For the last several years, educators have focused on helping children and young people develop a growth mindset through various techniques and methodologies in the classroom. These approaches are designed to encourage the development and enhancement of intelligence and abilities rather than assume that children have a fixed intelligence or maximized potential. The idea is to help young people develop and cultivate a lifelong approach to learning and growing that encourages them to develop grit and resilience and overcome obstacles in all aspects of their lives.
It’s easy to see how this approach to education can help children grow into lifelong learners, but can a similar environment encourage adults to develop a growth mindset? And if so, what are the benefits of such a mindset at work?
Growth vs. Fixed Mindset
Developed by psychologist Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, the concept of a growth mindset involves a self-perception that says brains and talent are just a beginning and that both can be developed through effort. A growth mindset welcomes challenges as a laboratory for learning—a way to address shortcomings or weaknesses and come out on the other side with better skills and more knowledge.
In contrast, a fixed mindset suggests that intelligence and talent are set in place, and that development and learning is either impossible or not worth the effort. Someone with a fixed mindset receives negative feedback and thinks, “I’m a failure” rather than “how can I reset and succeed next time?” Feedback and failure can be devastating for those with a fixed mindset because they go to the heart of one’s identity.
Given that mindsets are often well-established by the time people reach adulthood, how can leaders encourage a growth mindset on their teams and in their organizations?
Here are four ways to help your teams cultivate a growth mindset:
1. Use Feedback—But Use It Carefully!
The human brain can naturally resist feedback. For many people, getting feedback at work can set off an anxious cycle that prevents them from receiving and using the feedback for growth. As you give feedback to others, be sure to prime their brains to receive it. Be calm and mindful of tension in the room when you’re giving feedback. Ask questions and leave room for pauses and responses. Be sure to give the recipient plenty of space to process and learn, and assure the recipient of feedback that challenges do not impact human value or worth.
2. Promote Inclusive Experiences
People who seek out new experiences and pursue an inclusive mindset will encounter challenges to their current way of thinking. These challenges stimulate a growth mindset by pushing them to look outside their experiences and backgrounds. Promote opportunities for people to connect across functions and roles, such as DE&I initiatives or employee training courses.
3. Expand Development Opportunities
Development can take many forms. Some employees may be actively pursuing advanced degrees, while others may want to know how to use company technology. Take an expansive view of development, adapt and customize development to each employee. They will move toward a growth mindset when encouraged to pursue their development.
4. Look to the Future
As you interact with your team, promote both the company vision and goals and personal and career goals. Talk to your team as if growth and development is inevitable. Keep the vision and purpose of the organization in mind, and constantly encourage innovation and movement toward that vision and purpose.
In any environment, your people are your most valuable resource. Their growth and development benefits them individually, but it also helps your organization to continually improve and grow. You can help your people and your company achieve long-term goals by fostering a growth mindset culture.
- Does my team exhibit primarily a fixed mindset or a growth mindset?
- Is there a new experience I can introduce to my team to encourage growth, even if it’s not work-related?
- What is one thing I can do on my team to encourage a growth mindset?