“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” – Benjamin Franklin
Learning is understood and widely accepted for those of us who have gone through primary and collegiate schooling. We were regularly surrounded by individuals who encouraged and supported our development. New ideas and change were expected of us; the sky was the limit!
But what about once we got into the workplace? For many, we settled into the day-to-day routine, taking care of business, unaware of the toll that our comfortable, monotonous, uninterrupted tasks seemed to be having on our personal and professional growth.
Do you hear regular employees saying “I don’t get how this project management tool works” or “I’m bad at giving presentations. Please let someone else do it.” If so, reevaluation of your team’s growth mindset might be in order.
They are working under a “fixed mindset.” According to a research study by Carol Dweck of Stanford University, a fixed mindset occurs when people believe qualities are fixed traits that cannot change. These people document skills rather than working to develop them. Alternatively, a growth mindset believes that intelligence can grow with time and experience. When people believe they can contribute to their learning, they realize effort has an effect on their success.
You can work to combat a fixed mindset and encourage a healthy growth mindset by practicing the following:
Identify Fixed Mindset Patterns
First, are you able to accurately identify and root out the bad habits resulting from a fixed mindset? Common behaviors of these types of people include those who avoid challenges, give up easily, see their efforts as accomplishing nothing, ignore and avoid negative feedback, lack direction in their goals, and act out when feeling threatened by others who achieve success. These are common signs that employees are struggling to see their part in nurturing new development.
Pinpoint Skills and Limitations
Taking time aside from the regular routine to pinpoint your employees strengths and weaknesses will provide a clear starting point for leadership in knowing where gaps exist. Have employees individually take strength assessments and meet with them to go over results. Some might feel threatened and defensive when going over weaknesses, but having a straightforward conversation on the diagnosis will lead to better prognosis and healing.
Redirect “Fails” into “Needs Improvement”
Landing on pass/fails for projects and tasks is a natural breeding ground for fixed mindset. Dweck explains when a high school replaced failing grades with “Not Yet,” their students saw a massive improvement in taking control of improving their grades. Workplaces can adopt similar mentalities by encouraging employees to improve on the end-results of projects instead of saying they failed the task.
Encourage Feedback Over Praise
Praise feels good. We like to feel validated in our strengths and are content to leave it alone when we receive praise over accomplished work. Instead, encourage employees to ask for feedback despite the outcome. There are always ways to improve and develop. Lead your team to ask for tips and creative ways in which they can approach new scenarios.
Set Intelligent Goals
We commonly think of goals like, “I want to hit 15 percent increase in my KPI.” While this seems fair, it fails to address what happens if the goal is not met. Instead, set goals that are more learning driven. “I want to learn how to use and better enhance this project management tool” or “I want to better improve my communication by taking opportunities for public speaking” are excellent examples of developmentally-driven goals. If performance-based goals are a must in your industry, take time to input smaller skill-based action goals so you are being developed while striving to hit the bigger goal.
Place Employees in Challenging Situations
We naturally lean toward handing work off to individuals who appear suited for the work. While this is an effective way of getting work done, it limits growth for those who are not yet up to par. Give employees who lack necessary skills for a specific task the opportunity to work alongside those who are already experts. Give them plenty of room to practice, and yes, fail. And when they fail, encourage them to get back up and try again. The biggest inhibitors to a growth mindset in workspaces are leaders who constantly put their people down. Be part of the solution, not the problem.
Offer Learning Opportunities
As a leader, seek to enhance growth by offering paid degrees or programs through local universities, local workshop sessions, and skill-based conferences. By allowing teams to take part in these opportunities, you are showing that you value growth and development. Not only that, be willing to set aside your own time for these developmental offerings. Learn to better yourself as a teacher so that you can better equip others to take on leadership. As the saying goes, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”