By User12601034-Oracle on Mar 16, 2015
Growing up, my mom would tell me "You can achieve anything if you set
your mind to it." Mom was also a big believer in PMA, or Positive
Mental Attitude. If I was having a bad day...PMA. If I was having a
bad gymnastics meet...PMA. If I didn't achieve to the level I expected
of myself...PMA. My mom wasn't going to let me feel sorry for myself or
dwell in negative thought; instead, she insisted that I figure out what
went wrong and move forward with a positive mental attitude. I heard
PMA from Mom so often that when I left home for college and then moved
away to start a career, I would tell myself "PMA" whenever I was having
issues with something (I think that was my mom's goal).
Little did I know, my mom was teaching me to have a growth mindset. The term 'growth mindset' refers to the belief that abilities can be developed and honed through dedication and hard work. In contrast a 'fixed mindset' is the belief that you are born with a level of talent and intelligence that really can't be changed. These concepts are the basis for Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck's book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Dweck maintains that how we feel about things like risk, learning, intelligence, tests, failure , effort (and other things) form our beliefs, and those beliefs can ultimately impact our performance and success. This is a great picture differentiating growth/fixed mindset:
(Click here for a larger image of this picture)
Fortunately, as Dweck explains, mindsets are simply our beliefs, and we
have the power to change our beliefs and our mind. In Dweck's TED Talk The Power of Believing That You Can Improve,
she describes the power of "not yet." The phrase "not yet" implies a
learning path into the future and provides a person the confidence to
persevere. Think about it like this - you are coaching an employee on a
particular issue, and they come to you with an idea on how they will
solve the issue. Do you say No, that won't work or do you say You're not there yet. Think about what else you might do?
"That won't work" closes down the conversation and forces the employee to give up. On the other hand, the "not yet" phrase gives the employee permission to grapple with the problem, learn from what he or she has already tried and come up with a better solution. And, an additional benefit is that the employe has learned to persevere and think outside his or her comfort zone - this causes neurons in the brain to form new connections, which helps with future problem solving. You are, in essence, setting up the employee for success.
If you tend to have a fixed mindset, you can change it! First, learn to "hear" your fixed mindset when it occurs. Second, recognize that you have a choice on how you interpret what is happening. Third, talk back to your fixed mindset with a growth mindset voice. And finally, take the growth mindset actions. Details of each of these steps can be found on MindSetOnline.
New research tells us that leaders with a growth mindset tend to be better coaches to their employees; they are more likely to notice improvement in their employees; they make better negotiators; they seek more feedback so they can improve. And - I think this is a biggie - they are modeling a growth mindset for their employees. Even Harvard Business Review has written about "How Companies Can Profit from a 'Growth Mindset" (Hint: words like trustworthy, commitment and innovation are used).
Leadership is all about the willingness to grow and change and to help your people do the same...this is the embodiment of the growth mindset. You may not have my mom whispering "PMA" inside your head whenever you're facing a challenge, but you do have Carol Dweck telling you that the only thing standing between you and your goals is the story you tell yourself about why you can't achieve them. And the beauty is, you have the power to change that story!