Growing a Growth Mindset

To grow a business faster, leaders today need to develop a growth mindset culture in their organisation; a culture that embraces failure because trying new things means that you will fail a few times before getting it right. Culture eats strategy for breakfast, said Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, as she recognised that a creative team with a growth mindset is the key competitive advantage today for a company to gain more market share faster.

Great business ideas and the ability to implement changes fast come from a culture that revolves around creativity, innovation, and risk-taking. We have seen many organisations morphing from a culture that was rigid and hierarchical to a flat structure where everyone is encouraged to be a leader and take initiatives. Instead of promoting destructive competition internally with a few winners at the top of the pyramid, thriving organisations have realised that happy bunnies work harder than stressed bunnies. That is why they have been focusing on creating a culture around growth and collaboration.

Leadership today is more about having the right mindset than anything else. The term ‘growth mindset’ was coined by Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck, in her remarkably insightful book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

In her ground-breaking research, Dweck discovered that successful individuals who embraced challenges and did not fear failure had a ‘growth mindset’; whereas those who gave up quickly or shied away from taking on new tasks had a ‘fixed mindset’. Those with a ‘fixed mindset’ avoided new challenges at all costs to escape failure and desperately held on to their status of being smart or good enough. And, while the ‘growth mindset’ individuals would continually seek to improve their skills and intellect to get better at their jobs, people with a ‘fixed mindset’ would hold back the team and end up being detrimental to the organisation.

Out of these two mindsets, which everyone manifests from childhood, we develop many of our personality traits and behaviours that will inevitably determine our relationship with success and failure in our professional and personal lives. The good news about the ‘growth mindset’ is that you can develop it once you understand what behaviours and beliefs underpin this state of mind. Understanding that aptitude and behaviours aren’t immutably ingrained means organisations can nurture these traits to foster a growth mindset culture. Subsequently, they can build up a high-performance team of A-players to take their business to the next level.

Here are a few tips to help leaders develop a growth mindset culture in their organisations:

Reward effort over achievement

Often organisations will only value and reward results, which in most cases revolves around sales. The sales team will be winning all the accolades because they are closing the deal. However, the production team, customer service team, or other areas of the business that are working hard daily for the sales team to have something to sell, will receive little acknowledgement. When effort and not just achievement is recognised, it shows that an organisation values every employee equally, from the cleaner who keeps the premises clean and presentable, to the CEO who is exceeding profit projection year on year. Valuing effort is a vital part of developing a growth mindset culture in your organisation. You can do this by creating a series of awards in every area of the business to encourage new development and growth, such as creating an award for ‘resilience,’ an award for ‘perseverance’ and an award for ‘creativity’. These types of awards are effort centric and motivate employees to take risks and propose new solutions to problems the company faces every day.

Become a transformational leader

Transformational leaders inspire and motivate their staff and steer away from micromanagement. They believe in trusting their employees to take ownership of their decisions and tasks. It’s a management style that focuses on creativity, empowerment, and collaboration through various training and mentor programs available in an organisation. Transformational leaders inspire through positive reinforcement and motivational speeches. Instead of focusing purely on the immediate outcome, they will bank on future possibilities for improvement if there is a genuine desire by employees to do so. Using positive reinforcement and vocabulary that motivates others is critical to creating an environment that incites creativity and innovation. Employees often don’t speak their minds because for fear of being ridiculed or, even worst, an outcast.

Repeatedly reinforcing the fact that there is no stupid question, and no silly idea is a great way to make people more comfortable about voicing their thoughts. Wouldn’t it be great if you could work in an environment where people had your back so much so that if you were doing something wrong as a leader, they would tell you straight away? Great leaders create a safe environment around them and acknowledge that they do not know everything and don’t have all the answers, thereby demonstrating where transformational leadership transcends transactional leadership.

Create a passion for learning

A growth mindset culture is all about the assumption that someone’s potential is unfixed, and that skills and abilities can improve through education, dedication, and effort. If leaders focus on growth instead of past achievements, then the possibilities are endless. Become obsessed with learning and surround yourself with life-long learners. We need to keep moving and learning throughout our careers if we are to adapt in an everchanging technological landscape. The ones who are the first to adopt, test, and apply technical resources will be the leaders of tomorrow. Being content is a risk to your organisation, and a team content with itself and not challenging the status quo will inevitably lose market share very quickly. It is up to business leaders to instil a lifelong learning and growth culture in their organisations to ensure that talent remains agile, adaptable, and ready to fill the next gap in the market. In today’s business climate, ongoing learning and improvement is the only way to ensuring continuous success.

