A Fixed Mindset doesn’t Fix Your Business
I once worked in a large tech company in which the CEO told me: “There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who are incompetent and those who are trying to steal from you.”
At the time, I viewed this as a tongue-in-cheek comment. Yet, it did seem to permeate our executive culture. With that ideology hanging over us, everyone on the leadership team shut up and put their heads down. Sure, we produced industry-leading margins quarter after quarter, but employee turnover was much too high and growth was stagnating.
The reality is we were reinforcing a predetermined view of what it would take for the company to succeed and the type of people who would either help or hinder us along the way. This tone from the CEO created a fear of failure. It inhibited us from having the conversations we needed to have about the big opportunities and challenges facing the business.
Such a culture is what can happen when business leaders perpetuate a fixed mindset - by focusing too heavily on established ways of doing things to stimulate growth and cultivate innovation. Instead, adopting a growth mindset is much more likely to help today’s leaders unlock the full potential of their business.
Fixed vs growth mindset
Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck defines a fixed mindset as the belief that intelligence and talent are fixed traits. You’re naturally gifted at doing some things and not others. People with a growth mindset on the other hand, believe a dedication to continuous learning and improvement will lead to higher achievement and better outcomes.
Leaders looking to accelerate their businesses often embrace several misconceptions symptomatic of a fixed mindset. In the example above, black and white thinking stunted the potential of the business when the intentions were to do the complete opposite.
Here are three common ways you might be stifling growth and what you can do to tackle them from a growth mindset perspective instead.
Misconception #1: Hire individuals who tick all the boxes
Many businesses emphasize the importance of hiring people with ideal pedigrees. They target individuals with the best education and work experience, myopically focused on prior success in the roles they are looking to fill. All too frequently this produces a mismatch of skills and opportunity leading to declining moral, lack of productivity and inefficiencies. It’s all too easy for these symptoms to metastasize like a cancer infecting every aspect of your business.
Applying a Growth Mindset: Shift the hiring emphasis from what looks good in the short term to what fits best in the long term. As Tracy Lloyd describes in her blog Why A Growth Mindset Drives Business, business should seek out learners. Hiring should focus on an individual’s capacity for growth, learning and an ability to operate outside their comfort zone. These are the people that will help build a culture of learning and collaboration and be more able to adapt to change.
Misconception #2: A fixation on KPIs
Whether it’s sales growth, profitability, employee retention, or some other metric, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can often become unchanging mileposts for measuring and managing success. Fixed mindset companies tend to ‘top grade’ high performers, leaving a majority of their people feeling as though their contributions are not valued. This has many adverse consequences including decreased work commitment, fear of failure and trying new things, taking shortcuts and more divisive internal politics. Think of the example of the CEO, who thought many people were incompetent! The repercussions are real.
Applying a Growth Mindset: Constantly reassess the metrics for success across the business. This will enable you to better anticipate and adapt to changes in the market and the workplace, while avoiding penny-wise but pound-foolish decisions.
Organizations operating with a growth mindset promote a culture of continuous learning and self-improvement, in which change is embraced and not feared. They are more likely to innovate, solve problems and boost the engagement of their people, resulting in better financial and growth-oriented outcomes.
Misconception #3 Investing in systems will lift productivity and employee satisfaction
Most of us have heard the saying “the path to Hell is paved in good intentions.” This is true of investments in internal systems driven by leaders chasing quick fixes. They want a silver bullet to solve their problems and will spend heavily on off-the-shelf or customized solutions. Yet, they’re missing an understanding of the big change effort needed for these initiatives to succeed.
Applying a Growth Mindset: Make smaller, more frequent investments in systems, while placing greater emphasis on training and development. Small ‘experiments’ will allow you to test and validate your approach without committing excessive resources. Not only will you take your people on the journey, but you’ll improve the impact and ROI of your projects.
Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow.
Building and growing a successful company in today’s business climate requires high agility, continuous learning and an appetite for challenging the status quo.
Organizations that adopt a growth mindset are much more likely than those stuck in a rut to take advantage of rapid technological advancements, an ever-changing workforce and an unpredictable market. These organizations see these as opportunities to capitalize on, not threats to avoid and risks to mitigate.
What ‘fixed mindset’ fallacies do you see playing out in your business?