Moving away from Fixed Mindset to 'Growth' Mindset

MSME ARTICLE #3/2018 : JUNE 12th 2018

Leaders today have to continuously evaluate themselves to see if their current method of management is enabling their organisation (team, peers, bosses) or not. They need to know if there are areas withing themselves that need to be sharpened or do they need to be substituted with new ones, so that they can fulfil their roles with greater incisiveness. How does a leader make the decision – to let go or to enhance, as well as which ones to focus their time and energy? Well, one model in the management literature helps to facilitate this predicament – ie. Professor Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset Model.

In this model Prof Carol illuminates the 5 tenets that will enable leaders to review themselves. Leader A who has a fixed mindset, has a desire to look smart in front of others (peers, subordinates, bosses, etc).
1. When challenges -which are new things that are seen to be hard, the risk of failing is there and may negatively impact his self-image, Leader A tends to protect himself. He does this by avoiding challenges and stick to what he knows he can do well.
2. When faced with obstacles -which are external forces thrust on him, he has no choice but to address them, and success is risky, Leader A will tend to give up easily.
3. When faced with a tasks that needs a lot of effort to make it happen, Leader A will tend to avoid making effort as he is unsure if it will produce the desired outcome.
4. When people around provide constructive feedback, Leader A believes any feedback on his capabilities is a criticism of him. He will push-back and ignore useful feedback.
5. When surrounded by people who are more successful, Leader A tends to feel threatened by others’ success as it makes him look bad, that he is not as successful as them.

One of the leaders I coached had a fixed mindset. The feedback she received from her team, peers and bosses were pushed-back. She refused to accept the new challenges that were thrown at her as she saw the possibility of a lot of effort with no guaranteed outcome. She did not want to be compared to others, claiming that others were more ‘lucky’ and more privileged than her.

As her executive coach, I shared with her a youtube clip of Prof Carol’s research. I asked her to make an evaluation of which parts of her life she was being either a Leader A – “Fixed” mindset or Leader B – “Growth” mindset. After viewing the clip, she shared that it helped her raise her level of self-awareness. She realized she was being “Parent A” to her daughter. She shared that her daughter was hesitant to make mistakes and learn from them. Rather her daughter needed praises and lots of encouragement from her, before being courageous to try out new tasks. This proved an “aha” moment for her. As her coach, I also enquired who she was molding her team to become, by her behavior and mindset. She soon realized that by being a Fixed Mindset leader, she and her team were ‘shooting themselves in the foot’. The coach then encouraged her to craft some new strategies to convert from a “fixed” mindset to a “growth” mindset. Some of her action steps included;
She changed her thoughts of ‘Failure’ to “LEARNINGS”
She challenged her team to make mistakes and see what ‘learnings’ they could take away to do better the next time.
She re-labeled criticism as ‘feedback for growth’. She launched an open feedback session where she encouraged her team to provide rich feedback to her as well as to each other.
She ‘Praised’ her team for their efforts. She re-focused meetings and discussions towards “what were the efforts we made” rather than “what outcome did we get”. This stimulated her team to embrace effort as a route to success.
She showcased her team’s effort as an example to other departments.
It was truly an inspiring coaching intervention with Leader A who embraced becoming Leader B. What are your thoughts? Are you Leader A or Leader B? Would you like to shift?


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