Over ten years ago, Google embarked on a plan to build better bosses. In its internal Project Oxygen, Google analyzed more than 10,000 manager impressions such as performance reviews, feedback surveys and nominations for top-manager awards. What they came up with was eight habits of highly effective managers. Number one on that list? Mindset and values. Google encourages its managers to establish a growth mindset.
Growth vs. Fixed Mindset
Dr. Carol Dweck, world-renowned author and professor of psychology at Stanford University, has researched the role that mindsets play in life for most of her career and is considered the founder of the growth vs. fixed mindset theory.
Someone with a growth mindset is always working to improve themselves and believes intelligence can be cultivated. They are open to ideas, curious about the world and ultimately see situations as opportunities. A leader with a growth mindset is powerful because they are eager to learn and not afraid to challenge themselves and experiment to solve potential problems. This optimistic perspective will eventually boost their performance.
On the flipside, someone with a fixed mindset believes that skills and abilities are predetermined. They will tend to focus on what’s wrong or what’s not possible and be less adaptable, open or flexible. They look at situations as either black or white and have a propensity toward pessimism. They believe that you “either have it or you don’t” when it comes to abilities and talents. Opportunities can be missed because of this negativity.
Dweck argues a difference in mindset equals differences in behavior. If someone believes intelligence is an immutable trait, they are less likely to put in a lot of effort to try to change it. Those who believe they can change these traits will be willing to work to achieve more ambitious goals.
It Doesn’t Have to Be All or Nothing
Your mindset shapes how you view situations and the world. Great leaders must have a growth mindset to match their tenacity and concentration. But what happens when you have a propensity toward a growth mindset but sometimes fall victim to a fixed mindset in a certain area? As an executive coach, I’ve worked with many leaders who for the most part, are open in their leadership style but perhaps have one area of strong opinion that’s very rigid. That fixed mindset, however limited, still skews how they think of others.
For example, a leader who micromanages has trust issues. This could be a deep-rooted belief that was shaped early in their career or even by an overbearing parent, an experience or their own pride. They learned this behavior unconsciously so they aren’t even aware they are behaving like this, which is defined as a blind spot. If you can uncover what is underlying that perspective, you can start to loosen that belief. To do this, we work in micro trust assignments and take one step at a time.
First, we’ll pinpoint an employee who is new to the company. The leader has no reason not to trust this person other than they don’t know them very well. We’ll identify the commitments owed to the leader by the employee and the timeline. We’ll discuss how it’s not necessary to issue reminders or check in regarding the deliverables. What typically happens? The employee delivers on time and up to standards. Eventually, the leader does enough exercises working through one person at a time to realize that their distrust beliefs have no evidence behind them. They then are able to let go of their fixed mindset regarding trust.
The goal for leaders should be a developmental mindset where you approach a situation as an opportunity to do something creative and solve potential problems. Development work allows us to reveal the reasons behind our thinking, how to change what we think and see the effects it has on what we act on.
- Is there a reason behind how I’m thinking about this situation?
- What lens am I looking at it through? Is there another perspective I’m missing?
- What are the potential opportunities in this situation?
- What can I learn from this situation?
- What are the positive aspects of this situation and how can I build upon those?
How to Change your Mindset
By diving deep into why you think about a certain situation the way you do, you are able to identify your thoughts, which are responsible for:
- How you feel about yourself,
- How others experience you,
- What’s possible and what’s not possible for you, and
- How you show up in the world.
These thoughts are responsible for developing your moods, which in turn affect your behaviors, which influence your results.
Here are eight ways to develop a growth mindset:
- Construct a new belief about yourself whether it’s in your skills, abilities or capacity for change.
- Change the way you view failure. Use it as an opportunity to learn from your mistakes.
- Become more self-aware. Take an audit of your strengths and weaknesses and get feedback from others so you have a complete 360 view of yourself.
- Think like a child. Ask questions, listen to the answers and treat the world with awe and wonderment.
- Learn how to accept challenges. If you are going to succeed at anything, there will be challenges and sometimes failures.
- Develop passion. Successful leaders are passionate about what they do.
- Be steadfast. Success requires tenacity, hard work and concentration.
- Inspire and be inspired by others. Live your life as an inspiration to others and use the success of others as your own inspiration.
This foundation of a growth mindset builds confidence and allows you to achieve your full potential. Simply reminding yourself to think positively over time can transform a fixed mindset to one of growth.
If you need help first identifying which mindset you have and then perhaps transforming your fixed mindset to growth, the strategies in our executive coaching sessions can assist.