How to Develop a Growth Mindset

Growth mindset, a term coined by researcher Carol Dweck, assumes the position that someone’s potential is unfixed, and one’s skills and abilities can be increased with passion, training, and deliberate effort. Someone with a growth mindset welcomes challenges, and views their failures as opportunities to learn and develop. This is a well-founded thought, as neuroscience proves that our brain changes and becomes more capable when we work hard to improve ourselves. 

Conversely, a person with a fixed mindset sees their qualities and abilities as carved in stone. They view their failures as a potential threat to their identity, have difficulty working through challenges, and react emotionally when faced with obstacles. 

Where a growth mindset focuses on the process, learning, and the journey, the fixed mindset gets stuck on results. 

If you’re a manager, focusing on growth mindset could be a key ingredient for your success! 

How does a growth mindset affect me as a manager?

Managers with a growth mindset demonstrate better ability to pay attention to information that’s inconsistent with their expectations and assumptions about their employees. They are also shown to be more data-driven in response to performance changes on their team. Keeping a growth mindset helps managers challenge their biases and make better decisions based on facts, when it comes to behaviors and performance. 

On the flip side of this, managers with a fixed mindset are less likely to give feedback and coaching to their employees, especially when they perceive them to be less competent. They also struggle to receive useful feedback. 

As a manager, it’s essential that developing a growth mindset is always top of mind.

Channeling your growth mindset as a manager 

To develop and leverage a stronger growth mindset, consider the following perspectives:

Isabel Duarte, mindfulness and leadership coach suggests “notice and be curious about when you’re approaching a situation with a fixed mindset, and consider how you can reframe it.” 

Think of an instance where you experienced unexpected positive change within yourself. What do you attribute those changes to? How can you re-emulate that kind of growth?

Dweck suggests asking yourself the following questions:

  • Are there ways I could be less defensive about my mistakes?
  • Could I profit more from the feedback I get?
  • Are there ways I can create more learning experiences for myself?

Dweck’s research explains that great managers don’t try to prove that they are better than others, and don’t undermine the people around them to increase their own power. They focus on improving themselves, and building teams of really great people, who continuously grow and develop. 

If you’re managing a team, think about the way you act in the workplace towards others. Do you focus on your own power, and achievements, more than on your employees’ well-being? If you find yourself nodding yes, consider the ways you could re-adjust your focus. For example, you could look for opportunities to give and share credit to your team for work well done.

Re-appraising a situation in a way that removes threat is an emotional regulation strategy that can be employed by anyone! When experiencing challenges at work, ask yourself questions like this:

  • How might someone I look up to feel and react to this situation? 
  • In what ways might I shift my self-doubt to a growth mindset of accepting challenges? 
  • How might I appreciate the other person’s concern?

Duarte says “Learn to re-appraise negative situations and assume positive intent. When something fails to fall in line with your expectations, try not to get caught up in the script of how you want things to go”.

When you’re faced with a challenge you feel you can’t move past, rather than saying “I can’t do this”, rephrase this sentence to “I can’t do this yet”. This small change in mindset can have a lasting impact on your ability to work through solutions and stay motivated. 

Fostering a growth mindset within your team

Once you’ve done the work for yourself, consider how to foster this mindset with your team. Dweck outlines the following ideas to consider: 

It’s important to present skills as learnable and create a space where failure while learning, is accepted. To get your team comfortable with this idea, you can share stories about times when you were not successful and failed at something. Be honest about how you’ve overcome obstacles too. 

Place value on development within your team. As a manager, are you providing your team with apprenticeships, workshops, coaching, or stretch assignments? These are great ways to encourage learning. Duarte suggests that “when it comes to every day team workflow, seek opportunities to delegate tasks that empower your team to learn and further their skills”

The lines for feedback within your team should always be open, both for you to give to your team, and for them to give to you. When you notice an employee falling into a fixed mindset, remind them of a time when they were successful in something that was challenging at first.

Feedback can be a great time to debrief on mistakes made. Rather than ignoring or reprimanding them, take the time to explain the proper process, and coach employees to make meaning from their mistakes. 

Developing a growth mindset will not only help you at work, but in relationships, and all other aspects of life! So look inwards and ask yourself how you can push towards growth each day. 

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