Developing a Growth Mindset

by Marcianne Kuethen
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Are you smart? Is your success a result of your inherent talent? A “Yes” answer could keep you from achieving your biggest dreams. One of my favorite authors, Jeff Haden, has recently challenged our beliefs about talent versus intelligence in an article on the benefits of developing a growth mindset. Leaders, managers, and employees alike would do well to heed recent research proving that intelligence is not an innate, unchanging feature, but rather a malleable quality that can be developed and improved with hard work and practice.

At first glance, you may think you agree with that statement. But does your desire to look smart cause you to avoid challenges, give up easily when faced with obstacles, view your efforts as fruitless, ignore useful criticism, and feel threatened by others’ success? If so, you may actually believe your intelligence is static. Likewise, if you see these symptoms in a direct report, your employee may believe that intelligence is fixed and not open to improvement through hard work.

On the other hand, if you or your employees  believe intelligence can be developed, your desire to learn will allow you to embrace challenges, persist despite obstacles, view effort as the path to mastery, learn from criticism, and be inspired by others’ success. Doesn’t that list of tendencies describe the way we all want ourselves and our employees to be? Imagine a company culture that is defined by a growth mindset…Your organization would be unstoppable! Clearly, since these behaviors are products of a belief about one’s ability to increase one’s intelligence, organizations and individuals need to be developing a growth mindset.

As a manager, how would you go about changing your thinking, or that of your employees? It starts with adopting the fundamental belief that we are each able to grow and change and are solely responsible to do so. Here are a few truths gleaned from Haden’s article that would be great to tell yourself, post on your company’s bulletin board, and infuse into your company culture:

  • Failure is not a reflection of my ability but rather a starting point for experimentation and testing of ideas.
  • I can increase my intelligence by hard work. In essence, I can cultivate my basic qualities, skills, and habits through extended effort and practice.
  • While talent may give me an edge initially, it plays a smaller role than my hard work for long-term success.
  • Success is less dependent on the hand I am dealt and more dependent on how I play the hand.
  • The first step to getting the things I want is to believe I deserve them.
  • I don’t need to have established talent and confidence before I can accomplish something. Small accomplishments lead to confidence which will contribute to future successes.

Why should you work harder when life is full of obstacles, uncertainty, possible failure, and criticism? Because you were made to accomplish great things, and so were others around you! If you desire to learn something new, or you have dreams and goals you have yet to achieve, developing a growth mindset could make the difference in your success as a leader, manager, or employee. The smart course of action is to view mistakes as learning opportunities, accept others’ input, and work just a little bit harder to build the skills that fulfill you most.

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