Management Team Building Leadership

Fostering a Growth Mindset in Your Employees

May 15, 2018

The key to turning an under performer into a star

Why do some employees shrink from learning new things, while others thrive on new challenges? Why are some discouraged by the same set-backs that make others even more determined to succeed? The difference is in their mindsets. One has a fixed mindset, the other a growth mindset – helping your people shift from a fixed to a growth mindset could be the key tobuildinga team that is motivated and open to learning new things

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But what is a growth mindset? 

Read the biographies of successful people and you’ll spot a key theme repeated over and over – failure and learning are important parts of success. It’s persisting through setbacks that makes the difference – not just innate talent. That capacity to persist through – and even be motivated by – challenges is key to a growth mindset, as defined by world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck. 

Someone with a growth mindset believes that their abilities and capacity can be improved with effort, perseverance, and practice. They’ll say things like “I just needed to go over it again” or, “I’ll try it like this next time.” They see set-backs and failures as opportunities to improve next time, and enthusiastically look for chances to try again.  

By contrast, someone with a fixed mindset believes their successes are down to  talent alone  qualities that can’t be changed through effort or practice. They’ll say things like “I’m bad with computers” or, “I just can’t work with numbers.” Their worth, they believe, is tied to their innate capacities, and failures are reflections on them, rather than on inexperience, wrong decisions or lack of effort. They’ll shrink from new challenges, are upset by mistakes and failures, and are defensive about feedback.  

Consider this common business situation. You ask a team member to slot a new page into a pitch document at the last minute. When you present, you find there is an error on the page – it isn’t the only reason you lose the pitch, but it certainly contributed to it. An employee with a growth mindset will be dismayed, but will quickly move past this self-reproach, to ask useful questions like, “How could I do better next time?” and “What can I learn from this?” They will be eager to try again.   

An employee with a fixed mindset will be equally as dismayed, but will struggle to move beyond this emotion. They may avoid similar projects in the future, and may even feel discouraged in all areas of their work. In the longer term, the career trajectory of these two employees will look very different, with one thirsty for challenge, and the other doing everything to avoid it.  

The good news is that with help and support, people can change their mindset, and move from a fixed to more of a growth perspective. 

Employees with a growth mindset: 

       Are more motivated and engaged, even when work is challenging 

       Are more likely to review or revise their work 

       Welcome feedback – even negative  

       See setbacks and failures as learning opportunities  

       Feel a greater sense of ownership and commitment to the future of their company 

Why is growth important? 

When your team is made up of people with a growth mindset, the value to your business (and to them) is clear. They will seek out new challenges, be more motivated, and cope better with failures and setbacks. In short, they will try harder, because they believe that those efforts will reap rewards in the long term. Teams with a growth mindset will seek out innovation and creativity and be comfortable with the unknown, which in turn will support your organisation to be more agile and respond more easily to changing market conditions 

NZ company Z Energy is undoubtedly a business with a growth mindset. They see the challenges facing their sector – oil is a twilight industry. Rather than doubling down on petrol and protecting their patch, they see themselves as an energy company, keeping themselves open to all the new ways New Zealanders could move around in the future. For example, they’ve installed charging stations in some of their outlets and invested in R&D projects for alternative fuels.

Read about Kiwi's who have successfully fostered a Growth Mindset through business and gain insights into how to foster growth in your employees with your free
Growth Mindset Toolkit here: