Planting the seeds for a growth-minded workforce is an essential step for any manager aiming to help their people perform at their best. (Read part 1 here.) After this, though, comes an equally vital step. A leader’s words, responses, and actions play a much larger role in cultivating certain attitudes and perspectives in their people.
A growth mindset may take a while to blossom, considering the fact that it entails leaving behind non-productive beliefs and behavioural patterns behind in favour of consistent, effortful progress. For that reason, managers need to know how to build and sustain growth mindsets through their everyday responses. Hence, here are some daily leadership practices that facilitate and embed growth mindsets in employees for good.
P.S. Supercharge your team’s growth by helping them unlock their best selves; sign up today for SSA Academy’s WSQ course on solving problems and making decisions on a managerial level!
Staying in your comfort zone is one of the most harmful things you could do for yourself and your career. Real learning and growth happen when you move outside of the familiar. This, however, is precisely what holds so many people back at work.
It isn’t just because of a fear of failure. On the surface, people fear the possibility of taking a leap of faith only to fall flat on their faces. The underlying reason for it, though, is that they fear the message they think it will send to others. For them, the threat of being seen as incompetent, untalented, and deficient one way or another, looms large.
Hence, managers must frame challenges as a means of learning instead of as a litmus test of talent. This means creating company cultures that de-stigmatise failure and risk-taking, where failure is not a death sentence, but a sign that you’re growing; it’s feedback for the next attempt to be made. In other words, you need to build environments where people know that here, the greatest crime is stagnation, not failure.
It’s not just a manager’s attitude towards failure that’s crucial to cultivate growth-mindedness; equally essential is his attitude towards success.
The cornerstore of the growth mindset is an emphasis on sustained, hard work as opposed to raw talent. One of the easiest ways to drill this understanding into your employees is to be mindful of how you praise them for their achievements.
Saying, “Excellent! I have no doubt that everyone in that meeting room recognises your talent now.” has a different effect from saying “Good job. I know you worked hard to do your research, think about the best strategies to adopt, and practice your content delivery. It paid off today, congratulations!”
The former conveys the message that talent is respected and desirable above all else, while the second highlights that effort is what’s commendable.
As much as we Singaporeans seem to love it, elitism is hardly a productive belief for managers who hope to bring out the best in each of their employees.
The very idea of it runs contrary to cultivating growth-minded employees. Elitist managers assume that talent only exists in a select few, and thus resources should justifiably be allocated only to these individuals’ growth.
Consequently, it creates a culture of haves and have-nots. Since everyone wants to be seen as elite and talented, they’ll stick only to what they’ve already mastered instead of expanding to unfamiliar territory. It ultimately undermines psychological safety and destroys innovativeness.
A growth-minded manager, however, understands that effort and a good attitude towards learning are the main determinants of success. Thus, she ensures that everyone gets an equal opportunity to learn, makes it a point to gather feedback from everyone and not just the elite, and lets everyone know that each employee has both strengths and weaknesses.
Her employees, therefore, consistently strive for results without being afraid of what happens if they fail. When they do fail, though, they are less reluctant to admit to them, and will not move on without knowing that they didn’t learn something from the whole episode. In other words, they feel psychologically safe enough to pursue innovation, take risks, and dare to dream.
There is nothing mysterious or alluring about the idea of hard work. Conversely, raw talent comes with an aura of effortless unattainability. It makes us say things like, “She’s so brilliant. It’s like she’s not even trying! She’s not human.”
This obsession with effortless talent, though, is also counter-productive. It drives people to prize being seen as masterful over and above actually pursuing and attaining mastery. Additionally, it makes them cast aside challenge because of the risk of appearing incompetent when this is precisely what provides the greatest promise of growth. It also builds complacency and erodes the learning spirit.
Growth mindsets, however, do the exact opposite. Growth-minded people are less worried about failing than they are about failing to learn. Challenge invigorates and excites them instead of depleting them. Collaborating with others is a chance to learn from them, instead of a way to show who the more talented one is. In this mindset, innovation and continuous improvement are not just risky endeavours; they’re necessary for growth and are hence exhilarating.
Clearly, adopting a growth mindset at work is critical. Managers seeking to build growth-minded workforces, though, have their work cut out for them, especially in risk-averse, status-conscious, Singapore. To that end, there are five ways that managers can cultivate growth mindsets in their employees. This article (part 1) will focus on laying the right foundations for a growth-minded workforce.
P.S. Supercharge your team’s growth by helping them unlock their best selves; sign up today for SSA Academy’s WSQ course on solving problems and making decisions on a managerial level!
Leaders who preach without practicing are shooting themselves in the foot. A huge determinant of a leader’s effectiveness is their ability to influence people. You can’t hope to inspire change in others if you’re not demonstrating to them how to change in the first place. To encourage your employees to adopt the growth mindset, you, as a leader, must set a precedent for it.
Lead by example; show others what it means to make growth your top priority, above achievement, even. Growth mindsets are defined by the following principles, which you need to implement in your life first before directing others to do so:
Antoine de Saint Exupery once wrote, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work. Rather, teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
Likewise, simply telling people to go get a growth mindset won’t work. It’s much more effective to help align their motivations and values with that of the growth mindset. In so doing, you secure people’s buy-in to the importance of having a growth mindset.
There’s a catch, though. While almost everyone wants to grow at work, we each have different reasons for it. Different people think, feel, and see the world differently, so not everyone is driven by the same motivations. Likewise, different people will face different challenges in adopting growth mindsets.
Great leaders provide excellent mentorship and guidance to their people through understanding the need for personalised motivation strategies. Motivation itself is dynamic; people won’t always want the same things throughout their lives, and their priorities might shift depending on current circumstances.
To this end, there is no shortcut except frequent one-on-one time with your direct reports. Use the time to help them uncover their greatest sources of motivation, be it rank, being able to provide for their family, or otherwise.
No one likes to come to work to feeling jittery and anxious all the time. Unfortunately, this is often the effect that toxic work environments have on employees. Here, people feel like they have to be constantly vigilant against sudden ambushes. There is no psychological safety, little to no sense of trust amongst team members, and a sense of every-man-for-himself that is counter-productive to effective collaboration.
The solution isn’t always as simple as finding a new job. Unstable job markets and other unfortunate circumstances can force employees in toxic work cultures to bite the bullet and stick it out no matter how bad it gets, or at least until they can find a better job. This, however, can be extremely exhausting without implementing some rules of engagement. To that end, here’s how you can survive a toxic workplace culture.
P.S. Pick up crucial emotional intelligence skills to get you through any Survivor-like workplace; sign up for SSA Academy’s WSQ course on applying emotional competence to manage oneself at work today!
Negative work environments have a way of putting you in perpetual fight-or-flight mode. More often than not, they deplete your mental and emotional reserves, leaving little room for you to apply yourself productively to your work. In such cases, instead of working towards something, you remain rooted to the ground in favour of protecting yourself. While it’s important to protect yourself, directing all your attention to this end will make you feel constantly jittery, paranoid, and distracted.
The more distracted you allow yourself to get with the hostility around you, though, the less your focus on your goals, and the slower your career growth will be.
While such environments do have a way of making everything more complicated, it doesn’t render productivity and growth impossible. The key is making a conscious choice every day to focus on what you want to achieve, instead of just what you want to protect. By directing your attention, mental, and emotional energy towards specific personal growth goals, you’re giving yourself a potent source of daily intrinsic motivation: purpose. As Nietzsche once said, “He who has a why will endure any how.”
Revenge isn’t always sweet, and tit for tat strategies never pay off in the long run. As tempting as it may be to give a toxic co-worker a taste of their own medicine, doing this just adds fuel to the fire. Not only will that fire start to spread and grow, it may harm you and others around you as well.
In other words, retaliating in equal measure to toxic co-workers may allow you to feel temporarily vindicated, but it never pays off in the end. Ultimately, doing this will only contribute to escalating tensions, fever-pitch animosities and a rapidly dissatisfying work environment.
Inevitably, there will be moments when you’re forced to butt heads with toxic co-workers. It can play out in two ways; sometimes, you’ll need to assert yourself, and other times, you’ll need to disengage.
Knowing how to react in each situation is critical, and this is where good emotional intelligence comes to play. To help yourself practice good emotional self-control in a toxic work environment, recognise your triggers:
Understanding your triggers this way helps you to know when to stand your ground in toxic situations, and when to pull away to calm down and “regroup” yourself. This way, you avoid accidentally providing toxic co-workers with ammunition to use against you when you find yourself over-reacting in highly emotional situations.
There are limits to everything, including toxic work environments. Having manipulative and backstabbing co-workers is one thing, but if your co-workers are consistently guilty of abuse, office bullying, or workplace harassment, it may be time to draw a line in the sand. In these cases, resilience isn’t about strategically enduring toxicity; it’s about putting your foot down against unacceptable and mentally harmful behaviour.
Being a people-pleaser is hard work. When you feel obliged to keep giving people what they want from you, you find yourself working twice as hard as others without necessarily seeing a payoff for it.
You might tell yourself that the satisfaction of knowing that you’re the go-to person in the office is enough. At some point, though, it gets exhausting; you’re overworked and burnt out, people keep taking advantage of your kindness, and you hardly have time for yourself. It’s just not worth it anymore.
So you have to start saying no. The problem is, you’re so used to saying yes that turning people away awakens dormant fears of being alienated at work. No one wants to be seen as the office grouch or to be treated as the pessimistic naysayer. This, however, is precisely why you need to learn to say no without alienating yourself; here’s how.
P.S. Learn how to assert yourself to others without burning bridges; take up SSA Academy’s WSQ course on communicating and relating effectively at the workplace!
Being able to say no is a critical aspect of time management. Here’s the thing, though: time management isn’t actually about how you manage your time. It’s about how you manage your priorities. If you’re not crystal clear what your priorities are and which priorities come first, it’s harder to say no to people.
For example, starting the day with a to-do list might make it seem like you’ll probably have some pockets of time to fit in requests from co-workers in between your work. You might think, “I’ve got time. I’ll fit it in after lunch.” On the other hand, if you’ve ordered your task list in terms of priority, it’s much easier to gauge how much time you have and don’t have.
If it’s alienation that you fear, reframe what it means to say no. So many people who love to say yes fear the repercussions of saying no because they’re afraid that asserting themselves can create unnecessary tensions with others, tensions that could be avoided by just capitulating.
In reality, though, saying no doesn’t make you a killjoy or a spoilsport. It means that you know where to draw your boundaries, and you know and are secure in yourself enough to let people know what they are.
How many times have you said yes to someone without knowing whether or not you could complete their request, solely for the sake of maintaining a good relationship? This is often why people feel obliged to say yes. They think, “I’ll just say okay now and figure it out later.” In specific contexts, it can be helpful to think this way, but for people-pleasers, it’s a crutch.
Being short-sightedness can impair your vision and jeopardise your safety. Similarly, saying yes to make people happy in the short term doesn’t mean you’ll be able to give them what they need in the long run. The repercussions of agreeing to do something you’re not sure you can commit to are much more dire than the cost of turning someone down immediately.
Some people won’t take no for an answer, especially so when it’s your boss whom you need to turn down. In such cases, simply turning them away isn’t enough, nor will it be enough even to furnish them with an explanation of why you can’t do it.
Instead of caving in, though, try presenting them with alternatives. People are much more likely to accept and respect your refusal if you suggest other avenues they could pursue to achieve what they need besides coming to you.
Remember how it felt on your first day of work? You had a beginner’s mindset. You wanted to learn as much as possible, and you were open to as much growth and learning opportunities as you could get.
Fast forward a few years (for some, a few months), though, and things are very different. You don’t really know what happened—you’ve just been gradually losing interest at work. Leaving isn’t an option to you. At the same time, you know you have to do something about your growing disinterest. Maybe it hasn’t affected your performance at work as of now, but if it keeps growing, it might turn into full-on discontent and disengagement.
Pushing growth, sustaining motivation, and driving engagement are all critical factors in attaining high achievement and performance at work. Waiting for top-down initiatives to spark organisational change, though, isn’t all there is to it. Here’s what you can do for yourself and those around you when you’re losing interest in your job.
P.S. Engage yourself at work; sign up for SSA Academy’s WSQ course on demonstrating initiative and enterprising behaviour today!
A lot of the time, when people start to feel bored at work, they blame it on the job itself. Maybe the tasks you’ve been given at work no longer excite you the way they did when you first came on board. Alternatively, perhaps you were re-assigned to a different portfolio that doesn’t interest you as much. Others blame management for failing to engage them, or for failing to recognise and utilise their people’s strengths accordingly.
The problem with this is that it puts the ball in the court of people and circumstances you can’t control. Although leaders play a huge role in affecting how engaged and motivated their people are, you are also in control of how you react and adapt to various situations.
Take responsibility for how engaged you are with your work. Get to the root cause of your boredom—why is the work boring you? For example, are you feeling under-challenged, or do you want an opportunity to showcase your strengths and capabilities, beyond just what you’ve been routinely doing?
Meaning-making is a lifelong endeavour, including at work. According to Wharton professor Adam Grant, people often think that deriving meaning from work is about doing a specific kind of work, as teachers and surgeons do. This, however, isn’t true; you can find meaning in all kinds of work, as long as you take responsibility for it.
In other words, being engaged and finding meaning in what you do is a proactive, not a passive, pursuit. The more you strive to apply yourself wholly to your work, the more autonomous and intrinsically motivated you’ll be. Ultimately, you’ll also have a greater sense of ownership over what you do.
There’s a saying—“Do what you love, and you’ll never have to work another day in your life.” Expectations are the root of despair, and it applies in this context too.
The reality is that even if you love what you do, you won’t necessarily love everything about it all the time. It also doesn’t mean that if you love what you do, work will be play, and play will be work.
You don’t need to love everything about your job, nor do you have to be “always on.” Some days will feel great, and slipping into the rhythm of your routines at work will be easy. Other days, it’s harder. Waiting until you “feel like it” to push yourself to peak performance, however, is a losing strategy. Not only will you end up learning less when you do this; you’ll also lose out to others who are willing to devote themselves to their work whether or not they “feel like it.”
It’s all about perspective. Your interest and engagement at work rest heavily on your perspective of it, and on how much value you derive from it. According to the Harvard Business Review, there are 4 kinds of value that people perceive from their work:
If, for example, boredom is the root of the problem and you don’t find your work intellectually stimulating enough, you could play to your strengths. In this case, your strengths aren’t just the things you’re good at. You could be good at doing certain things without actually liking them. Think about the things you’re both good at and interested in; this is what will energise you at work.
So, find opportunities to do more of it in ways that value-add to you, to the people around you, and to the company. If you’re an extrovert and you love helping people, for example, it’s in everyone’s interests for you to find new and better ways to collaborate with your co-workers.
Similarly, if the work you do is a huge part of your identity, you may find it discouraging that you’re losing interest. The key here, though, is not to throw in the towel too soon.
Make self-improvement your biggest goal at work and in life. Find ways to enter the “flow” state. Here, you’re at your most productive and concentrated, and where your skills improve the most. Seek challenges out every day; find tasks that are harder than what you’re used to without being overwhelming. If you keep giving yourself stretch tasks that help you enter this zone, you stand to grow and learn far more rapidly than if you were to keep doing the same things over and over again without much progress.
You’ve spent all night preparing for this presentation. It’s a make-or-break situation; either you hit the ball out of the park, or you make a less than favourable impression. You really don’t want it to be the latter.
When you get up and start introducing yourself, though, you know something doesn’t feel right. You end up stuttering, forgetting your arguments, and ruining the whole thing. Embarrassed, frustrated, and disappointed, you finish up and sit back down.
All of us have had an experience similar to that. When the stakes are high, the pressure gets to you, and even if you know you could ace it, you choke. It could have been a crucial job interview or a sales pitch for a high-billed client. The fact is, how you perform under pressure has everything to do with your mental and emotional state as you go into the moment.
Professional athletes, for one, know this. Preparation and training alone aren’t enough. You need to know how to stay calm and how to control your thoughts and feelings when the moment comes. You can’t do this, though, without first understanding what happens to you, mentally and emotionally, under pressure.
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For simplicity’s sake, let’s return to the example of the important presentation. The last thing you want to do in the few minutes before a major presentation is panic. You can’t stay calm and collected if you’re going crazy thinking about all the “what if?” scenarios that could happen, or obsessing about all the little details. What if…
Allowing your mind to go off down the rabbit hole of “things that could go wrong” is the best way to scare yourself into panicking just before your moment. When that happens, you start doubting whether you can even do an excellent job of presenting or not. You begin to question your competence and become less and less confident of whether you can do a good job.
The more you entertain the “what if” thoughts, the likelier it is that they become a reality. In other words, your panic will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In any given high-pressure situation, you should be focusing your concentration entirely on being present in the moment. Allowing your mind to wander into the past or the future can disrupt your concentration.
When this happens, instead of focusing on the next few minutes, you’re thinking about how everyone will react once it’s over. Will they love it or hate it, or will they not care? Or maybe you’d be thinking about how a fellow co-worker aced her presentation and impressed everyone. It could even be those few instances in the past when you tried publicly speaking and completely trashed the whole thing.
Again, doing so puts unnecessary stress and pressure or yourself—more so than there already is. If the stakes are already high enough, you don’t need to add to them by reminding yourself of things that happened in the past or things that happen in the future. Instead, train yourself to forget everything else and focus on the present.
There are countless movie scenes where the main character is about to perform a task that they’ve been consistently messing up before this. Everything goes into slow motion, the noise fades out, and you can only hear the character’s breathing. They’re tuning everything out; turning all of their attention with a laser-like focus into the moment and filtering out all else. Ultimately, they manage to pull it off with flying colours, and the crowd erupts into thunderous cheers.
Real life, of course, won’t be so dramatic, but the lesson remains the same. “Don’t think. Just do.” How many times have you heard that advice given to someone about to make an important play? It might sound incredulous to stop thinking at the most crucial time to think. The reason for this, though, is simple.
If you’ve trained and prepared yourself enough for the current moment, everything should come as second nature to you. Your movements, actions, and words all come without you thinking. In other words, you know what to do, and you know how to win. The minute you start to overthink things, though, you lose it.
This is often what causes athletes to choke under pressure. In your case, it might the presentation you were up all night preparing for, or that professional certification exam you’ve been studying for weeks in advance. Whatever the case, learning to cultivate the mental presence required to perform in the moment, regardless of pressure, will make a massive difference to you.
The learning curve weeds out all but the most resolute and determined learners. Whether it’s mastering a new language or reading more management books by the end of year, those who achieve what they set out to learn are, more often than not, growth-minded learners.
When it comes to skill mastery, starting with the right understanding of how growth relates to learning is crucial. Equally important, though, is knowing how to weather the inevitable challenges you’ll face over the course of your learning journey. As it turns out, this is a journey full of potential pitfalls; most people give up the fight here and decide that learning really won’t make much of a difference to their careers.
If you hope to eventually become a master of your craft instead of just a jack of all trades, you need to be able to face and triumph over the realities of embarking on the learning journey. To that end, here’s how growth-minded learners tackle the everyday challenges that come with setting out to upgrade yourself through learning new skills.
Most people expect that learning processes are linear. In this view, you might start off slow. Eventually, though, you will gradually pick up speed consistently until you ultimately reach mastery.
The reality, however, is a stark contrast from this. In his bestselling book, “The 4-Hour Chef”, Tim Ferris expounds on the intricacies of the learning curve. Perhaps most notably, he writes that once people master the initial basic concepts of a particular skill, the learning curve plummets. Moving to the intermediate stage makes everything harder, and it’s slowly sinking in that this is going to be harder than you thought.
Then, if you can get past this, you’ll start to plateau and feel like you’re not making much progress in your learning at all. After this, though, you hit an inflection point, where you’ll finally start to feel more confident that you’re learning and growing.
Learning is not for the faint-hearted. Growth-minded learners, though, are anything but faint-hearted. Since their ultimate objective in learning is to grow, they take challenges as indications that they’re doing something right.
After all, if everything were smooth sailing, they wouldn’t be learning as much. Conversely, someone who’s less resolute about learning is likelier to either get complacent prematurely in the learning process. They may even give up as soon as they stop “feeling” like they’re learning.
