How to develop a growth mindset in your team

If you’ve heard about the benefits of feedback in fostering a learning culture at high performing organizations, you may have started encouraging people at work to start sharing feedback with one another. Have you started to see the benefits, or does it seem slow to take off?

Although you may be sold on the idea of real-time feedback, in order for your feedback culture to be strong you first have to consider whether your organization is ready for it. Imagine if people start to receive increasing amounts of feedback but don’t know how to take it on board. Conversely, imagine if people don’t know how to give feedback and the conversations have a detrimental effect on team spirit…That’s not the impression you want people to have.

When it comes to implementing something that will impact company culture on a large scale, we can learn from growth-oriented workplaces. For example, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is credited with leading the company through a much-needed culture change using a growth mindset strategy, and is now using it to develop the company’s next leaders. It’s also the quality Linkedin CEO Jeff Weiner thinks is even more important than a degree, in potential new hires.

Growth vs. fixed mindsets

Stanford Professor Carol Dweck’s groundbreaking research on fixed vs. growth mindsets sparked a paradigm shift in the way educators motivate students to learn. She found that students with a fixed mindset believe their level of intelligence and talents are fixed and cannot be improved, while students with a growth mindset see challenges as a way to improve.

People with fixed mindsets believe their intelligence and skills are intrinsically linked to themselves as a person. Therefore, rather than being encouraged to develop further they see constructive feedback as a personal attack. This can then trigger emotional reactions to feedback, blocking any personal gain that could be achieved.

On the other hand, rather than being deterred, people with a growth mindset are open to feedback seeing it as a tool to fuel their performance. Through their belief that hard work and persistence can help increase their intelligence, these students go on to achieve higher results as they move through education.

How mindsets impact the workplace

Companies are now starting to realize that the difference between fixed and growth mindsets in adults can significantly impact workplace performance. In addition to the personal development benefits, a growth mindset also makes employees better team players.

With a growth mindset, people will be:

  1. Motivated to learn and improve with feedback
  2. Able to change and adapt skills, behaviors and attitudes faster
  3. Inspired by their teammates’ achievements
  4. Willing to share knowledge and help others succeed

The video below gives a brief overview of the concept:

To help people in your company develop a growth mindset, ask yourself these four questions

1. Are your performance management practices hindering growth?

Stack ranking for example, is a performance management practice that forces managers to rank their employees from top to the lowest performing individual. Rather than encouraging high performance and growth, stack ranking pits employees against each other, creating competitive environments steeped in fixed mindset mentalities.

If you want to foster a growth mindset in the workplace, it will be important to ensure your performance management process encourages the regular exchange of feedback, conversations with managers, and opportunities for professional development.

2. Are your people coaching with a growth mindset?

You will need to take a close look at current practices within your organization, to see whether or not they encourage a growth mindset. For example, do you see teams divided into star employees and the rest? Do you hear people differentiating between their top performing team members and others? Make sure that you help people within your organization recognize when they are already applying a growth mindset. Identify the teams or departments where this is happening so you can provide them with additional support.

Ultimately, you want team leads to coach with a growth mindset, which will help people be more open to learning and developing new skills. Considering that nowadays the half-life of a job skill is about five years, people need to be willing to adapt and learn on a regular basis. Those with a fixed mindset are more likely to fall behind.

This doesn’t mean that you should encourage people to learn dozens of new skills every year, but team leads should be able to understand whether people are blocked due to a lack of interest, or a feeling that they’re simply not good enough.

3. How do your teams set goals?

According to Dweck, the way teams set goals can have an impact on their mindset. Her research shows that people with fixed mindsets are more likely to set performance goals as opposed to development goals. While this may not seem shocking, performance related goals are more closely tied to things people are already good at. On the other hand by setting learning goals, employees take on new challenges, experiment, and grow.

Team leads should help people find the right balance between performance-based and development goals.

4. Is feedback helping or hurting?

It’s common knowledge that recognition and giving people praise can motivate teams into high-performance. However, have you taken into account how people are praising one another?

Ideally, people should share feedback based on the effort they perceive, not on their colleague’s natural ability. Upon receiving feedback and to support the growth mindset, people can explain what steps they took to help them achieve this level. Meanwhile, it’s important for teams to give each other constructive feedback, as there’s no end to what they can learn. With regular input on their performance, people will be able to set new goals for themselves and strive for continuous improvement.

As more people within your organization embrace the growth mindset, you’ll be able to come back to your feedback culture. You might even find that since people are more open to developing, they’ve started to request feedback more often themselves! Both a growth mindset and a culture of feedback ultimately support People Enablement, putting people in the driver’s seat of their careers.

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