other’s feedback) and making amendments as appropriate. This helps build their confidence in their own ability to develop a desired skill. It is just as important to celebrate their attempts as well as the ultimate success in achieving their goal.
If you are interested in Carol Dweck’s research, here is a link to her website
Kate Woodthorpe, Oakfield Business Coaching