Two exciting ways to face challenges in an uncertain future
The chaos of the pandemic saw us talking about disruption, survival, and the Great Resignation. In 2023, the buzzwords will be growth mindset and rethinking. Full of hope, growth mindset and rethinking see us becoming more thoughtful, seeing every team member as capable of learning, and every leader open to changing their mind.
Understanding involves both learning new knowledge and discarding obsolete and misleading knowledge.” – Bo Hedberg
Developing a growth mindset and rethinking skills are two exciting ways to face challenges in an uncertain future.
Let’s explain what we mean by these terms, why they are the right skills for now, and how you can get more of both in yourself and your team.
What Do We Mean by Growth Mindset?
Put simply, growth mindset harnesses the power of the word ‘yet.’ A high school which gives students a ‘not yet’ grade instead of a ‘fail’ is teaching them to push on, not give up. Stanford University professor and originator of the growth mindset concept Carol Dweck says ‘not yet’ means you’re on a learning curve.
“It gives you a path into the future.”
In her TEDx talk on growth mindset Carol says that some people say, ‘I love a challenge’ and understand their abilities can be developed. Others believe their intelligence is up for judgement and run from difficulty.
Growth mindset people engage deeply with problems, they process errors and learn from them.
Carol's tips to encourage a growth mindset:
· We can praise wisely. Praise the process that people engage in, their perseverance, their focus, their improvement.
· Reward for effort, process, and perseverance.
· Use the words ‘yet’ or ‘not yet’ to give people a path into the future.
· Reframe their struggle. Being out of our comfort zone forces neurons in our brains to form new stronger connections – making us smarter over time.
Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset
As we’ve just learned, a growth mindset is believing you or those around you have potential for improvement. Leaders promoting a growth mindset look for which of the 6 types of working genius apply to each team member, and coach them on the areas they find difficult or frustrating.
In our Global Headline event with Liz Wiseman, the author of Impact Players said "The Great Resignation" may be partly down to employees not being challenged. Performance expert Steven Kotler agrees, he says ‘a flow state’ almost always contains a struggle phase.
A fixed mindset is the opposite. It’s the limiting belief that you or those around you have a fixed ability (‘I can’t do it’, ‘they’ll never get good at this’).
Instead of embracing challenge, those with a fixed mindset will feel incompetent. Leaders with a fixed mindset who hire staff who disappoint them will blame the recruiting process.
They won’t see that their black and white approach to weakness and failure is the problem, rather they will be fixed in their opinions, self-critical or critical of others.
Which brings us to the terms ‘unlearning’ and ‘rethinking.’
Rethinking and Growth Mindset in the Modern Workplace
“Rethinking isn’t just disagreeing with others; it’s learning to disagree with ourselves.” – Adam Grant
Adam Grant, author of Think Again and Originals, told our 2022 masterclass that rethinking is thinking like a scientist. It means being actively open-minded. It requires searching for reasons why we might be wrong.
People who practise rethinking:
· Are constantly aware of the limits of their understanding.
· Doubt what they know.
· Are curious about what they don’t know.
· Update their views based on new data.
Given what we’ve said about the danger of being fixed about people’s capabilities, it is vital business leaders learn rethinking skills. Both ‘rethinking’ and ‘growth mindset’ are essential tools for managing change and transformation.
Transformation expert Mark Bonchek says humans can cope with an incredible pace of change but only when we look back. When planning for the future, he says, it’s about setting a direction without certainty on how you’re going to get there.
“Like sailing, know where you want to go but, as you don’t know the wind you’ll face, be prepared to tack.”
What Can Leaders Do To Implement a Growth Mindset?
Be ‘actively open-minded’ says Adam Grant.
· He says it starts with intellectual humility – knowing what we don’t know. (Note: He says imposter syndrome might actually be beneficial, as confidence may make us complacent.)
· Then, it’s about detachment, separating your opinions from your identity, and your past self from your current self.
