Fostering A Growth Mindset In Your Company

This article originally appeared in Forbes.

As a leader, do you want your team to improve? You bet. As an entrepreneur, do you want your company to grow? Of course, you do! That’s why it’s vital that you grow, too. It all starts with having the right mindset.

In education, teachers are told to encourage growth mindsets versus fixed mindsets. This idea naturally translates to the workplace. And it starts with the leader.

The Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck, a leading researcher in the fields of personality, social psychology and developmental psychology, studied the motivation and intellectual abilities of children. Her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success is based on that research, which finds that the way we think about our talents and abilities affects how we perform.

When people believe they can rise to a challenge and learn what they need to know, they will put in the extra effort. That inner motivation to achieve is a growth mindset.

On the other hand, some people have a fixed mindset. They believe intelligence is an inherent trait and that talent is something you either do or don’t have innately.

I work with companies across the U.S. and Europe, and each one wants to grow. That’s why a growth mindset is so important. It helps company leaders stay persistent and resilient even when times are hard or complex.

Dweck has also noted that the growth mindset helps people to develop new interests. When this mindset is part of company culture, it translates to the continued learning of new skills and disciplines, thus ensuring the company is constantly innovating and moving forward.

Encouraging A Growth Mindset

When team members do something that demonstrates intelligence, many leaders might think it’s a good thing to praise them for being smart. However, Dweck’s research showed it can ultimately lead to avoiding difficulties to ensure they are always successful. People will seek goals that continue to prove they are smart. The result is that a person with a fixed mindset isn’t as persistent, isn’t as motivated and doesn’t enjoy the work as much as those with a growth mindset.

Instead, I believe leaders should praise people for their efforts, for the way they figured out what to do and how they took steps to make it happen. Her research showed that this focus on a sound strategy would result in people being willing to take on more ambitious tasks and seek continuous improvement.

That doesn’t mean it is only about effort or that everyone has the same level of intelligence. Rather, leaders need to appreciate the combination of work and thought that goes into completing a task. The goal is to have a team that develops and acquires new skills.

Leading With A Growth Mindset

As a leader, it’s critical to adopt a growth mindset so you can give appropriate feedback to your team. In other words, the first step is that you, as the leader, are not afraid to screw up.

If you are always worried about making mistakes, you won’t want to rock the boat. You will stay where you are comfortable instead of taking on new responsibilities and challenges. When you stop learning, your productivity starts to decline. Eventually, you might start feeling anxious and even burnt out.

This fixed mindset can, unfortunately, spread to your team members. They will only do the work that they know how to do, without testing new methods or believing they have the freedom to suggest new ideas. As your team’s performance declines, you passively will have created the “screw up” that you didn’t want to happen in the first place.

Instead, view new opportunities and risks with a desire to grow. Give yourself permission to learn, to take on new challenges and, yes, to fail. Tackle new problems with gusto and determination. Work on your weaknesses and overcome them. You will realize that, with effort and persistence, you can accomplish big goals. That, in turn, will give you more confidence and inspire enthusiasm in your team.

When everyone is learning and developing together, work becomes more enjoyable and interesting. With a growth mindset, challenges are opportunities to tackle new things and develop new skills. There is energy and excitement in the group as they work together to overcome difficulties. That, in turn, brings more confidence to the team because they will have a track record of taking on obstacles and succeeding.

This way of thinking can pervade your company’s culture and influence the way everyone feels about the work they do. Foster a growth mindset in your company and encourage continual development. Allow your team — and yourself — to make mistakes. You will find that you have created a healthy environment of smart risk-takers who are more innovative, creative and productive.