Growth-minded learners understand that it takes a substantial amount of time and effort to reach skill mastery. For that reason, they don’t treat time management lightly, making sure that they devote a given amount of time every day to the pursuit of learning.
Ultimately, how you spend your time is the true measure of how sincere and dedicated you are to the pursuit of learning.
This is the hardest part, for most people, because we so often think we don’t have time. When it comes down to it, though, time management is all about prioritising. If you consider learning a top priority, you’ll make time for it no matter what. Otherwise, there’ll always be something more worthy of your time.
We’ve all had that one co-worker who spoke and behaved as though he knew everything about anything, when in reality, he barely did. The phenomenon of the know-it-all is as old as time itself. Ironically, the reason why the know-it-all believes he knows everything is precisely because he doesn’t know anything.
There’s even scientific proof of it: the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Essentially, it holds that when people are first starting to get their feet wet in the process of learning, they reach an initial point of false confidence. It’s easy to understand this; say you’re trying to learn to code. After a few weeks or months, you’d probably have learnt quite a bit (at least to you.) You’re amazed at your progress, and consequently, you feel like you’re good.
If you delved deeper into it, though, you’d start to understand the sheer magnitude of what you’re dealing with. In other words, you go from a state of “not knowing that you don’t know” to realising that “I don’t know much.”
This false confidence thwarts so many attempts at skill mastery. Growth-minded learners, on the other hand, remain rooted in realistic optimism. They don’t allow themselves to be lulled into a false sense of complacency over thinking that they know so much when they don’t. As a result, when other people stop their learning, they push on.
According to the World Economic Forum, the single skill that can set you apart from everyone else is in the job market is “learnability.” It refers to the desire and ability to pick up in-demand skills to stay employable in the long term.
If you can demonstrate your ability to learn difficult things quickly, you can put yourself on the fast track for career success. Of course, it’s easier said than done. Part of becoming an excellent learner is mastering the art of learning in the first place–you need to learn how to learn. In this regard, growth-minded learners have a leg up, not because they’re just smarter than the rest of us, but because of their beliefs.
These beliefs are what allows them to maximise their learnability, more so than the rest of us can. Accessing and applying those principles in your own life is critical to getting ahead at work and in life. Before you can do that, though, you need to ground yourself in an understanding of growth and how it relates to learning in the first place–here are the three fundamental beliefs pertaining to that.
One of the most toxic perceptions that you can hold about yourself is that your skills and abilities are relatively stable from the time you’re born. It sounds absurd; people learn things and improve themselves all the time.
Society, however, tends to behave in the opposite way (especially Singaporean society.) We tend to favour the natural geniuses–those who don’t have to study and still score in exams, and those who come in demonstrating extraordinary amounts of talent and intelligence. These are the people we tend to reward.
In the end, though, it can have a detrimental effect on your learning process. Take leadership skills. Some people are natural-born leaders; it’s like they came out of the womb taking charge and commanding respect immediately. Others, not so much.
This doesn’t mean, though, that leadership skills can’t be learnt. If you’re not a natural-born leader, it might make you feel like there’s no use in learning how to lead. Why try to change what you can’t?
As you can see, it’s a virulent form of self-sabotage. If you believe your skills are fixed, you won’t put yourself in the position for growth and learning, because to you, it’s futile.
Deciding to learn something is easy. It makes you look good and feel good. You feel like you’re a dynamic person who doesn’t take anything for granted or like someone who can get with the times. The hard part is actually following through with it.
Growth-minded learners aren’t trying to pick up or upgrade new skills to prove that they’re smart or knowledgeable. They know that doing this will set them up for failure. Paradoxically, the more you progress through the learning curve, the more you realise just how much you don’t know.
In any case, using learning to appear intelligent puts you at a disadvantage because you tend to close yourself off from learning from others. We live in a time of constant disruption and endless possibilities. People who are serious about learning make full use of this to maximise how they learn, what they learn, and whom they learn from instead of limiting themselves out of vanity. These growth-minded learners know that progress must always come before self-aggrandisement.
