In a recent meeting with a client Roger and one of the organization’s senior managers expressed their concerns about a direction the CEO wanted to go. The CEO had spent a lot of time thinking about this direction and was confident it was right. Because this executive has a growth mindset, however, he listened to Roger’s and the manager’s concerns and changed his mind, “I got it. I just needed to think it through again.” Had this CEO had a fixed mindset, he would have dismissed their concerns and found ways to defend his position.
Thanks to the groundbreaking work of Carol Dweck we now understand a simple idea: having a fixed mindset or a growth mindset shapes how we interact with others.
Individuals with a growth mindset believe their talents can be developed with dedication and hard work. Their focus is on learning. Those with a fixed mindset believe their talents are carved in stone and cannot change. This belief creates an urgency to prove themselves over and over again. Because of this, meetings called to solve problems or make decisions with others can be a trial for folks with fixed mindsets and a learning-fest for those with growth mindsets.
The mindsets are easy to spot. Those with a fixed mindset focus on being smart and right. If they are extraverts, they tend to talk with great confidence about THE right answer. They avoid taking risks or engaging in exploratory conversations without preconceived right answers because they fear their perceived inadequacies might get exposed. Because of this they rarely ask questions or when they do it is a “gotcha” question. However, if those with a fixed mindset are introverts, they might stonewall, stay silent, and wait until the end to step in with their version of “This is the way it is.”
“Winning” approval or getting their way is a priority with people with fixed mindsets because “losing” means there is something wrong with them. When things go awry, they blame others.
Those with growth mindsets focus on learning and finding effective solutions. They listen more, ask questions of genuine curiosity, and are open to the possibility that their perspective might be ill-informed or just wrong. When things go awry or they make mistakes they want to learn from them. Their quest is to learn and develop themselves. And, according to Carol Dweck, people with a growth mindset achieve more because they focus on learning and less on looking smart.
Mindsets are simply beliefs that affect the way we live our lives and interact with others. Given that most of the issues we try to solve at work or in our communities have no right answers, or at least not ones on which people agree, it behooves each of us to look at whether we have a fixed or a growth mindset. Here is a mindset quiz.
Growth mindsets are essential to solving tough issues together effectively. The good news is that mindsets are only beliefs. We can change them by first, noticing them, and then by praising and rewarding productive effort and progress in ourselves and in others.
To help avoid fixed mindset behaviors in meetings:
Through his growth mindset, our client CEO was able to see the benefits of choosing a different direction than the one on which he had originally landed.
On what topics or issues do you have a fixed or a growth mindset? What would help you start to hold your fixed mindset more lightly?
Mary’s book “Talk Matters! Saving the World One Word at a Time” is now available. Click here to purchase it.