Growth mindset vs fixed mindset has been a growing source of conversation over the last while. The works of Carol Dweck in the book “Mindset” has led to many articles, publications, Ted talks etc on the fact that there are two types of mindsets; fixed and growth.
In case you haven’t read the book or heard of the concept, a simplification of it would be this; a fixed mindset belief means you are born with a set skill base, competency or ability and you believe that what you do doesn’t really impact it. A growth mindset, on the other hand, means you believe talents, strengths and skills can be developed. Essentially it would be the difference in saying “I suck at math” vs “math is challenging for me”. Or “I am just not an organized person” vs “In the past I have not found an organization technique that has worked for me”. A growth mindset sees potential in obstacles, where a fixed mindset sees a finish line. A fixed mindset doesn’t even step on the field, where a growth mindset will reflect on the game plan and re-strategize at half time if things aren’t working out.
The concept of mindset aligns with two core beliefs that I have. Ownership and constant learning. I believe these two core beliefs separate the leaders from the followers. The successful from the settlers.
Ownership aligns with having a growth mindset in a similar way that blame aligns with a fixed mindset. Ownership represents the ability to take responsibility for your actions and control your outcomes. It is taking responsibility for the decisions that were made and recognizing that although they may not have been the right ones, they were yours. Having a growth mindset, I believe, allows you to be more willing to do this, because of the fact that failure is not permanent, it may just be right now. When you take responsibility for something you are more likely to look for solutions.
Growth mindset allows you to also take ownership for your life results. If you are struggling feeling satisfied at the end of the day, a growth mindset allows you to see that if you make changes you may be better able to align your days and results with your happiness and strengths. A fixed mindset would have you feeling hopeless and not in control of what is ahead.
A lot of Carol Dweck’s work and the publications that have followed as a result of it, speak to the conversations we have with kids as parents and coaches.
I believe it is the same concept with your employees/ team members. When you change the conversation to be one that focuses on the process of the work they do, and the actions they are responsible for, you better help them (and others) see how to be successful. When praise is solely focused on the results, people who are not hitting the end result will feel like a failure. Nobody goes to work and says “today I am going to fail.” Teaching people to succeed in the actions and fulfilling the steps will allow them to be successful more often. It will help them understand your definition of a win. You can go out on the field or the court and play the best game you have ever played in your life and still lose. That is just the reality- but that doesn’t mean you suck. You could have done everything right in the game and leading up to it. The result should not be what defines you. The same should stand for your employees.
As someone who uses learning like the torch to light the path to my destination of success, I believe the willingness to always learn and develop your skills is a key competency of leadership and happiness. If you possess a growth mindset you will be open to learning. However, what you do with it, will lead to the potential of what you could do with your willingness to learn. If you are willing to put the time into reading a new book, you will have a much greater chance of moving through an obstacle you are struggling with. If you are someone who believes; “I can make a change”, but doesn’t know where to go next- you will see the potential but not ever get there.
My go to response when I am struggling with something, or simply wanting to be better at something is to start researching it. Whether it is a book, an article, calling someone else for help, I start digging for new information. I want as much information on it as possible. I literally can go from feeling hopeless and lost, to having 110 new ideas in the matter of reading 5 pages, sometimes it isn’t even on whatever I was looking for. Learning something new simply opens up my thought processes and gets my ideas flowing.
I see new ideas as possibilities, I see new thoughts as potential, I see a book as opening up all possibilities. Whether you are in sales, leadership or simply trying to negotiate life we all need to know that potential is not limited or fixed… it is simply whatever we are going to make it!
We are only limited by what we don’t know… so I figure lets learn as much as we possibly can!