In her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”, Carol Dweck differentiates between having a fixed or growth mindset. Before I read the book, I assumed I had a growth mindset. However, as Friedrich Nietzshe stated in his book “Aphorisms on Love and Hate”, “not even the finest mind is capable of adequate appreciation of the art of polished maxim if he has not been educated to it, has not been challenged by it himself”. I got to be educated to and challenged during the end of the year Performance Discussion with my manager.
Listen to Yourself
At the end of the discussion, my manager said to me “You see it was not as bad as you expected. You now sound and look more relaxed than when we started the discussion”. I was taken aback by her observation and feedback. I was unaware that I looked and sounded tense. Afterwards, as I came back to my body, I realized that I was feeling tense. I could see that I had approached the Performance Discussion with a fixed mindset.
I cared a lot about what my manager thought about my performance. I wanted her to think that I am smart and I have achieved all my objectives. Knowing that I was unable to achieve all the goals we had agreed upon at the beginning of the year, I was anxious of the feedback she was going to give me. As a person who claimed to have a growth mindset, I should have seen the impending discussion as an opportunity to get her opinion on how I could have done better. In this way, I will learn and improve.
However, having a fixed mindset, I wanted my manager to see me as smart and successful. The focus was on “being” smart rather than learning from my previous year’s performance so that I can “become” smarter.
A lot of people are afraid of failing and to be labelled as failures. If goals are not achieved, they do everything in their power to blame others. Hence, most organizations suffer from a blame culture where employees do not want to take accountability. Leaders may unconsciously be promoting such a culture through their mindsets.
Fixed Mindset Leaders
Leaders who have a fixed mindset are difficult to work for and with. Some of the characteristics that are displayed by leaders with a fixed mindset include:
- They protect their positions and see everyone with more experience and expertise on a certain subject as a threat
- They are not willing to develop and coach their employees – they don’t have succession plans in place
- They enjoy being needed and pride themselves that things will not move if they are not there
- They are short-sighted and cannot see beyond their current circumstances
- They are very internally focused and believe that everything revolves around them
- When things go wrong, they always want to know who did wrong so that they can punish the perpetrator
- They rule by fear so that employees are afraid to speak up and challenge them
- They are focused and try to impress others by their status and material possessions
- They can destroy anyone who threatens their security and status
- They promote a blaming culture and that of command and control
- They don’t care about the role they play towards employee engagement. They therefore accuse employees of being ungrateful
Growth Mindset Leaders
Organizations are however looking for leaders and employees who have a growth mindset. Such employees can embrace and promote a High-Performance Culture. Some of the attributes of such people include:
- Believing in the potential of others
- They coach and mentor their team members
- These leaders believe in life-long learning and continuous improvement
- They encourage their team members to learn and improve their skills
- They allow team members to speak up as they believe in the power of diversity
- They are agile, promote innovation and therefore able to lead in the VUCA world
- They find it easy to recognize and reward good performance
- Since they invite feedback from everyone, employees find it easy to receive developmental feedback from such leaders.
There is nothing new on the items listed above. Most leaders know these characteristics like the back of their hands. Some regard themselves as the best gift to mankind. They strongly believe, just like me, that they have a growth mindset. Some leaders are in denial. Even when 360ⷪ assessment gives them feedback about their behavior, they would probably find someone to blame. Other leaders even go out of their way to find out who said what in the feedback.
What do you Believe about yourself?
The purpose of this article is to challenge the reader. We need to stop assuming that we have a growth mindset without having tested it or being challenged by it. This could either be at the workplace, in a relationship, as parents or any area of our lives.
You can start by thinking about how you feel when you are supposed to have a conversation that has a possibility of unmasking your imperfectionists. Do you care more about how smart other people think you are? Or the possibility of learning from their perception of who you are so that you can improve from it?
Are you more concerned about “being” smart or “becoming” smarter?
New Year’s Resolutions
So, for this year 2018. Which mindset are you going to adopt?
What are you willing to do to ensure that you are applying the “right” mindset?
If you want to read the book by Carol Dweck, click on the picture below.