What is Mindset and how can it help improve resilience and performance?
A critical component of successfully learning new behaviors is the type of mindset that an individual or organization adopts. “Mindset” can be defined as a set of beliefs or a way of thinking that determines one’s behavior, outlook and mental attitude, especially about their own intelligence, talents and overall potential.
Carol Dweck is one of the world’s leading researchers in the area of mindset and motivation. Dweck has found that there are often two basic opposing mindsets: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.
Talent and intelligence are not fixed traits.
Individuals with a fixed mindset see their talent and intelligence as fixed and their focus is on looking good and avoiding effort. Individuals with a growth mindset believe their talent and intelligence can be developed through effort and practice. Dweck has found that individuals with a growth mindset welcome and even seek challenging new situations and tasks, as they are aware that they develop their capacity to learn and solve problems through the effort required to meet those challenges.
Dweck also shows that having a growth mindset enables an individual to openly share their deficiencies and to work towards rectifying the deficiencies, making them stronger. On the other hand, an individual with a fixed mindset will go out of their way to avoid failures.
What does this mean for you and how is a Growth Mindset fostered?
A growth mindset is fostered through praising and focusing on effort and strategy, instead of intelligence and talent. In other words, a growth mindset values not only the results, but also the process of learning.
As mindsets are essentially beliefs, mindsets can be changed through changing beliefs.
Failure is scary for many people. By adopting a growth mindset we can reduce the fear of failure by beginning to see it more as an opportunity to learn and grow. By maintaining the awareness that talent and intelligence are not fixed, but can be developed through effort and practice, you cultivate a “can-do” attitude as well as an appreciation of life’s inevitable challenges.
When you break out of your comfort zone to learn something new, your brain becomes activated as neurons begin to make new connections. Over time, this process results in increased intelligence, creativity and resilience.
How can your organization cultivate and benefit from a Growth Mindset?
Evidence suggests that organizations focused on employees’ capacity for growth will experience significant advantages. Dweck’s research has shown that adopting a growth mindset helps you change from a using a “judge-and-be-judged” framework to a “learn-and-help-learn” framework. A growth mindset will therefore enable you to build closer connections with your colleagues and create a social environment that supports mutual learning and growth.
An organization that encourages a growth mindset will help employees to be more innovative, collaborative, and committed to learning and growing. Leaders, managers and employees can focus on praising their colleagues’ effort and the strategies that they use to achieve their work, as opposed to praising intelligence or talent and focusing exclusively on results. This will help to foster a growth mindset throughout the organization and therefore keep each other engaged and motivated, no matter how challenging the work.
Growth-mindset firms have happier employees and a more innovative, risk-taking culture.
When a leader or manager conveys to their team that they value an individual’s talent above all else, the employees will be more likely to keep secrets, cut corners, and cheat to try to get ahead or impress the manager. They will also worry more about failing and therefore pursue fewer innovative projects.
On the other hand, if the manager adopts a growth mindset and expresses their value of effort, passion and continued learning and improvement, employees will be more inclined to welcome challenges, pay attention to feedback, accept and learn from mistakes, and ultimately to prioritize the importance of effort in developing themselves, their team and the organization as a whole. Leading with a growth mindset, organically promotes a cultural transformation, where the focus is shifted from personal performance to collective performance.
Examples of how our clients have cultivated and benefited from a Growth Mindset
Case 1. – Leaders of a global financial institution adopt a new leadership model
We co-created a program to support the roll-out of a new set of leadership values and the related behaviors that would promote these values. In order to adapt to the changes, challenges and opportunities that the new model introduced, we worked with leaders to both cultivate a growth mindset within themselves and foster it among their teams. Some of the specific ways we helped the leaders approach the situation with a growth mindset included:
- Viewing the effort involved in making the necessary changes as a chance to develop their own leadership capability.
- Creating a common language that focused on learning and development through praising effort and strategy.
- Enabling the leaders and their team members to see setbacks as key learning opportunities that enable them to develop, thus decreasing fear and increasing motivation, creativity and engagement.
- Viewing the changes created by the new model as pathways to more collaborative ways of working, increased team engagement, and improved performance.
- Raising awareness of how focusing on team performance versus individual performance fosters more efficient and effective collaboration, leading to a faster and more authentic development of their team’s capabilities and their team’s performance.
- Reducing fear by enabling more trust between leaders and teams through increased transparency
Case 2. Supporting the CFO of a global IT company and his financial team in adopting a new performance model and strategy
The team had been challenged to develop new ways in which they could use their skills to contribute to the business, beyond their operational responsibilities. This would involve a significant increase in innovation and ultimately a new way of approaching their work. However, being the financial team, they were (understandably) afraid of making mistakes in their work, which restricted the energy they needed to make the necessary changes.
Fostering a growth mindset enabled them to shift their focus and enabled the team to see things from the perspective of how they could grow and develop individually and as a team, adding new, fun and innovative aspects to their work. They could maintain their commitment to financial acumen while lowering their fear of failure when it came to creating new solutions. The faster they “failed” and learned from their mistakes, the faster they came up with better solutions.
One of the main themes of the new performance model was to focus on collective performance versus individual performance. As explained above, adopting a growth mindset naturally fostered a collaborative approach as the individual team members realized how much more they could achieve and grow through this approach, in addition to working in a much more harmonious and connected team.
Start with A Growth Mindset
Our experience, both within our own organization and with clients, is that approaching challenging situations with a growth mindset makes all the difference. It turns problems into opportunities, fosters collaboration and innovation, and unlocks a passion for lifelong learning. Everybody makes mistakes, the question is how do you respond and recover. Your attitude in the face of hardship is a core element of resilience and one aspect of what makes a great leader. If you and your team want to improve performance and well-being, a growth mindset deserves to be at the heart of your strategy.
Click here to evaluate your own current mindset, and use the exercise provided to practice cultivating a Growth Mindset.