February 25, 2021
Training and Development 06 March 2019
Why You Should Spread Growth Mindset among Your Employees
Silvia Woolard

Carol Dweck, a Stanford Psychology Professor, wrote a book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success in which she discusses the concept of the fixed versus the growth mindset. Applying this concept is useful within a business context. 

Employees with a fixed mindset believe they have a pre-determined capacity that they cannot exceed. Others with a growth mindset firmly believe they can go beyond their current limitations. 

Those employees who believe in growth will have innovative ideas that can benefit the company and create new processes. As an employer, establishing a growth mindset within your organization can be key to your success. 

The Difference Between Fixed and Growth Mindsets

To understand the benefits, we must first understand the difference between Growth and Fixed Mindsets. Dweck and her colleagues have spent decades studying the ways in which individuals view intelligence. 

- Fixed Mindset

Individuals with a fixed mindset believe that they are born with certain talents and a level of intelligence that does not change. They focus on their natural talents but do not go beyond what comes naturally to them and requires more effort. 

When they experience setbacks or make mistakes, they tend to see it as a failure. Consequently, they avoid challenges and trying new things. 

- Growth Mindset 

Individuals with a growth mindset can accept constructive feedback as an opportunity to grow rather than seeing it as a personal attack. They realize that they can improve their intelligence rather than seeing it as something they cannot change.

Studies prove that a person’s mindset can be changed. Advances in neuroscience have revealed that our brains have more ‘plasticity’ and are more malleable than we believed in the past. 

Practice can strengthen neural networks and grow new connections. Those who believe their brains can grow to behave differently – they have the drive and are motivated to put in extra effort, leading to higher achievement. 

Why You Need Employees with a Growth Mindset

People with a fixed mindset may be competent when it comes to what falls within their job description, but they are often overwhelmed by any request outside of these boundaries. 

Consider, for instance, that a manager requires an employee to prepare and give a presentation for the first time. The employee with the growth mindset would think about every possible way in which to tackle this, rather than resisting and feeling overwhelmed. 

This may involve enlisting others to help them, or even hiring a service, to provide the material for the presentation, so they can spend more time on preparation. 

Employees with a growth mindset will benefit an organization in many ways: 

  • They want to be challenged because they know challenges help them grow. 
  • If they encounter an obstacle, they persist and find ways around it instead of giving up. 
  • Their motivation to learn enables them to benefit from constructive feedback and to learn from their mistakes. 
  • As they do not fear change, they adapt their attitudes, skills, and behaviors more readily. 
  • They are better team players, willing to share knowledge with teammates because they do not feel threatened by the success of others.
  • The effort is never pointless to them but is seen as a path to mastery. 
  • They’re more likely to feel committed to a company and likelier to say a company fosters risk-taking. 

Questions to Help Develop a Growth Mindset

Developing a growth mindset in your organization and encouraging a culture of innovation and learning could be a key factor in your success. 

- Do you place a high value on learning?

When a company has a tight budget, training and education often suffer. Providing learning resources to your employees is vital to value its importance and foster a growth mindset. If your employees are not excited about learning, it could be because they don’t see its value. 

Perhaps they believe that they’re unable to do a particular task and trying to do it is a waste of time. It’s up to you to nurture a growth mindset and make them see the benefit of making an effort to learn new skills.

- What ranking practices do you employ?

Your ranking practices may be creating unhealthy competition between employees. Stack ranking is a system that ranks employees according to their performance, from highest to lowest-performing. 

Stack ranking tends to encourage a fixed mindset instead of encouraging growth. It limits opportunities for recognition and success to a few stars at the top. Performance management processes should encourage employees to take new opportunities and fuel self-motivation. You need to focus on developing all employees, not just your ‘chosen stars.’ 

- Do you view failure as part of the journey?

If you as a leader have a growth mindset, you can embrace failures instead of trying to avoid or ignore them. You understand that employees learn from both their failures and successes. They do not see difficulties as obstacles they cannot overcome but as opportunities to learn. 

Mistakes are seen as positive instead of negative because they are an inevitable part of learning and the focus is on finding ways to fix them. 

Employees with a fixed mindset will often set performance goals, rather than learning goals. If you encourage your employees to set performance-based goals, it’s time to get them to set some learning goals. 

Setting learning goals instead gives them room for trying new things, learning how to deal with mistakes, and improving along the way. 

- How do you receive and give feedback?

A growth mindset starts at the top. Are you able to receive feedback? One of the biggest stumbling blocks to innovation and growth in any organization is an inability on the part of leadership to receive constructive feedback. 

When you’re open to receiving feedback, employees feel free to share with you when things are going well and when there are problems. Employees can ask questions and share ideas. The open feedback culture enables you to address problems at an early stage and find solutions before any real damage is done. It also gives them an example of how to receive constructive feedback. 

Praise is always considered to be highly effective as a motivational tool. However, you need to be careful when using this tool. Are you praising only those with natural abilities? 

You need to praise those who are making an effort too. When you give feedback, it should be constructive, detailed and actionable. Sit down with employees to find out how you can help them to continue to grow and achieve. Even top achievers have room to learn more. 

Concluding Thoughts

Whether you are a CEO, head of HR or departmental manager, the concept of a fixed versus a growth mindset can make a difference. It can influence every aspect of your work, from your hiring and training strategies to the way you give and receive feedback. 

Changing your company culture to a growth mindset is possible. This helps to stimulate the motivation of your employees and enables them to achieve more. 

Silvia is a freelance writer and novice entrepreneur from Phoenix. She mostly writes and works in a field op popular psychology and marketing. In her free time she loves to travel around the globe. Please follow Silvia on her Twitter!