Would Your Company Profit from a Growth Mindset Culture?March 14, 2017 . .
This is a guest blog post by FX Risk Consultant Pascale Hansen.
The Difference Between a Fixed and Growth Mindset Culture
A mindset is a set of assumptions, methods or ideas held by an individual or exercised by a group that determines what attitude we bring into our daily activities and to work.
Dividing people into two camps, Standford University professor Carol Dweck, refers to people who view talent as a quality they either possess or lack as having a “fixed mindset” and people with a “growth mindset” in contrast, enjoy challenges, strive to learn and consistently develop new skills.
As a graduate student in the early 1970’s studying how children cope with failure, Dweck discovered that “For some people, failure is the end of the world – but for others, it’s this new exciting opportunity.” According to professor Dweck’s work, these two very different and basic mindsets shape our everyday lives and contribute to our work culture which is why it is helpful to understand the difference between the two.
In a fixed mindset culture, a group believes something is fixed and has defined limitations. For example, you may be considered talented or not and there is rarely an in-between. So, the notion that a talented person needs to enhance their skill is never an accepted prescription for future growth and improvement.
Culture filters down from the top. A leader with a fixed mindset will affect those beneath her or him. The mindset of a leader is critical to team development, staff motivation and the achievement of strategic objectives.
While leaders with a fixed mindset tend to “place greater value on looking smart and are less likely to believe that they or others can change,” those with a growth mindset “place high value on learning, are open to feedback and are confident in their ability to cultivate their own and others’ abilities.”
The collapse of Enron is often cited as an example of how a fixed mindset culture, with its obsessive praise for talent and intelligence, led to lying about problems instead of admitting to them so that a solution could be found.
On the other hand, companies that focus on continuous learning and accept mistakes and failures as part of the overall development process, are far more likely to succeed in the long term.
Why Develop a Growth Mindset?
One reason for developing a growth mindset culture is its positive effect on performance management. A leader with a growth mindset will be more likely to invest in programs that enhance employees’ skills and encourage an environment of collaboration which in turn drives greater innovation as well as new way of working that profoundly increase value to shareholders and customers.
Research show teams whose members have a growth mindset set the bar higher for themselves, are creative thinkers and ultimately reach higher levels of achievement. Companies known to foster cultures with a growth mindset include Amazon, Apple, Proctor & Gamble, eBay, Google, IBM and General Electric.
A Growth Mindset Culture Facilitates Business Transformation A Fixed Mindset Culture Limits Business Growth Embrace setting stretch goals Goals are set conservatively Keep open minds and embrace thinking in new directions Judgments are made too quickly Comfortable taking informed risks Any form of risk is avoided Learn from mistakes and iterate Must be perfect and see mistakes as failures Collaboration and teamwork is integral Internal competition is the norm
Best Practices for Developing a Growth Mindset Culture
Creating a growth mindset culture requires dedication and hard work from top management who must have the desire to drive the change. So how can you foster more of a growth mindset in your organization?
#1 Practice What You Teach
To move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, a leader must first practice what they want to model. They must be proactive in showing growth mindset behaviours and make a habit of asking themselves “Is this an opportunity to learn?”, “Am I listening?”, “Can I stretch myself further with this?” and “What can I learn from others?”
#2 Hire According to Runway Not Pedigree
Dweck uses GE’s Jack Welch as an emblematic growth-mindset CEO: he hired according to someone’s mindset and attitude, not academic record, preferring Big 10 graduates and military veterans to Ivy leaguers, and spent thousands of hours grooming and coaching employees on his executive team – activities that demonstrated a recognition of people’s capacity for growth.
#3 Challenge Excuses
It’s so easy to make excuses about results and tell ourselves and others why outcomes do not rest solely on our shoulders. It’s so convenient to blame someone or something else from the comfort zone of zero accountability.
As a leader committed to developing a growth mindset culture, tune into the stories when your team tells you what is happening and why. When the thoughts, feelings, and actions are shaped by excuses fixated on outcomes that are undermining people’s confidence challenge with the question: “Is that the only explanation?”
Narrow in on the middle ground when someone is making things worse than they are (catastrophizing) or embellishing them. Seek out alternatives that are focused on effort, learning, and growth.
#4 Openly Ask for Feedback as Part of Learning
Practice being fearless.
Adopt an “anything is possible” attitude and routinely ask how you and your team are doing without fearing you may hear something negative that you may relate to failure.
Change your internal monologue to “If I try to understand the feedback, there is something I can learn from it”. Frame feedback as learning opportunities for growth and development. Lead by example and openly share your mistakes with your team and share what you’ve learned and what you commit to working on to create improvements for your team and your business.
#5 Experiment. Learn. Pivot if Required.
Don’t be afraid of challenges that will stretch you.
Take calculated risks and prepare to learn from mistakes along the way by being proactive about seeking feedback along the way from trusted mentors, managers and experts. Pivot or change direction early and consider it par for the course.
#6 Reward Efforts Not Outcomes
Make it a regular ritual to genuinely show appreciation for the efforts and learning you see from your team, rather than just when the expected outcome is achieved. Growth mindset leaders invest in development programs and create cultures of self-awareness, open communication, and teamwork.
When I managed a Western Canadian sales team during the last recession, I joined the management team as the first female manager in 63 years, in a male-dominated industry, with the mandate to change the culture and sales process. Changing the culture I walked into was initially met with bold resistance, but being completely transparent and open to everyone’s feedback very quickly helped me earn the respect from my team. That respect lay the foundation for loyalty once I delivered on my promises. The combination of creating a growth mindset culture, and treating my direct reports as I would have them treat our customers, is what I believe had my team consistently outperforming the rest of the country.
Since culture is a reflection of leadership, it is critical for leaders to know that they can shift mindset. To develop a growth mindset culture, leaders must encourage risk taking and reward it.
Success is not the determining factor here; challenging yourself is. Focus needs to be on the process improvements using insight and learning to propel the business forward to desired results and success will follow.
As an international payments and foreign currency risk consultant at Western Union Business Solutions in Vancouver, Pascale Hansen helps companies improve cash flow, manage risk, and seize global market opportunities using customized currency risk management solutions.