Let’s talk about growth mindsets

Butterflies - growth mindset

Albert Einstein knew it, David Beckham is famous for it and Hillary Clinton used it in bucketloads. We’re talking about growth mindsets.

A growth mindset is the belief that your success and ability aren’t a result of good luck or natural talent, but instead down to your attitude and persistence.

Here’s how Hillary sums it up:

“Always aim high, work hard, and care deeply about what you believe in. And, when you stumble, keep faith. And, when you’re knocked down, get right back up and never listen to anyone who says you can’t or shouldn’t go on.”

That’s a lot of ‘ands’ but we guess that’s the point. Don’t stop. Keep trying. In this way, Hillary’s message is also spot on for owners and leaders of SMEs.

What is a growth mindset?

A growth mindset – the opposite of a fixed mindset – believes you can do anything if you put your mind to it.

The workplace benefits that stem from adopting a growth mindset are both diverse and plentiful. Well, that’s what Stanford University psychologist and author of ‘mindset’, Dr Carol S. Dweck suggests.

According to Dweck, mindsets have a lot to answer for. From fluctuating levels of motivation across all of life’s challenges to why we differ and how we view our accomplishments, the message fundamentally remains the same:

…it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success – but whether we approach our goals with a fixed or growth mindset. 

… Just by knowing about the two mindsets, you can start thinking and reacting in new ways. People tell me they start to catch themselves when they are in the throes of the fixed mindset – passing up a chance for learning, feeling labelled by a failure, or getting discouraged when something requires a lot of effort. 

So, lower the bar and accept that failing is a faster route to success. When you remove shame and disappointment from the word ‘failure’, the pressure eases and focus improves. 

Dweck leans on Benjamin Barber’s theory of:

.. don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and failures, … divide the world into the learners and the non-learners.

Take a moment to think about what success means for your business and people. Sure, there are the KPIs, quarterly targets and award ceremonies but without a can-do attitude, appropriate training, as well as time and space for learning you are likely to fall at the first hurdle. 

The not-yet-effect

Another way of explaining a growth mindset is to refer to it as the ‘not-yet effect’. This suggests it’s just a matter of time before you’ll be able to do whatever you’re struggling with. It’s a learning process, not a born talent.

So instead of “I can’t do computer programming”, you’d say “I can’t do computer programming yet”. It’s gentle way of reminding your people of the value of persistence. After all, personal resilience is a bottleneck that’s easy to overlook.

Growth mindset business benefits:

1. Encourages agility and business innovation

Employees and teams who recover from setbacks and approach problems in a more innovative and agile way are good for business.

Whether it’s customer sales or your social media campaigns, you’ll see better all-round results from teams who believe there is always more to learn. 

2. Increases confidence and efficiency

If you want to get ahead, get efficient.

Team members with a growth mindset build confidence in their abilities through new learning and practise. James Clear sums this up neatly by sharing his coach’s words of wisdom on persistence and mindset:

“Confidence is just displayed ability. In other words, if we wanted to become the type of team that stepped onto the court and believed we would win every game, then we had to become the type of team that displayed our ability over and over again.”

Teams that are wired with the growth mindset will most likely recommend that you remove outdated processes and cull value-sapping practices.

These sorts of changes can ignite panic if not communicated properly. That’s why we recommend you reassure those who are uncomfortable at times to stick with it and you’ll see results with a leaner, more productive and effective business.

3. Build resilience and accountability

It sometimes takes a crisis for people to find their feet. Instead of spiralling inwards and reducing productivity, a team with a strong growth mindset seizes the opportunity to learn from failure.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking they won’t be disheartened, they’re only human. Remember, it’s the way you deal with the effects of failure that’s important.

JK Rowling puts it beautifully:

“Failure is so important. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success”. 

4. Collaborative drive

A little bit of competition is healthy in a team, but too much can be destructive. Teams with a culture that celebrates a growth mindset work together to harness the strengths of the group, instead of trying to tear each other down.