Cultivating a growth mindset

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Have you ever met a know-it-all? You know the type. They go into a situation thinking they have all the information they need, and there’s very little room to change their mind. Maybe you’ve worked with someone like this in the past. Perhaps it’s your know-it-all family member that loves to debate you across the Thanksgiving table.

I’m not talking self-confidence here. I’m talking hubris.

Hubris makes it almost impossible for someone to be flexible when their mind is made up, even in the face of evidence. Does your partner need you to show them journal articles and scientific data before they’ll take your word for it? (I’m putting myself on blast a little bit with that last example).

That overconfidence and rigidity isn’t good. It’s not helpful in people’s personal or professional lives. It certainly won’t help your business achieve its goals if you have a team filled with know-it-alls who can’t (or won’t) admit their mistakes.

Look, we’ve all been guilty of a bit of stubbornness from time to time. But that pride has sent us away with our tails between our legs more often than not (I know this from personal experience). And since we’re all here to be better humans, let’s talk about how to humble ourselves a little bit to achieve a growth mindset.

What is a growth mindset? (And why you should care)

At its very core, a growth mindset is the idea that you don’t have all the answers. A growth mindset is curiosity. It’s a desire to be learning and growing all the time. Reframing your thoughts around a growth mindset lets you look at times where you’ve struggled, and instead of seeing failures, you see uncomfortable moments of growth.

A growth mindset is looking at how the marketing strategy you tried didn’t work, and instead of punishing yourself, you look for what you learned. How can you take those results and be better next time? A growth mindset is always striving to improve or be better than the last time you tried.

Knowing that you don’t know it all, and that you’ll need to either figure it out or seek expert help, will bring personal and business growth. Encouraging a culture of growth within your company will help your team constantly look to be better for themselves and your customers—and not wallow in self-doubt and pity when they make a mistake.

A growth mindset is always looking toward the future.

You might be comfortable in your business right now and not focused on growth. But that lack of focus can hurt your business. What happens if your competitor closes up shop unexpectedly? Will you be positioned to take all the extra calls?

What if a natural disaster strikes and your community needs your services? A growth mindset means having your eyes on future opportunities so that you’re ready for those what-ifs.

Whether you want to or not, your business could be put in a position to grow out of sheer happenstance. The question is whether you’ll be ready when it happens.

Encouraging a growth mindset among your employees will make overall growth less painful and awkward.

You want to have a team behind you that understands your vision for growth. As a leader, encouraging their personal growth goals helps them buy into your business goals. Not all attempts at improvement will succeed. Celebrate those attempts and encourage more of them. People who believe they can grow their talents generally feel more motivated and achieve more than those who think they’ve reached their peak.

Dr. Carol Dweck, a psychologist whose research focuses on motivation, says organizations tend to do it wrong when promoting a growth mindset. According to her, a growth mindset isn’t just about mission statements and praising positive outcomes:

"Organizations that embody a growth mindset encourage appropriate risk-taking, knowing that some risks won't work out. They reward employees for important and useful lessons learned, even if a project does not meet its original goals. They support collaboration across organizational boundaries rather than competition among employees or units. They are committed to the growth of every member, not just in words but in deeds, such as broadly available development and advancement opportunities. And they continually reinforce growth mindset values with concrete policies."

Dr. Carol Dweck, Psychologist

TL;DR: actions speak louder than words.

You don’t have to revamp your company culture all at once. Minor changes will show your team you value their growth—not forgetting your own growth, too.

Luckily for us and your business, people are capable of change at any point in their lives. It’s never too late to shift your focus and inspire a growth mindset at your company.

How to promote a growth mindset

In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck writes, “Believing that your qualities are carved in stone creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over.”

Remember when we talked about being a know-it-all? Dweck calls that having a “fixed mindset.” A fixed mindset prevents us from seeing any positives in our struggles and our failures. Believing that your talents are unchanging takes value away from your efforts. At any given time, we have a little bit of a fixed mindset and a little bit of a growth mindset. It’s the nature of being human. But achieving a more consistent growth-minded outlook is possible.

Here are some ways that, as a leader, you can promote a growth mindset in your team:

  • Acknowledge weaknesses as areas for growth and improvement, not something to hide.
  • Recognize challenges as opportunities for improvement.
  • Encourage healthy and appropriate risk-taking.
  • Try different training tactics. People all learn in different ways.
  • Place value on the process rather than the product. Encourage and praise the effort as well as the outcomes.
  • Celebrate growth!
  • Use positive criticism, AKA constructive criticism, to encourage learning and growth.
  • Award effort.
  • Promote grit and determination.
  • Create new goals as soon as growth goals are achieved. Always strive to grow and learn.
  • Talk about mistakes and failures openly.
  • Encourage collaboration and sharing of ideas rather than hiding them from each other.
  • Admit when you’ve made a mistake.
  • Encourage others to seek feedback.

When an employee has a setback, that’s the perfect time to discuss their process and their efforts. Developing that resilience in your team will not only keep them around and keep them happier but will set them up for future success. Fostering a growth mindset conditions your team to welcome complex or challenging tasks instead of avoiding them. Because the results aren’t what is praised or valued, the efforts are. The learning along the way is what matters.

For more ways to learn and grow as a business owner, check out Ruby’s small business resources hub.