· Finally, it’s learning to be okay with conflict. It’s surrounding yourself with boat-rockers, not bootlickers.
With all this in mind, let’s look at practical ways to bring a growth mindset into the workplace.
Foster Learning Opportunities
A TalentLMS and SHRM study shows 76% of employees agree that they are more likely to stay with a company that offers continuous training.
Training doesn’t have to stuffy, it can be active learning or interactive learning. It can be giving team members time to work on improving specific skills or tackling stickier problems and challenges.
Jonah Sachs, author of Unsafe Thinking, told us in our interview that forcing ourselves out of ‘autopilot’ and back into a cognitive state will rapidly tune our skills up.
“As we achieve more, more complex challenges will come our way, and that means we must inevitably, at times, pause and get back into a learning mode.”
· Make it safe to make mistakes at work
· Use one-on-ones and give feedback in ways that encourage learning
Invest in Learning and Development
Learning and Development (L&D) is proven to be one of at least nine effective staff retention strategies.
L&D budgets have increased since the pandemic outbreak for 57% of organisations. And no surprise that since COVID-19 hit the business world, 79% of L&D managers expect to spend more on online learning (LinkedIn).
To increase a growth mindset, leadership development is especially important.
“Just as a sports academy unlocks the full potential of its athletes to create champions, a leadership development program unlocks leadership potential in your team.”
· Have leaders set a learning example by getting leadership development
· Invest in online learning (e.g. Growth Faculty passes for team members)
Make Feedback More Effective
A growth mindset responds to a human touch. The brain normally takes in nine negative pieces of information to every one positive so use a ‘radical candour’ approach.
Our masterclass with Amy Sandler, Radical Candor chief content officer and coach, learned that radical candour is like telling someone quickly and discreetly they have spinach in their teeth.
“If you have spinach in your teeth, you want to know. After all, you’re the only person who can do something about it.”
Radical candor is feedback that is caring and aiming to inspire. It’s anchored in things that matter to the receiver.
The motto is: Care Personally/Challenge Directly.
· Have leaders show vulnerability and ask for feedback
· See feedback as positive (“I want to be the type of person who helps my team grow.”)
What Can Individuals Do to Rethink With a Growth Mindset?
Charlene Li says when someone brings a problem to you, don’t just jump into problem-solving mode (that’s a diminishing leadership trait, by the way).
Instead ask ‘What do you think you should do to solve this problem?’ or ‘What steps do you recommend?’ By doing this, you’re giving people the confidence to persist. You’ll remember that is a growth mindset in action.
You can also:
Here’s an inspiring quote from Samuel Smiles’s book Self-Help:
“Failure is the best discipline of the true worker, by stimulating him to renewed efforts, evoking her best powers, and carrying him onward in self-culture, self-control and growth in knowledge and wisdom.”
Learning from failure requires a blameless post-mortem. Energy is focused not on who to blame but what everyone can learn and apply in the future.
Do Work That Inspires You
Happy workers are 13% more productive, according to a recent Oxford University study. It makes perfect sense that you are more contented doing tasks that bring you joy and energy.
On this performance high, we see a lift in motivation, learning, and creativity. Importantly, says Steven Kotler, our inner critic gets quiet so we feel freer to be creative, take risks, and innovate.
Practice Putting A Growth Mindset into Action
Barry O’Reilly, author of Unlearn, told our masterclass how to put rethinking and the growth mindset into action.
· Select a challenge you wish to tackle by owning it. Ask yourself “Where am I experiencing a feeling of being stuck?”
· Write a story of success as a press release for yourself. To get yourself inspired, write your vision into a press release that shows the outcomes a couple of years into the future. Be bold.
· Create an unlearn statement: “I will unlearn [this challenge] before [this constraint]. I know I have unlearned when [list of outcomes – preferably in terms of rate or ratio – will occur to demonstrate we have addressed the challenge.”
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