Professor Carol Dweck is known for her many years of research on what she calls a mindset versus a fixed mindset.
In fact, in his latest book, Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone, CEO of Microsoft Satya Nadella shares that his success and the renewed success of Microsoft is due to having a growth mindset.
But what is a growth mindset, and why is it so elusive?
In a Harvard Business Review article, Dweck explains that "...we all have our own fixed-mindset triggers. When we face challenges, receive criticism, or fare poorly compared with others, we can easily fall into insecurity or defensiveness, a response that inhibits growth."
If you get defensive or feel like a failure when things don't go your way, that indicates a fixed mindset. In a growth mindset, however, we are always learning. We believe that talent can be developed. But it requires the hard work of learning new things and willingness to receive input from others.
According to Dweck, those with a growth mindset "tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts). This is because they worry less about looking smart and they put more energy into learning."
In working with companies, I find that there are actually three levels a leader must be aware of: mindset, skillset and toolset.
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about "paradigm shifts," or the mental map. He says if we want to see quantum changes, we must examine our paradigms (in other words, our mindsets). If our mindsets are the same, it will be challenging to make any changes.
As Einstein famously said, "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it."
And throwing tools at the problem with nothing else will have no significant impact.
For example, your company finds that many things fall between the cracks, people are not exactly sure what their roles and goals are and everyone is using a different calendar or system to keep track of their to-dos.
Some try to focus on having weekly meetings so that everyone is on the same page, and in meetings, define what the priorities are. But if the minds of your people are not aligned and bought-in to the "why," people will not follow through. They will boycott the system and, either overtly or subtly, sabotage the efforts.
Unless your mindsets are aligned and people are all agreeable that change needs to happen, it's very difficult to implement change. Your people will quickly fall back to their bad habits, and you're back to square one!
Here are some questions to ask that can help.
1. Do we have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset?
You and your team should assess as a group whether the company has a fixed or growth mindset. Are you willing to evaluate if things are going well and relearning a better way if need be? This will help everyone develop a willingness to change and grow.
2. What skills are needed to implement this change?
Now you need to assess the skill sets of your people to make sure you have the right people on the right bus and in the right seat — or perhaps you're putting square pegs into round holes. As the old adage goes, everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will feel stupid all its life. Help your people grow and become more successful because when they're successful, you're successful.
3. What tools can we use to make it stick?
Only at this point should you introduce the tools everyone will be using, not the other way around.
Effective leaders understand that a growth mindset means getting buy-in from your people, then half of the challenge is done!