Growth and Fixed Mindset – a deeper dive than usual 

Three6 | 31 May 2020


Over the last two decades most of us have heard a lot about fixed and growth mindsets – this blog is about taking a deeper dive to explore how:

a) A growth mindset can change your perspective
b) As a leader, you can coach your team members and colleagues to build a growth mindset and overcome limiting beliefs to achieve their goals and aspirations.

Here’s a quick recap before we get started, people with a:

  • Growth mindset, believe that their talents, intelligence and abilities can be developed with effort.
  • Fixed mindset, believe that their talents, intelligence and abilities are fixed and that effort is, therefore, a sign of inadequacy.

Your mindset is what you put into your mind (your thoughts, perspectives, beliefs, etc) and directly relates to the language you use, the actions you take, the way you interact with others, and the approach you have to achieve your goals.

Most people, over their lives, have overcome adversity and learned a new way of doing things and in doing so they gained a new perspective using a growth mindset. This can range from parenting teenagers, moving jobs, implementing a new engineering process or leading a cultural change.   

As a leader, you have an opportunity to connect with your team members and help them to discover or rediscover their growth mindset. One of the biggest gifts a leader can share is the lens of a new perspective. When you are connected to your people and you understand what makes each individual tick, you can help them to recognise what they have already achieved in life and how that can be applied again – they have already done it many times! 

Here are some leadership and coaching tips that will help other’s to see what they are capable of:

Connect with your team members:

  • Focus on building strong leadership coaching skills where you understand the motivating drivers for your people, including their strengths, personality preferences and preferred ways of working.
  • Identify, acknowledge and celebrate people where a growth mindset has helped deliver an outcome.
  • Show your vulnerability as a Leader, by sharing your own experiences – particularly those where using a fixed mindset may have negatively impacted your outcome.

Create an aligned purpose and psychological safety

  • Team alignment on organisational and team purpose builds strong commitment and meaning on individual roles within the team.
  • Building psychological safety within the team means that everyone understands how their role relates to the organisation’s purpose and strategy and can bring their whole selves to work every day without fear of negative response as they know their team ‘has their back’.

Build an agile learning culture where failure is welcome

  • Create a learning approach to work where projects and new tasks are opportunities to learn.
  • Being present and curious as a team creates an agile and innovative way of work; advocate openness by demonstrating it as a leader.
  • Be open to your team trying and failing at new things – celebrate the challenge and the lesson. Share your own failures.
  • Introduce team focussed goals – As a Leader, are you focussed on the individual results or the overall journey and outcome of the team’s performance as a whole? It is important to consider your focus and congruence with the process. An ‘individual goals’ focus may create a results-driven (low risk/low reward) culture to get things done, while a ‘team goals’ focus may result in an outcome-driven (high test/risk/reward) culture.

Continuing the personal development

  • Run regular team sessions to sustain the growth mindset and psychological safety – it’s not like we use it all the time.
  • Why not share and celebrate the team’s failures and learn from them – ask a team member each week to share a mindset experience, and what they learnt from it.

Struggling to get a team member on board?

When an individual has what appears to be a strong fixed mindset, only that individual can choose to change their own mindset in the long term. As leaders and coaches, we can help others to see the world differently by connecting with them and helping them to reframe their perspectives about the world. We can share experiences and insights and encourage those with fixed mindsets to participate in different experiences.

Often people with a fixed mindset believe that have always had a natural talent, as opposed to it being learned.  One of the ways to help individuals, and others to see another perspective or mindset is to ask them to buddy up with a less experienced team member to share their expertise or ask them to speak to the team about how they built their expertise.