As humans, we all love being told how amazing we are. I, as a college golfer, love when people come up to me and congratulate me on my accomplishments and everything I’ve done throughout the year. It’s always nice to hear someone say, “You’re an amazing golfer. I wish I could be half as good as you are.” As an employee, it’s nice when someone tells you how amazing of a worker you are. Or, hearing someone say, “You are the greatest employee this company has ever had.” But, is that making us better? Is it making us strive to work even harder, or is it encouraging complacency? In my opinion, and the opinion of many others much smarter than me, it is forcing a fixed mindset upon us. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with receiving gratitude because if you earned it, by all means, take it. What I am saying is that when we are praised for our hard work, tenacity, and grit, it begins to forge a growth mindset within us. It makes us realize that we get better by hard work, and there is always room for improvement.
Growth mindset is defined as a belief that skills and talents are something that can be learned and improved over time. People who hold a growth mindset believe that there is no limit on the skills that they have. They believe that there are always new things to learn. On the other hand, people with a fixed mindset believe that you are born with the skills that you have. They are more worried about having it all together and not embarrassing themselves than they are about getting better at their craft. People with a growth mindset don’t care about what they look like. They aren’t worried about being the most talented person at work or on the course. They aren’t worried about making a mistake and looking bad, because they know that those mistakes are going to grow their skills and help them become better at their craft. To be clear, there is no one in this world who is completely one way or the other. Everyone has the areas in their life where they flaunt a growth mindset while there are other areas where they have a fixed mindset. The thing that we should try to do is flaunt that growth mindset as often as we can.
Carol Dweck, a professor from Stanford University, has dug deeper into the thinking behind growth mindset. She has done many studies and written books on the terms growth and fixed mindset. One of my favorite and most telling studies that she has done, was with a group of elementary school kids that she broke up into two different sections. Both of the sections took a very simple math test. One section was told to try and score the best they could on the test. The other section was told not to worry about the score, but try and grow their knowledge and learn something while taking the test. After the test was over, the group who was told to try and get the best score possible, was told how amazing they did on the test. The other group was praised for the hard work they put in and the knowledge that they gained by taking the test. Then, they gave all of the kids in each group an option. They could either retake the easy math test or they could take a test that was more difficult. The majority of the kids in the group who were praised for how well they did on the test stuck with the easy test while the majority of the kids in the group who were praised for their hard work and learning decided to take the harder test. Who ended up learning more through this experience? Obviously the kids who were stretched to their limits by taking the tougher test. And the reason for that? They were taught to have a growth mindset, knowing that by taking the tougher test they were going to grow their minds and abilities, unlike the kids who were praised for doing great on their test. Those kids didn’t learn any new information because they weren’t stretching their abilities or working on the edge of their comfort zones. They were comfortable taking the easy test and they didn't grow because of it.
I want to challenge companies in the business world to try and live with a growth mindset. Our industry is such a results driven industry that it is hard to completely ignore the results, I understand that. But by praising your employees for the hard work and persistence that they display, it will make for an office that is working in harmony. To me, that sounds much better than the alternative; such as cheating and deception to try and get a leg up in the employee talent race. Nurturing a growth mindset in your company is going to lead to increased innovation and creativity or new ideas and ventures that you couldn’t have ever dreamed of. I would choose that over the backbiting and slander of a company with a fixed mindset any day. If your workplace doesn’t believe in adopting a growth mindset, do it for yourself. Show off your growth mindset in the office and people will begin to take notice.
As always, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to read our blog. We sincerely hope you enjoyed your read and got something memorable from it. If you have any questions or comments, shoot us an email or connect with us on LinkedIn. If you have experience with a coach or boss who instilled a growth mindset in you, we would love to hear about it. Have a great day and remember, always work on the edge of your comfort zone. Continue to stretch your knowledge and abilities by living with a growth mindset.