The Growth Mindset and How it Can Drive Performance

The Growth Mindset

I’ve been exploring mindsets again of late and have circled back to the work of Carol Dweck and the Growth Mindset.

The idea of the Growth Mindset is the belief that your ability to learn and adapt is flexible. It is something that we have direct control over.

This leads to the view that your potential is limited by your effort and imagination.

The counter mindset is the Fixed Mindset. This is the perspective that your intelligence, ability and performance are inflexible. No matter how much you study, or how hard you try, your performance is capped.

It’s easy to see then that someone with a Fixed Mindset could believe there is a limit to their potential. So to aspire to something beyond that is pointless.

The diagram below depicts these two mindset paradigms.


It is important to understand that most people will have elements of each mindset. It’s less common for people to always be one way or the other. For some people, there may be a stronger tendency to one end versus the other.

Which then leads to the idea of a Mixed Mindset. This is where an individual’s mindset is balanced between the two. This is likely to manifest in swings based on circumstances or topics.

For example, I hold a strong self belief that I’m a-musical, not quite tone deaf but pretty bad. I don’t see myself becoming a capable singer anytime soon! Yet there are many areas where I don’t have answers. I may not have current skills or knowledge.

Yet, I am convinced that I can have a positive impact in time. I seek to learn, especially from others and seek feedback.

Carol Dweck’s work has largely focused on school children and effective learning. As in many other circumstances, there are similarities between the school environment and the workplace.

I would like to explore some thoughts on the value that a Growth Mindset can create within the workplace.

1. Why a Growth Mindset?

Have another looks at the differences between a Growth vs Fixed Mindset. You can see there are some highly positive traits that can be leveraged in a workplace setting.

Motivated by continuous learning a person with a Growth Mindset is likely to be more resilient in the face of change. Better able to deal with ‘failures’ and challenges in their work.

They are more likely to find opportunities to learn from others. And be more receptive to feedback, which can sometimes be quite hard to hear.

Consider the challenges organisations face when it comes to improving innovation and efficiency.

The constant need to find better ways to do things. To develop creative solutions and products for customers. And the ever-present ‘change’ both internal and external.

People who can positively respond to challenges.  Who seek out opportunities to grow their knowledge and skills, will be valuable.

Employees that are more resilient to change and are effective collaborators, because they understand the learning opportunities collaboration provides, will be of more value in achieving organisational outcomes.

2. Realising Potential

If, to create successful organisational outcomes at the lowest possible level of human effort. Ie, to maximise the productivity and effectiveness of the workforce. Everyone would need to be operating at their fullest potential.

It is not realistic to expect every single employee to operate at their greatest potential, at all times.

Anything you do to support staff to move closer to their potential will generate incremental value. That is going to be of value to the organisation and to the individual.

Starting with fostering a shift towards a Growth Mindset will have a direct impact on each individual. It will influence their ability to overcome the challenges before them and to gain the knowledge required for personal growth.

A Growth Mindset will allow your staff to persevere and connect with their internal motivators to find success.

By closing the gap on realising their own potential, each person is growing in their knowledge, capabilities, self-awareness and effectiveness.

This has positive outcomes for their future job opportunities. Potentially reducing stress and providing more work satisfaction.

3. Seeing Past Limitations and Raising Potential

A defining characteristic of a Growth Mindset is the desire to learn. Both via traditional classroom, training type learning as well as via feedback and observations of others.

When coupled with a heightened level of perseverance, the opportunity to reach higher levels of performance is increased.

When a person believes their potential is limited by their own effort and imagination and that belief is supported and encouraged, where then could their performance lead?

Carol Dweck talks about the concept of ‘yet’ and how it can play into developing a Growth Mindset.

If a setback, a perceived ‘failure’ is attributed to a capability level of ‘not yet’, it leaves room for further growth.

This growth will enable each person to work towards surpassing their current ‘limitations’.

By putting aside your assumptions of what a person or a team is capable of, giving them opportunities to learn. You can start with a baseline of 'not yet'.

Support and encouraging them through the inevitable challenges. Continue to focus on ‘yet’ and will see gains in their potential that you may never have imagined.

4. The Growth Mindset Leader

A natural extension of this is when it comes to employing staff that you may not have traditionally employed. I’d also link it to supporting and managing staff that you may already have.

A concern that I hear often from employers and managers is to do with the ability of a neurodiverse person to perform in a given role.

I appreciated that it’s completely normal to have hesitations about something we don’t understand.

I’ve worked with managers who are having trouble dealing with a particular neurodiverse staff member. In both situations, there are two basic assumptions that are being made by the manager.

First, the manager can’t deal with this person. They don’t know what to do and it’s too hard or going to be too hard.

Second, the candidate or staff member will be unable to do the role or parts of the role effectively. This can be compounded by in job performance by an existing employee.

What I hear in these situations is the manager reverting to a Fixed Mindset position. Allowing themselves to stay in that state limits their options.

They are closing themselves off from learning in favour of maintaining the status quo and staying safe. By exploring the opportunity from the perspective of ‘not yet’ allows room for exploring options and alternatives.

There may be elements of the role that can be removed or reassigned. Thereby creating a more effective job fit for the neurodiverse employee.

Being open to feedback and constructive criticism can help the manager see alternative ways they can communicate, motivate and nurture different team members. Ultimately this is something that will of benefit to them in their own career development.

This leadership development is something many organisations such as Ernst & Young and JP Morgan Chase have seen. Building their capability in leading and supporting neurodiverse staff has had tangible impacts on their internal leadership development.

In some cases leading to concerted efforts to cycle managers through leading neurodiverse teams and employees as part of their leadership development plans.

The Growth Mindset leader seeks to enhance their own Growth Mindset thinking to improve their leadership. They also bring an expectation that their teams can also develop a Growth Mindset. They start with ‘not yet’ and seek opportunities to close the gap together.

They do this because they understand the connection between removing limits on potential and improving individual, team and organisational performance.

Are you a HR manager, recruiter or diversity & inclusion leader?

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chris turnerComment