How great could work be if you genuinely believed you had limitless potential?
It is possible, with a growth mindset.
What’s a growth mindset?
The term—growth mindset—was coined by Stanford Professor Carol Dweck after her research of student performance.
Dweck found that students fell into two groups: students who believe that their success is a product of their own hard work and persistence (growth mindset); or, students who believe that whatever success they might have is solely a product of some innate intelligence or talent, not effort (a fixed mindset).
What Dweck found is that students with a growth mindset had significantly better grades than students with fixed mindsets.
While this research was done in classrooms, her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” prompted business leaders to recognize how applicable a growth mindset could apply in business as well. If you want to boost your work performance, develop a growth mindset.
What does a growth mindset look like?
If you believe that you have the power to build capacity through your own hard work and passion, you’ll likely find the following to be true:
You’ll clamber for meaningful professional development and mentoring opportunities.
You’ll take challenges and risks confidently, knowing that all experiences (even failures) present learning opportunities.
You’ll take setbacks in stride, not as an insult to the value of your core self.
You’ll welcome and act on constructive feedback.
You’ll be enthusiastic to work collaboratively (rather than threatened), knowing that you can learn from others.
You’ll be consistently more productive and satisfied, and a more significant asset to your organization, because you are continually looking to grow.
If you are working within an organization that supports the growth mindset, you’ll feel more integral and committed to the overall organizational mission.
Sounds terrific, right?
Unfortunately, not everyone has a growth mindset.
What if I have a fixed mindset?
If you are like many, you grew up with an internal dialogue that told you what you weren’t. I’m not a math person. I’m not a good public speaker.
Whether it was fear, subtle (or not so subtle) messaging from friends or family, or messages absorbed from society-at-large, you internalized the belief that you are who you are. Nothing you do will change that.
If this sounds familiar, you have a fixed mindset.
By accepting these messages as fact, and feeding them back to you on an endless loop, these “facts” about yourself became a reality.
All of the outward evidence proved your point: you struggled in math and avoided or stumbled through public speaking.
Even for high-performers, a fixed mindset is limiting.
For the “natural talent,” they see no real reason to push themselves because their work is already superior and they believe work should come easily. So, again, reaching full potential is squashed.
Also, high-performers with a fixed mindset do not take feedback well and are more prone to shift blame or cheat to cover failure.
If this sounds painfully familiar, don’t worry.
The good news from Dweck’s research is that your mindset is more malleable than you think. And, honestly, it’s typical to have a fluid mindset not consistent in all domains. For instance, a person who has a growth mindset in writing proposals may have a fixed mindset about public speaking.
How can I develop a growth mindset?
A growth mindset is a process of reframing your thinking.
The tagline that emerged from Dweck’s work is the Power of Yet.
That’s your new mantra.
Believe that areas in which you don’t currently feel as confident are merely areas that you are NOT YET confident.
With hard work, persistence, and a relentless pursuit of growth, you CAN become more capable.
The following quote captures the fixed vs. growth mindset struggle perfectly, “It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.”
Whatever you think you are NOT now, is merely temporary.
Belief in capacity needs to be followed with action.
Here are some actionable steps to develop a growth mindset (Bradbury, 2016):
Don’t be helpless.
Learn from successes and failures—they are both valuable.
Work with passion.
You may not be as talented as another, but you can compensate with passion.
Act now and take risks.
Don’t let fear and anxiety paralyze you.
Exceed your personal best a little every day.
Seek out constructive feedback and opportunities to collaborate with others to spur your growth.
Just because you ought to be progress-focused, don’t let yourself off the hook when it comes to striving for results.
Face adversity with flexibility. If you face a setback, no whining—learn and move on.
Be honest with your boss about areas in which you’d like to grow.
Maybe you’re ready for growth, but what about the boss?
If you are a manager, your personal mindset has an even broader impact on the success of your employees and organization.
If you have a fixed mindset, you won’t see or foster full potential in others and are less likely to provide growth opportunities because you believe capacity is fixed.
You are more likely to praise only the highest of outcomes (not progress) and natural abilities (e.g., you’re so smart/talented).
By recognizing high outcomes or innate abilities only, you effectively cap growth.
If employees get the message that no matter how hard they work, they’ll only get positive recognition for the highest of outcomes and assume they just aren’t capable enough. They’ll see no point in exerting extra effort.
Even for high-performing employees, a boss’s fixed mindset is a detriment. High-performers typically have a history of producing well without having to stretch themselves.
They get the praise anyway, so who needs to grow?
However, a boss with a growth mindset can unlock limitless potential in their workforce by praising hard work, progress, perseverance, and thirst for growth.
A boss with a growth mindset knows that developing a culture of growth is both good for employees and good for the health and success of the organization.
A growth mindset culture encourages higher quality work, fosters mutual trust, and deepens the worker’s commitment to the company.
Dweck’s research found that growth mindset employees are, 34 percent more likely to have a strong sense of ownership and commitment to their organization and 47 percent more likely to say their colleagues are trustworthy than their fixed-mindset peers.
Given the highly competitive business world, a growth mindset at the individual and organizational level is critical.
It ensures all employees reach their full potential, fully engage in their work, and produce the best outcomes.
Whether you want to improve your public speaking, learn a new software language, or improve how you coach your employees, you have the capacity for growth with hard work and passion.
Even better, you’ll be part of a happier workforce.
For more information about tools that support your growth and organization at work and at home, visit iStratus.com to check out the DayPlanner app for iPhone.