How To Cultivate Growth Mindsets In Your Employees (Part I: Foundations)


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.

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1. Lead by example


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: 

  • Seeing skills, abilities, and intelligence as learnable over time, not fixed
  • Seeing skill mastery as the product of consistent hard work, not just raw talent 
  • Prioritising learning over the need to “look good” to others
  • Viewing criticism as necessary, not counter-productive, to progress & improved achievements



2. Personalise employee motivation strategies


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.





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