To be able to flourish and thrive as individuals, teams and organisations, we need to move past traditional methods and look at things in a new way – a more humanising way. We need to stop thinking about performance culture as annual appraisals. We need to explore embedding a culture of continuous feedback.
Most of us will have been in a situation where we’ve had to give feedback in order to enable somebody to perform better and they have not responded well to this feedback. This is because we often have a workforce full of people with fixed mindsets. We need to start cultivating growth mindsets in teams so that feedback becomes an opportunity to grow rather than being an attack on who we are.
“Why waste time proving over and over how great you are when you could be getting better?” – Carol Dweck
What’s the difference between growth and fixed mindset?
Carol Dweck, a Stanford University Professor, identified two more mindsets people can have about their own intelligence, learning and abilities. These mindsets and beliefs shape how we approach challenges and handle critique.
A fixed mindset is the belief that your abilities are carved in stone, predetermined at birth and that you have a certain amount of them. When you fail, your basic abilities are called into question and when you hit an obstacle or criticism it is simply proof that you don’t have the ability you require.
On the other hand, a growth mindset is the belief that one’s skills and qualities can be developed through effort and perseverance. Setbacks and feedback are not about your abilities but rather they provide you with key information you can use to help yourself grow.
We often have a combination of fixed and growth mindsets in different areas and it’s unlikely we could have a growth mindset all the time. By encouraging a growth mindset, we help ourselves in becoming more resilient and engaged in the work we do.
“In the growth mindset, failure can be a painful experience. But it doesn’t define you. It’s a problem to be faced, dealt with, and learned from” – Carol Dweck
Why is a growth mindset vital for successful teams?
The short answer; when we have a growth mindset as a team, we can convert setbacks into future successes more easily.
Having this mindset makes us more creative and encourages perseverance and resilience when facing challenges:
1. A team with growth mindsets wants everybody to succeed, rather than every individual trying to constantly prove their worth to the team
2. Teams that have a fixed mindset do not admit when their work is not going well because they do not want to admit that they are wrong. Having a growth mindset encourages continuous feedback. This allows people to grow and develop rather than make them afraid to receive feedback
3. A team with a growth mindset are not afraid to try and do things outside of the norm. They realise that every decision they make, actively helps them to become better
All of the points above show how a team with a growth mindset are much more likely to have higher performance and better results than a team with a fixed mindset.
So, how can we begin to develop a team growth mindset?
1. The power of ‘not yet’ – our words and what we tell ourselves greatly impacts our confidence and how we look at challenges. Stretching yourself and sticking to it, even when you cannot yet do it or you are facing challenges, is at the core of a growth mindset.
2. Allow for opportunities to celebrate failures and mistakes – this creates an environment where people focus on learning from mistakes, rather than seeing them as a failure. It is also important we do not forget the importance of recognising small accomplishments. Focusing on small wins helps the team see the growth that wouldn’t have been possible if collaboration hadn’t been successful. Our sense of accomplishment resets every 24 hours, so taking the time to recognise what we have achieved every day is important to remind ourselves of our learning progress.
3. Look out for fixed-mindset triggers – something really challenging and outside your comfort zone can trigger a fixed mindset. Reflect on what you think and feel when facing a big challenge. Are you thinking that you are going to expose yourself to others and they might perceive that you aren’t good enough? Similarly, what happens when you meet an obstacle? Do you tell yourself “I’m not good at this?”. When someone gives you feedback, do you feel angry and defensive? Watch out for trigger moments or thoughts and ask yourself “is this a fixed or growth mindset?”. Consciously try to see the situation or comment from a growth mindset perspective in order to find ways you can support your own and your team’s learning.
4. With a team growth mindset, it is all about human potential and development. To achieve this, we place emphasis on learning and using strengths, rather than only focussing on fixed talents. This is done through praising work ethic and giving strengths-based feedback. When you praise team members, ensure you give feedback on their strengths, praise their focus and highlight any improvements.
Want to know more? Check our these books:
Carol Dweck – Mindset: the new psychology of success
Jim Collins – From Good to Great