According to the 2017 Randstad Workmonitor Survey, Singapore workers fall short of the global average in terms of taking responsibility for their learning. Only 83% of Singaporean workers believe that pursuing learning and development strategies is a personal responsibility, compared to 91% of workers globally.
This is problematic for a whole host of reasons. Most importantly, without taking charge of your learning, you’re not going to learn how to learn properly. Neither will you be able to master the specific skills you have in mind.
There’s a saying by the late modernist poet William B. Yeats: “Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot, but make it hot by striking.” Rather than waiting for an opportunity to come knocking on your door, go outside and find it yourself. Request for stretch assignments, or ask your peers for feedback on your performance at work to find out where your learning areas are. The bottom line is: make it happen.
The same applies to learning. Taking the initiative to pursue learning opportunities strategically is key to growth. To perform at the top of your game, you must be willing to get out of your comfort zone. After all, that’s where most learning happens.
This, however, requires that you take charge of your learning at work. Out of an unwillingness to admit to their shortcomings, so many people allow themselves to fall behind, convincing themselves that they don’t need to adapt to the new rules of the workplace. Failing to recognise that you’re in charge of your learning and development can be fatal to your career.
When it comes to cultivating cohesive company cultures, how managers act, behave, and treat those around them speaks volumes, far more than what they have to say about culture.
Enron, which was embroiled in one of the largest cases of fraud in the history of corporate America, proudly displayed its motto for all and sundry in the building lobby: “respect, integrity, communication, and excellence.” It even waxed lyrical with its mission statement, stating that “we treat others as how we would like to be treated ourselves… ruthlessness, callousness, and arrogance don’t belong here.”
Clearly, how its leaders actually behaved was a vast departure from those lofty claims. The culture they actually ended up creating was one that was shaped by how they neglected and abused their employees in the end.
Enron was a classic example of a fixed-mindset organisation. Here, regardless of what its leaders, preach, growth is stifled because of certain crippling organisational beliefs that thwart employee performance on so many levels. In contrast, according to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, growth-mindset organisations are proven to have employees who report much stronger feelings of empowerment, ownership, and commitment.
If you’re a manager or executive yourself, it’s not difficult to pick which one you want your company or team to look like. To that end, here are four organisational beliefs that can make or break employee performance.
It might seem disingenuous to state that the purpose of any organisation is and should be growth. Most people understand this. Whether it actually plays out accordingly, though, is another matter.
Are the movers and shakers in your organisation fighting for personal gain, or are they fighting for growth? There’s a fine line between the two. Growth includes gain, but gain doesn’t necessarily mean growth for everyone. When you, your teammates, or the entire team grows over time, everybody benefits. On the other hand, one man’s gain is another man’s loss.
Competition is good for progress. Too much internal politics, undercutting, and manipulation, will make people operate in self-serving, self-defensive mode. In short, it’s counter-productive. The most dangerous thing about this is that it erodes psychological safety, which Google named as the top ingredient for high-performing teams.
If people can neither trust their teammates nor their leaders to fight for them, it penalises teamwork and collaboration massively.
Organisations that prize natural talent and intelligence more than effort run the risk of developing highly elitist cultures and cultivating complacent attitudes among employees. Consequently, innovation takes a beating, and morale plummets.
In this fixed mindset, success is all about talent; if you have to make the effort to succeed, you can’t sit with us. Harbouring such attitudes can really harm collaboration. If everyone is trying to show that their work is effortless, the focus is on themselves being self-sufficient. There’s no team spirit, much less cross-functional collaboration.
Problem-solving and creativity, for one, are far better served by the kind of authentic collaboration that relatively flat organisational hierarchies facilitate. If there’s a solution that has to be thought of or a new idea to be brought into consideration, rank shouldn’t matter. Yet when a company builds a culture that condones elitism, it discourages such efforts.
In such cultures, supervisors, managers, and executives alike all tend to be geared towards showing that they’re talented instead of considering what would bring about the most growth for the company. Since they’re all clamouring for elite status within the company, they’re much likelier to engage in ways that are disruptive to effective leadership: taking credit for others’ work, stealing ideas from subordinates, and so on.
Perhaps most importantly, though, it deters innovation from happening. Why would you innovate if you think that you’re already at the top of your game while everyone else is beneath you?