The Differences Between A Growth And Fixed Mindset And Why It Matters At Work

You probably love growth. You want more of it. But even the most growth-hungry leaders can foster a team mindset that stops growth in its tracks. To understand this phenomenon and avoid it, you need to be familiar with the concept of a growth mindset vs fixed mindset.

In her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” psychologist Carol Dweck breaks down the differences between those two mindsets and how they affect life – and thus work – results. People with a fixed mindset believe that their intelligence and skills are static. On the other hand, people with a growth mindset believe that their abilities can be developed through learning and effort.

If you have a fixed mindset, you don’t bother trying. You don’t put yourself out there as much. And you flourish less as a consequence. But a growth mindset invites possibility, curiosity, and change, says Bara Sapir, a high-performance coach, educator and the founder of City Test Prep, an academic advising company.

Sapir is passionate about helping people achieve self-mastery and unleash their potential, and, according to her, a growth mindset is a radical departure from closed systems with dead ends that “ram ideas and people’s psyches into the ground.”

In the face of a new strategic opportunity, a fixed mindset says, this won’t work, we’ve tried something similar before and it failed. A growth mindset responds: How could this work this time around? Could we implement learnings from that past experience and try again more effectively?

“A growth mindset celebrates a spaciousness of choice where even seemingly insurmountable situations can be transformed into new, surprising and inspiring solutions,” says Sapir.

Examples Of Growth vs. Fixed Mindset In The Workplace

So a growth mindset helps teams succeed and a fixed mindset holds them back. Here are a few concrete examples of the two types of mindsets in the workplace to help you identify whether your team could benefit from fostering a growth mindset while moving away from fixed mindset tendencies.

Learning New Skills

“When a team requires members to pitch in with new skills, members with a growth mindset feel confident that this can happen with work, effort, and training,” explains Sapir.

“With a fixed mindset, team members feel like skills cannot be learned or changed, and this can stop a team in its tracks and paralyze performance.”

Constructive Feedback

“When a team member or supervisor provides feedback on the success of a project or system, those with a growth mindset see this as an opportunity to learn, change, grow and improve,” she adds.

“Those with a fixed mindset experience it as criticism, a sign of failure and it might even result in team members becoming despondent or uninvolved.”

Healthy Competition

Finally, according to Sapir, you’ll notice the two types of mindset in action when there is healthy competition involved: “In a team,there can be healthy competition between members. If one member is consistently successful, another team member with a growth mindset might experience it as inspiration or a catalyst for personal/professional growth,” she explains.

“With a fixed mindset, the person might feel intimidated, threatened or jealous of other team members’ success.”

How To Foster A Growth Mindset In Your Team

Whether your team is super growth mindset-oriented or you can identify blind spots based on the insights above, you can foster a growth mindset within your team. The key is focusing on celebrating and encouraging progress instead of only highlighting hard results.

This may sound counterproductive when you’re performance-driven and like to win, but it’s a huge part of creating a culture that allows individuals to try, stumble, fail, grow, and keep moving forward and evolving through failures.

Solely focusing on end results creates a fixed mindset where team members give up at the first sign of failure, and don’t enjoy getting out of their comfort zone to overcome challenges and, ultimately, move the needle towards the achievement of those coveted end results.

In her research, Dweck studied kids doing puzzles. When researchers encouraged children to keep trying after a failure, telling them that more effort will yield more positive results, they outperformed control groups. And they took joy in pushing their learning limits and trying to solve hard puzzles again.

So even though your team is made up of grown-ups, the same effect takes place when you’re celebrating efforts and growth instead of solely pressuring everyone to increase KPIs. From one-on-one meetings to team goals, take the opportunity to drive home the message that progress and effort do matter – and watch the magic of a growth mindset unfold.

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