How to Develop a Growth Mindset at Work (& Grow Your Career Too)
How to Develop a Growth Mindset at Work (& Grow Your Career Too)
Society has trained you to believe that growth is good. And it can be… but, just like anything else, growth needs to be intentional for it to be effective. Today we’re looking at growth mindsets, what a growth mindset is and how you can develop one. It could be the one thing that changes your entire career…
What is a growth mindset?
A growth mindset is when you believe that your skills and intelligence can be developed through practice and effort.
When someone with a growth mindset runs up against a problem, rather than telling themselves “I can’t do this”, they tell themselves “I can’t do this, yet”. They are of the mindset that they’ll be able to solve the problem once they’ve learnt the necessary skills. Even if they don’t have those skills right now.
The concept was first introduced by the psychologist Carol Dweck, who has spoken widely about the impact of a growth mindset on child development. However, a growth mindset can be applied to all situations, including the workplace.
Growth mindset vs. fixed mindset
A growth mindset follows the principle that abilities can grow through hard work. Instead of being limited by what you’re capable of doing right now, a growth mindset allows you to harness the power of what you could do in the future.
On the flip side, a fixed mindset follows the belief that knowledge, intelligence and skills are static. You have your current set of skills and that’s it, they can’t be learned, developed or changed.
In reality, a growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset is a little less binary than that…
You might find that you have a mixed mindset, or even a high growth mindset. The illustration, linked below, shows the sliding scale of growth vs. fixed mindsets from growth mindset trainer James Anderson (and remember, you can grow along this scale too!).
Examples of a growth mindset
Fixed mindset: “I don’t know how to use this software”
Growth mindset: “I don’t know how to use this software yet, so I’ll take a course to help me learn”
Fixed mindset: “I’m not qualified for this job, I’m never going to get a promotion”
Growth mindset: “This job is quite challenging but I want to get a promotion. So I’m going to look for projects where I can learn and develop my skills”
Fixed mindset: “I don’t have a work-life balance, I’m always going to feel this stressed…”
Growth mindset: “My work-life balance is making me feel stressed so I’m going to explore how I can set some boundaries between my work and personal life”
How to develop a growth mindset at work
How can a growth mindset help your company?
If your employees are able to develop a growth mindset, they’re more likely to be life-long learners. This means that you’re not just hiring someone at their current skill set, you’re hiring someone who’s going to continue to learn and grow as time goes on.
People who have a growth mindset tend to think of problems as challenges that can be overcome, rather than barriers that they can’t get past. They’ll help your company innovate, develop and move forwards to lead your field,
They’ll invite in feedback, taking it as an opportunity to grow rather than a way to be criticised. And they’ll encourage others to do the same, leading the way for your organisation to develop a growth mindset across the board.
How to develop a growth mindset as an employee
The first step to developing a growth mindset at work is to understand that it is possible when you put in the effort. Once you start believing that skills can be changed, the practice becomes a lot easier.
Start by looking at any thoughts you currently have that are linked to a fixed mindset. And then consider how you would approach them if you had a growth mindset.
For example, I have a corporate coaching client who was spiralling down a path of negative thoughts whenever things went wrong at work. But, she was able to turn this into a growth opportunity.
She started writing a gratitude journal at the end of each day, celebrating every single thing she’s achieved that day. When something bugs her, or when she receives some feedback that makes her feel uncomfortable, she writes it down and is able to understand why it’s triggering for her.
How to develop a growth mindset in your company
Learning a growth mindset transforms the meaning of effort and difficulty. Instead of thinking of yourself as “unintelligent”, you simply think “I can’t do this, yet”. And wouldn’t we all love that for our employees?
- Praise wisely. Instead of celebrating talent and intelligence, reward employees who have made an effort, been strategic or developed a new process.
- Change your language. When giving out employee reviews, avoid telling an employee that they’re not good at something. Instead, tell them that they’re not good at this, yet. This will help them to develop greater confidence and more persistence, even after a setback.
- Facilitate learning. Look at how you can create opportunities for lifelong learning for your employees. This includes training days, online programmes, coaching and (of course) your management team leading by example.
- Create a safe space. If employees are going to be encouraged to learn and grow on the job, they need to be allowed to make mistakes. They will not always get it right the first time and that needs to be acknowledged, with a safe space for them to explore new possibilities.
- Make long term hiring decisions. Rather than just hiring the best person for the job right now, look at how that job candidate will learn and grow as time goes on. How have they evolved in their role so far? Will they continue to develop, or does it look like they’ve reached a ceiling?
- Show employees their potential. What if you could show your employees their potential career trajectory? This practice can help teams see their potential and encourage internal promotions when they have the opportunity to grow.
- Lead from the top. Look at your organisational mindset and how you learn and grow as a corporate body. Just like your employees need a growth mindset, your organisation needs one too. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and take on new challenges.
How long does it take to develop a growth mindset?
Developing a growth mindset is harder as an adult than a child. There’s a reason why schools place such a heavy emphasis on this practice, it’s the easiest and most impactful time to develop it.
When you’re a child, everything is new. You’re always learning and growing. But after puberty? Society assumes that our knowledge suddenly becomes stationary after we leave university.
It takes time to develop a growth mindset, it’s something that you’re always likely to have to practice. But, as with anything, the more you do it the more of a habit it becomes. Try to start small, look at how you can learn a new hobby or a less intimidating skill and then work your way up from there.
Remember to document your journey so you can look at just how far you’ve come.
Give your organisation the growth it’s been craving
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It’s time to find out, with an executive coach to guide you through the maze: