“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t – you’re right.” – Henry Ford
How do you view yourself? What are your talents and strengths? What are your weaknesses?
This isn’t meant for preparing for an interview, so feel free to be honest with yourself. This is important because our self-perception is what ultimately forms a “mindset” of not only who we are, but who we can become.
Maybe you believe you’re intelligent, a math whiz or simply not good with numbers. The point is, do you believe you can change? Do you think you’re capable of (and willing to) develop new skills and talents even if they are in completely different areas?
A Fixed Mindset would say no. We are simply born with what we have. It’s in our DNA.
A Growth Mindset probably wouldn’t have even asked the question. Individuals with a Growth Mindset are already in a constant process of learning new things and embracing new challenges with the philosophy that we are never really done refining who we are.
As Dr. Eve Grodnitzky, Growth Mindset Psychologist, Author & Educator puts it, “A Fixed Mindset arises from the belief intelligence and skills are based on inherent traits which you may have or not have. It does not believe traits can be developed beyond who we currently are. A Growth Mindset on the other hand, sees everyone and everything as a learning process where we are constantly developing.”
She points out key differences between a Fixed and Growth Mindset include the following:
|Fixed Mindset||Growth Mindset|
|Resists change||Highly adaptable|
|Avoids challenges||Embraces challenges|
|Struggles with feedback||Welcomes feedback|
|Exerts only the amount of effort needed||Works hard. Tries new things|
|Gives up easily||Keeps trying|
|Always needs to be right||Can admit weaknesses and when they are wrong|
|Defensive if challenged||Open to hearing others|
|Highly-risk averse||Takes calculated risks|
|Failing means “I’m not good enough”||Does not see things as “failures” but as opportunities to learn and improve|
|Resents, competes or compares self with others||Learns from and is inspired by others|
Individuals with a Fixed Mindset certainly can limit their own personal and professional growth. However, Fixed Mindsets (particularly within HR, management and at the executive leadership level) create an entire culture that struggles to evolve, innovate, or grow.
Apply a Fixed Mindset to an entire company and we see an organization struggle to embrace diversity and gender equality; a place where new ideas or ways of doing things are quickly shot down or never explored further. We see employees who fear making a mistake, and work environments that becomes more about politics than collaboration. And at the end of the day, individuals end up becoming complacent with status quo, disengage or move on to other companies. Corporate growth becomes stagnant, and ultimately leadership is replaced.
In turn, a Growth Mindset company benefits from:
- Ongoing learning and development.
- New ideas and processes focused on continuous improvement.
- Collaborative relationships with team members.
- Employees who are interested in their work, see their potential future, feel valued and take ownership in their roles.
- Corporate Growth and innovation despite ongoing challenges and intense competition in the market.
Most of us have a combination of both mindsets with varying ranges, with Fixed being the dominate Mindset for the majority of the population. However, regardless of where you stand, you can always change. There are several key aspects that contribute to formulating our mindset which are within our control. This includes behavioral triggers and habits, as well as the people you surround yourself with. Our language, including our thoughts, how we talk about ourselves, and the feedback we receive from others are also major contributors.
Perhaps the greatest determinant of whether we maintain more of a Fixed or a Growth Mindset has to do with our perspective of failure. As Dr. Grodnitzky puts it, “De-stigmatizing what failure is and creating environments that allow for appropriate risk and failure will drastically improve our ability to shift our perspective.”
So, where can executives begin to promote and instill a Growth Mindset?
1) Self Reflection
The perception you have of yourself has an incredible impact on how you live your life and approach your career. Understand where you may have a fixed mentality with some simple questions:
- Where do you feel unqualified or “not good enough” in your current job or a job you aspire to be in?
- How are your thoughts limiting you?
- How often are you willing to step out of your comfort zone?
- Are you open to feedback?
- Where might you have a fear of failing? Do you regret past failures or do you focus on what you’ve learned?
2) In the Hiring Process
“HR managers can often fall into a Fixed Mindset and not even know it, by tending to prefer natural talent over someone who can work hard to get up to speed quickly,” comments CEO of Toft Group, Robin Toft. “As executive recruiters, we help our HR clients discern what skills are required based on what we see in the industry, and what can be learned on the job with the right person.”
Toft adds that “hiring managers can differentiate a Growth Mindset candidate in the interview based on their:
- Energy: They get excited with new challenges and are eager to gain experience.
- Sense of Humility: They’re willing to admit mistakes, “failures”, and weaknesses. “If there is something they don’t have experience with, their ‘go-to’ is their willingness to learn or rely on other people,” comments Toft.
- “Desire to Give and Receive Feedback: They are open or even seek ongoing coaching and mentorship. Their management style also includes regular feedback and one-on-one meetings.”
Dr. Grodnitzky also recommends asking a mix of key questions that are based on either Growth or Fixed Mindsets.
Sample Growth Mindset questions include “Tell me about a time when…”
- …you were inspired to learn something new recently.
- …you took on a significant challenge recently.
- …you failed at something recently.
Sample Fixed Mindset questions include “Tell me about a time when…”
- …you felt like the smartest person in the room recently.
- …you chose not to do something challenging recently.
- …you gave up on something recently.
Click here to download Dr. Grodnitzky’s Sample Behavioral Interview Questions for Mindset.
She points out that the interviewer should ask these questions in as “neutral” a fashion as possible. Candidates will typically have both Growth and Fixed Mindset tendencies, but it’s important to listen for whether one dominates the other.
Not only is continuous feedback important as part of Growth Mindset management, but how you provide feedback is also critical.
Feedback does not always need to be on an individual basis. You can conduct debriefs with your team that allow for collective team feedback, input and evaluation of people and processes.
Finally, one of the best ways to inspire a Growth Mindset, is to help employees see their potential. Advise employees on different areas for growth and provide various opportunities for development. Point out where they may be limiting themselves with their own beliefs or actions.
A Growth Mindset company starts with your own mindset. When trying to determine where you can evolve as a company, understand how you and your employees are learning as individuals. Your breakthrough could simply be a shift in perspective.
Toft Group works with clients to source talent and develop a growth culture that fosters innovation. For more information, or to start your next search, contact us.
About Dr. Eve Grodnitzky
Dr. Grodnitzky is an executive educator, professional speaker and author of Click: The Art + Science of Getting from Impasse to Insight. Much of her work with clients focuses on the development of a “Growth Mindset.” Click here for more info.