I recently wrote about skills for dealing with change (since 2017 is likely to be a year of changes). In this piece I will look at the first of these - viewing change as an opportunity to learn.
Over 18 years ago Stanford Professor of Psychology, Dr Carol S. Dweck first presented the research-based model of fixed and growth mindsets. She showed that students identifying with a performance goal worry about messing up and will shy away from attempting something new for fear of failure. However, students with a learning goal will try interesting and challenging tasks just to learn more. Later, she developed the theory, adding that those people who believed they could develop their abilities felt more positive about challenges and persisted despite failure.
Those of us who view change as an opportunity to learn can proclaim that we have a “growth mindset”. So, other than embracing challenge, what else characterises this growth mindset, and what’s the flip side? The flip side is a “fixed mindset” – a view that intelligence is static and can’t be developed, a focus on outcomes, performance- a desire to look smart.
Fixed mindset – intelligence is static
- Talent alone creates success – I’m grateful for the talent I’ve got
- Avoid challenges – I stick to the activities that demonstrate ability
- Give up easily – why waste effort if it’s going to lead to failure anyway?
- If I’ve got to work at it, I don’t have the talent – risk and effort just reveal inadequacies
- Ignore useful negative feedback – focus only on the answer that confirms I’m right, when I get it wrong I ignore it and just move on, I’ve no interest in the right answer
- Feel threatened by the success of others – their success makes me feel inadequate.
Growth mindset- intelligence can be developed
- Talent and abilities can be developed – effort and resilience lead to success
- Embrace challenges – failure is just an opportunity for learning
- Persist in the face of setbacks-they’re motivating and informative input
- See effort as the path to mastery – true potential is unknown
- Learn from criticism – why waste time on confirming how good I am when I could be getting better?
- Feel inspired by the success of others – I can learn from their efforts.
What does this tell us about mindsets and being a leader?
Fixed mindset- intelligence is static
- Cling to what they know well
- Are less likely to prioritise development or allow room for failure
- Praise talent (not the learning) - employees are reprimanded for making mistakes and / or identifying deficiencies
- Primary focus is on performing rather than learning.
Growth mindset- intelligence can be developed
- Focus is on potential talent rather than current performance
- Encourage team members to overcome deficiencies through regular, deliberate practice
- Provide opportunities to learn from experience particularly through stretch assignments
- Give regular and honest feedback.
So what do you have - a growth or a fixed mindset? When faced with a challenging situation do you see it as a development opportunity and think “let’s learn from this”? Or do you recognise that you don’t have the ability, it’s out of your comfort zone and “pass”?
And is that a good or a bad thing for:
- Me as an individual?
- Me as a leader/manager?
- My team?
- The organisation?
And if you can’t be bothered with a growth mindset for the office, how about for home? Dweck has found that those with a fixed mindset expect their ideal mate to put them on a pedestal and make them feel perfect. When things are not working out in the relationship then someone’s to blame, things won’t get better and the relationship’s failed. On the other hand, those with a growth mindset seek someone who recognises their faults and supports their development. The relationship is an opportunity for growth together, things can only get better and the benefits of putting the effort in are invaluable.
What do I think? Well, skill can be cultivated-it’s not innate. So, when I’m affected by restructuring, the organisation changes, my role changes, I take on an entirely new role or join an entirely new organisation, I know that there are many opportunities for learning and improvement: failure, setbacks, criticism and the success of others (just to name but a few).
With extensive expertise in organisational design, Capital Law & People can work with you to identify your vision and your communication strategy. We can work with you on visibility, coach you to identify your own leadership style and facilitate team sessions to identify and agree expectations. We provide the legal support for peace of mind and offer a workshop – Leading Change Through People: Successful Restructuring. For more information please contact Christine Henderson.