Foster a team of experts

A team is a collaboration of people who complement one another. Rather than promoting internal competition, your team should be asking themselves, “How can I make my team stronger?” A clear job description with specific areas of expertise is fundamental to creating a culture of respect and unthreatened collaboration.

Look at your current workforce and ask yourself, are these people working together to achieve an exceptional outcome on each project? Often you will find that some people hold back and don’t give 100% only because they don’t feel their expertise is valued. That is where the leader of an organisation needs to ensure every team member is empowered to be the best they can within their specified role and KPIs clearly defined. If the position is unambiguous, the employee knows what they are accountable for and rise to the challenge.

Encourage and embrace feedback

When feedback is considered the norm, an organisation is continually improving and becoming more efficient each day. People who embrace feedback know that their strengths and weaknesses are temporary and demonstrate a higher level of self-awareness. Developing a growth mindset culture in your organisation revolves around the ability of the employee and the leader to welcome and embrace feedback. All parties then view feedback as an opportunity for self-improvement and team development instead of a personal attack and negative criticism.

A recent study by Officevibe revealed that 65% of employees are hungry for more feedback from management. More than praise and recognition, employees want to know where they can improve and how best they can serve the company. Feedback needs to be constant to be most effective. Leaders can no longer wait for the yearly performance review to give feedback. Fast, proactive, and relevant feedback will not only be more useful for the employee; it will also foster a more transparent and trusting relationship between leaders and employees, which in turn, will create a growth mindset culture in the organisation.

Act fast. Fail fast. Fix fast.

Speed to market for a product or an idea is critical in today’s fast-paced business world. Speed to market is a company’s ability to launch the next product or idea from conception to production and distribution in record time. If you don’t do it now, someone else will; it’s as simple as that. Hence, why today, a company cannot be obsessed with perfection. Pumping out ideas and products one after another is the only way to maximise your chances of success and growth. The more products, ideas, and messages you have out there, the more likely you will be to grow your revenue, profit, and share of the market. The first-mover advantage is more important for growth than perfectionism as business is a numbers game.

Encouraging your employees to be creative by creating a growth mindset environment where action and ideas are rewarded and valued is a competitive advantage. A growth mindset culture develops an appetite for trying new things, failing often and learning quickly from mistakes, which is crucial in generating new products aligned with customers’ needs and making improvements on offers, as necessary.

Find your purpose

Companies that don’t stand for something fall for everything. Inspiration and motivation come from a sense of purpose. A mission or vision statement is not worth anything if it does not inspire your employees to work towards an inspirational objective. Satisfaction and a deep sense of fulfilment in your work come from a purpose bigger than just money and revenue growth. Ask yourself: What changes does your organisation want to bring to the world? What impact will it have on your customer’s life? What legacy will your company leave? The purpose of business today is about making a meaningful contribution to the world, which is why an inspirational goal is so valuable today. It will motivate your staff, inspire new ideas for growth, and most of all, attract more customers who share your vision. Martin Luther King did not start his speech by saying, “I have a mission statement”, he said, “I have a dream.” So, dream big enough to inspire and motivate everyone around you; this is what leaders do best they envision a better future, and visions transform lives and communities.

Count your blessings

Count your blessings, no matter how small. Gratitude doesn’t usually get spoken about in a boardroom or business meeting; we tend to jump to problems and challenges instead. Consistently acknowledging small wins is a great way to motivate and elevate the team’s spirit

A few simple ways to remind you and your team to celebrate successes, however small, include:

  • Having shoutouts on your meeting agenda
  • Beginning meetings where everyone shares a good news story
  • Displaying a gratitude board in the common area or intranet where employees can share wins anytime

Any culture that revolves around storytelling and having employees regularly share good stories promotes encouragement and reminds the team how much they’ve already achieved. An expression of gratitude has a profound positive effect on an employee’s morale and mental health and creates a sense of belongingness to a community. When we feel like we belong, creativity and freedom of expression thrive. After all, growth sprouts in the mind. Once we open our mind, everything becomes possible.

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