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Campus Alert

Does this describe anyone in your workplace? …

He or she disengages from problems, blames others or circumstances when things go wrong, wants to look good at all costs, hides mistakes and shortcomings, and volunteers for easy tasks and avoids hard ones. 

How about this person? …

He or she confronts weaknesses by learning something new. When things don’t work as planned, she tries a different strategy. She consistently pushes beyond her comfort zone, and volunteers for hard projects and tasks. 

Is it possible to have an organization made up of the second type of person? 

Carol Dweck, a researcher at Stanford University, and a leading expert on workplace achievement, thinks it is – and has 30+ years of research to prove it. 

The key lies in a person’s mindset. 

Fixed or Growth Mindset?

People tend to think of ability and intelligence in one of two ways.  Those with a fixed mindset generally believe that ability and intelligence are relatively fixed at birth and little can be done to change them. Those with a growth mindset believe that the brain is malleable throughout one’s lifetime, thus ability, intelligence, and work capacity can significantly grow.

What Drives One’s Mindset?

A fixed mindset person sees challenges as a threat to their identity.  They have typically been praised for such things as, “You are really smart” or “You are the best football player on the team” or “You are beautiful.”  As a result, when they find themselves in a situation that threatens this identity,they hide to protect it. 

A growth mindset person sees their intelligence and ability as separate from their identity.  They have typically been praised like this, “You gave a great effort today” or “When things got tough you didn’t give up” or “I could tell that was outside your comfort zone, and I’m proud of you.”  As a result, they see difficulties as learning opportunities.

At work, this means that staff with a fixed mindset shy away from anything that requires them to grow and change, which is untenable in today’s work environment. 

Coaching for A Growth Mindset

Cork, Ireland

How can you help those on your team with a fixed mindset acquire a growth mindset?

Step One: Help the employee see a Growth Mindset in herself by asking her to:

  1. Describe a time she overcame adversity
  2. Describe a time she failed and changed strategies to ultimately succeeded
  3. Describe the most difficult skill she has ever learned and what she did to learn it

Step Two: Distinguish between rewards and praise, and use praise:

  1. Rewards are for results (rewards include salary increases, bonuses, and promotions)
  2. Praise is for effort (effort includes, learning a new skill or improving on an existing one, progress, perseverance, adopting a new strategy, and overcoming adversity)

Giving Praise
The key to giving effective praise is specificity in the form of providing a concrete example. The following model helps:

  1. Bring attention to a strength
  2. Provide one specific example (i.e.. tell a story of one moment in time during a past event when the individual demonstrated this strength)
  3. Close with a strength

Many factors drive your organization’s success. The most fundamental is the mindset of your people. Change from a fixed to a growth mindset, and you will change the very trajectory of your people’s future and that of your organization.