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.
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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.