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When you read through the story of great leaders that have transformed the world of business, technology and Innovation, like Walt Disney and Steve Jobs, you’ll be curious as to what the secret behind their iconic achievements is. Geoff Colvin says it’s not exceptional talent, and neither is it a factor of luck, the fact recently uncovered, is that these people all share a common trait, an ability to see beyond the ordinary, and the willingness to see a vision to success, even when the systems to make it happen seem not to be in place, a high sense of curiosity and yearning for learning that Carol Dweck defines as the growth mindset.
The growth mindset is a powerful concept. Organizations that have gained a proper understanding of what it is and have constantly imbibed it in their principles, have a lot to tell about its tremendous benefits. When leaders develop a growth mindset, they feel the urge to see everything in their surrounding grow and evolve along with them, they help their team develop valuable skills and invariably lead their organization and company to greatness.
It takes conscious effort to build a growth mindset, and accepting that there are lapses and gaps you need to fill in your thinking. There’s absolutely no pure fixed or growth mindset, we all have a mixture of the two, and with experience, there’s a continuous shift in the balance. When you fall into the assumption that you already possess a growth mindset, then what you have is an illusionary feeling of what Carol Dweck termed the false growth mindset, which is no better than having a fixed mindset.
Therefore to enjoy the dividends of cultivating a growth mindset, you must be willing to deeply and constantly engage in the following processes.
- Identify your fixed mindset triggers: The first and most important step in building a growth mindset is to first Identify the things that may trigger you back into the fixed mindset, remember we all have a mixture of the two. Some of us get defensive and discouraged when we face criticisms, or when our effort is not being acknowledged, we are tempted to inhibit our own growth by returning to our inert stage, one thing to keep in mind at such moments is that this is not all about others, but you, they may not acknowledge your effort, but you have gained something valuable that makes it all worth it, you are building a skill that will impact your business or career journey greatly, a growth mindset.
- Be open-minded: Be open to the needs and opinions of the people around you. Being open minded allows you to innovate and respond timely to the needs of the marketplace, and what it requires is for you to listen and accommodate the opinions and perspectives of others, even when they’re not in alignment with yours. You need to accept that you do not and cannot have all the answers and you can’t be right about everything, you need other people’s input as well and it’s important you acknowledge their inputs, when they offer them to you. Cultivating the habit of open-mindedness can be challenging, it takes conscious effort to get down the high horse and agree that your opinion is not everything, even when you’re the expert, you need to listen to others ideas too, and in doing so, you may discover the flaws in your thinking that would have been costly, if you have moved on with them.
- Encourage the culture of vulnerability: To get the results you want from the people you lead as a leader and help yourself and others build a growth mindset, you need to show them that you’re somebody they can trust and relate with. Nothing builds trust and empathy in an organization better than a culture of vulnerability, and this is what it looks like. You don’t go around trying to prove that you’re the boss, and so no one else in the room is smarter than you are, you admit your mistakes when things go wrong, and you’re willing to let others speak and take charge, while you watch and listen. Being vulnerable means you care not just about the performance of the rest of the team, but also about their individual and personal wellbeing, you let them know you’re someone they can open up to, and you listen when they do speak up. Everyone envisions that workspace where their opinion matters and they don’t have to walk through their dark times alone, and when you do provide them with that, you don’t have to worry about their performance, they would ultimately put in their best and more.
- Embrace risks and uncertainties: Risks and uncertainties precede growth, therefore you can’t enjoy the benefits of building a growth mindset until you’re willing to embrace the risks and uncertainties that come your way. Uncharted territories shouldn’t scare you, in fact, you would have to be on the lookout for them as a leader with a growth mindset because therein lay treasures and opportunities. However this doesn’t mean you have to mindlessly jump off every cliff, it means you have to take calculated risks and select the right opportunities to go after.
- Focus on the process: Today, leaders and managers are so much focused on the end goal that rather than drive growth, they drive burnout and exhaustion. Growth is not all about doubling sales in the second or third quarter, it’s all about acknowledging and appreciating the processes that lead there. If you do not recognize or shift your focus from result to process, then chances are you wouldn’t get more than your expected results or benchmark, and in worst cases, you might get something lesser. Only when you allow yourself and your team enjoy the process and celebrate the little progresses along the way, will you experience growth beyond what you planned for.
- Don’t settle for good enough: Don’t rest on your laurels, even when you’re the market leader. Many companies have failed because they found themselves topping the charts, and assumed they would always be there, without making conscious efforts to prepare for the uncertainties that may occur, we saw this with Kodak and IBM. So when an improvement in technology caused change to happen, they weren’t prepared and couldn’t handle the shock, and eventually, they lost to smaller companies who had better foresight and the flexibility to adapt to change. Developing a growth mindset requires you to go beyond complacency and mediocrity, to not stop at good enough, and always be ready and willing to make new changes, the new improvement to your products, services, and also to your style of leadership.
The business world is evolving every day, and only leaders who are quick to innovate, who are ready to forge through uncertainties to discover the hidden opportunities, and are able to make bridges out of the walls around them, will be able to keep up with the pace and mine the benefits, the leaders with a growth mindset.