Growth Mindset - Essential to Good Leadership Conversations

by The Architect on Jan 20, 2017

Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck highlights two starkly opposing mindsets that have a huge impact on how we all perform at work: the Fixed mindset, and the Growth mindset.

“The pursuit of mastery is an ever-onward almost.” Sarah Lewis

A person with the Fixed mindset believes their qualities, personality and skill are 'given' standards. They are a hand that you are dealt with no say in the matter.

They also tend to think of themselves in a fixed way - as a 'success' or as a 'failure', often. Or as a mediocre performer.

A person with the Growth mindset believes their performance can always be improved; they are confident they can learn their way into a skill.

Someone with a growth mindset, for example, sees failure as an opportunity to learn and improve, while someone with a fixed mindset may feel defeated by not meeting expectations.

Carol Dweck - Growth Mindset

Dweck's experiments showed that if a teacher expects great things from a student, they will get it (!) Because they help instil a 'yes you can' growth mindset in the child; basically, the willingness to think "I don't know how to do this ... yet. So, let's figure it out."

Experiments in the Israeli Army produced the same result: instructors were told that some of a band of new recruits were potential high performers and fast learners. They treated them as such. And the new recruits somehow absorbed what was expected of them, and believed they could learn and grow.

Another group of the recruits were identified (privately to the instructors) as not high potential. They were treated differently, began to think they couldn't learn or progress (a 'fixed mindset') and didn't perform as highly as the so-called 'high potentials'.

Yet the two groups had been identified at random.

So, to improve your own performance, and that of your colleagues and your team, encourage a shift from a 'fixed mindset' ('I'm the expert', or 'I can't do that') to a 'growth mindset' ('I don't know; let's find out'). That's a key foundation of leadership today.

“Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset." Carol Dweck

This means seeing what others say is "Impossible" and saying, "For Now".

If leaders want their organization to take on a growth mindset, they must lead by example. Be a 'learning leader', openly, and you teach them to be the same. 

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