For many business leaders, the idea that personal attitudes influence change is not radical. Having a positive mindset often results in more favorable outcomes than approaching a situation with pessimism. However, an even more beneficial approach may be the growth mindset, which means thinking about talents less as inborn gifts and more as strengths that have been developed over time.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation when it comes to having a growth mindset and what that term precisely means. A leader with a growth mindset does not only reward effort. Instead, he or she rewards effort that is informed by learning from the past. In other words, a growth mindset highlights the importance of making progress toward the future, rather than getting bogged down by shortcomings or failures. Growth involves applying collectively learned lessons to current situations to avoid making the same mistakes.
When business leaders embrace a growth mindset, they will likely notice a number of benefits. Focusing on growth makes it easier to avoid distractions, because failures and setbacks become a point of learning rather than a source of shame. Furthermore, business leaders with a growth mindset tend to reach out to their team for guidance and find inspiration in the lessons they learn from their employees. In addition, a growth mindset encourages people to look consistently for new opportunities, which can fuel beneficial change at any organization. Some strategies for embracing a growth mindset include:
Become comfortable with ambiguity.
When business leaders adopt a growth mindset, they need to learn how to operate in ambiguity. Most organizations exist with some uncertainty—for example, uncertainty about a new product, industry regulation, or competitor. Accepting the risks inherent in running any business makes it easier to step back and look for new opportunities without becoming distracted. When leaders fear the unknown, they may respond to change with a knee-jerk reaction out of panic or fail to act at all. Both of these reactions can lead to significant problems for a company. A leader who embraces ambiguity can think strategically about his or her next move and take calculated risks that have a higher likelihood of paying off in the future.
Own personal shortcomings.
Leaders who embrace a growth mindset must openly admit the limitations of their skills and knowledge. When they do so, they encourage employees to step up and address these gaps and set a good precedent for honesty and openness. In many ways, a growth mindset breaks down entrenched hierarchies to encourage greater teamwork and collaboration. As a result, everyone grows together and functions more effectively as a team. Employees’ trust in the leader and in each other grows, which improves communication and information sharing.
Identify and eliminate complacency.
The enemy of a growth mindset is complacency. Leaders need to foster an environment that encourages strategic risk-taking and rewards employees who think creatively. Building such an environment is only one piece of the equation. Leaders also have a responsibility to push employees to reach for challenging, yet attainable goals, and to outline expectations for those individuals who remain complacent. True innovation can only occur when everyone at the company embraces a growth mindset and becomes comfortable with stepping outside established norms to try something new.
Break down workplace silos.
Many companies implicitly discourage sharing knowledge because they rely on rigid team structures and organizational models. When teams work wholly independently of each other, it becomes difficult for the company to operate as a coordinated whole. To encourage a growth mindset, business leaders need to create opportunities for connection across teams so people can share their knowledge and ideas. Silos create barriers to growth, and eliminating them can open an incredible array of new opportunities. Breaking down silos means encouraging collaboration and building a culture that emphasizes the importance of inclusion.
Business leaders with a growth mindset understand the importance of education and learning for their employees. As much as possible, leaders should create opportunities for their employees to pursue what interests them through training programs, conferences, and professional development workshops. Companies with a growth mindset typically have education and learning at the heart of their operations. Their investment in their employees will likely produce significant returns, such as lower turnover and higher employee satisfaction. Keep in mind that it’s not always necessary for people to refine skills directly related to their positions. Allowing employees to learn new skills outside their profession or particular role can help break down silos. Employees with a range of skills play an important role in increasing communication across different departments and driving greater collaboration.
Keep the door open for feedback.
Innovation and progress require open and honest communication. Leaders can encourage this behavior by always leaving their door open for feedback and asking employees to share their thoughts regularly. This feedback can help leaders improve their skills and set a good example for employees about using feedback to improve their own performance. Leaders need to recognize openly that they are not perfect, nor are they the only source of good ideas. Two-way feedback is a great way to open the channels for communication and encourage idea sharing.