Before we start talking about how to equip your team with a growth mindset then we should probably start with the question: what is a growth mindset and why does it matter?
Well, we need to look to Stanford University researcher, Carol Dweck, who first introduced the research on a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. In broad terms it boils down to this: someone with a fixed mindset believes that success is based on innate ability, whereas someone with a growth mindset believes the opposite; that success can be achieved through hard work, learning, and development. With a fixed mindset, potential is finite, with a growth mindset, it’s infinite.
Carol Dweck neatly illustrates this in her conversations around the power of the word ‘yet’. Whereas someone with a fixed mindset might think ‘I can’t do this’, someone with a growth mindset is more likely to think ‘I can’t do this… yet’. The addition of ‘yet’ is powerful and it pulls us away from constantly measuring ourselves by results, outputs, and where we are right now. Instead, it refocuses on our potential and what we can achieve if we do the work. Game-changing, right?
But why should you care whether your team has a growth mindset or not – why does it matter? Well, according to research by Harvard Business Review employees who work at ‘growth mindset’ organisations, are 34% likelier to feel a strong sense of ownership and commitment to the company and are 49% likelier to say that the company fosters innovation, amongst other benefits.
Engagement, ownership, and innovation are exactly what companies need right now. So, with that in mind, here are 8 ways to equip teams with a growth mindset – starting today!
The foundation of a growth mindset is really that anything can be learned… as long as you’re prepared to put in the time and the work. It pushes back on those fixed mindset beliefs around talent or ability which instruct that you’re either good at something or not, end of story.
This takes on particular relevance for teams when we look at it through the lens of learning and development in 2021. We talked about this in more detail in a previous learning and development article, where we mentioned that 94% of employees would stay longer in an organisation if companies invested in their development. Personal development is a huge priority for employees and one way you can enable a growth mindset in your teams is by making it clear that anything can be learned – and mastered.
If someone fails at something in your team you may think the easiest thing is to get someone else to do that particular task in future. However, that’s showing all the hallmarks of a fixed mindset, right? You’re effectively saying ‘they’re not good at that’ rather that ‘they’re not good at that… yet.’
A better way to approach it would be to ask that colleague how you could support them in that task next time. What do they need? Additional training, support from the team, something else? It’s only when employees are able to push through failures that overall teams become stronger and more resilient, but for that to happen you need to create those opportunities for development.
When you have a fixed mindset you may avoid challenges. However, as the past few months have made particularly clear, even if we don’t want to find challenges, they usually manage to find us! We all need to be braced for change because we never really know when we’ll next need to flex out of our comfort zone. That’s why it’s so important for teams to feel like they’re being stretched.
In short, if you want to equip your team with a growth mindset, you need to push them a little bit beyond what they think they’re capable of. Because a great team is one that exists in that sweet spot, where they’re being challenged into growth through the work they do each day.
Leaders probably think feedback culture is great… but possibly only when they’re the ones dishing out the feedback, right? However, it’s only when we create a real culture of dialogue – top down, down-up, peer-to-peer, frontline to FD, that we can really unlock a growth mindset in our teams.
Forbes put it like this: “When leaders normalize a thirst for input, feedback and guidance from multiple sources, it signals that the focus is on learning and growing (versus judging or being judged) and on valuing diversity (not just relying on the usual “experts”). It sends the clear message that we’re all learning and working on ourselves all the time, and that’s key to a growth mindset.
A recent blog on growth mindset on LinkedIn got us thinking. It asked the question, “How can you expect your employees to focus on growth when their focus is on getting rid of stress? As a leader, you need to provide them the support they need to minimize stress and develop a mindset of growth.” It’s true – how can any of us focus on growth if all we can think about is right now?
As leaders there are numerous things you can do for your team. Keeping checking in. Ask them where the pain points are. As per our first point, champion learning and development – and actively support employees to incorporate that into their week. It’s up to leaders to stay closely plugged into their team so they can anticipate problems and respond quickly, especially right now.
A team with a fixed mindset may not want to ask a ‘stupid’ question in front of their peers in case they’re judged negatively for it. With a fixed mindset, you believe you have a fixed amount of intelligence or expertise, and you continually want to prove it. When you instil a growth mindset in your team, however, you create that questioning culture where everyone feels like they’re able to challenge or question certain things. What that does is empower your team to work smarter.
It may be calling out clunky processes that take too much time or asking why we always do something that way – rather than trying this way. The great news is when you create that open dialogue that you’re then able to really mine the talents of your team – a win-win, right?
If you believe that your intelligence or talents are fixed and can’t be improved, as you do with a fixed mindset, then criticism may cause you to get defensive. However, you’re much less likely to take criticism personally with a growth mindset, because you recognize its inherent value. Which is this: feedback is a brilliant l tool that can enable you to continually improve and become better.
If you’re able to instil this way of thinking in your team then feedback becomes a positive experience – something to learn from rather than something to make you feel attacked or as if entire self has been questioned. Do it right and you can enhance the performance of the whole team.
With a growth mindset, we recognize that we’re all learning, growing, and evolving all the time. And we can also connect that conversation to the four-color model and the language of color. At Insights, we recognize that due to the power of adaptability, we are constantly changing; dialling up different color energies to power through challenging times like the pandemic. This ability to adapt and step up is what makes us resilient, showing that we as individuals, like the world, are not fixed – and need to tap into a growth mindset now more than ever.
We may have jumped into the pandemic leaning on our Cool Blue energy, for example, because budgets had been cut and we needed to really rely on data to make sure we were making the right decisions. However, now we might be dialling up more Fiery Red energy in order to get things done.
If your team already have Insights Discovery Personal Profiles it’s worth asking whether it still sounds like them – and if they don’t have one then you may want them to take one. The world has changed over the past few months and it’s not too much of a leap to think your team may have, too!
Find out more about how we can support your teams on our dedicated teamwork solutions page