Mindset: Lessons for the Workplace

The book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” offers insight on the characteristics that are most likely to lead to success and challenges many accepted societal norms. Based on years of research, author and Stanford University Professor Carol Dweck describes two mindsets, “fixed” and “growth,” and explains how they impact behavior and the choices people make. A thought-provoking read full of recognizable names from sports and business, it also offers much for parents and individuals.

For the workplace, Dweck’s discussion of mindset and skill development has much to offer. Consider applicants and employees with each mindset around skills:

Fixed Mindset

  • Skill is the result of natural talent. You either have “it” or you don’t.
  • Failure results from not having enough innate skill.

Growth Mindset

  • Skill is developed with repeated effort. Consistent and sustained effort improves skill levels.
  • Failure is an opportunity to learn, try again, and improve skills.

What mindset would you prefer to employ? A growth mindset appears most desirable, assuming your organization values learning and skill development. If so, does your culture reflect that? How do you handle failures? Do you reward effort or only success? In your hiring practices, do you seek out people with a growth mindset?

Consider the mindset of leaders. Wouldn’t a growth mindset be a “must have” ingredient for success? It would be tempting to assume so. Dweck provides several examples of growth mindset leaders and how their approach can catapult organizations into high levels of success. Any organization can benefit by learning from these success stories.

Yet she also provides examples of business disasters primarily caused by “star” leaders with fixed mindsets. These stars experienced early successes in their careers and assumed their skills were natural and would continue indefinitely, despite changes in the world around them. Resistant to learning and selfimprovement, they damage organizations with their inflexibility. Confident in their own brilliance, they resist the ideas of others and often express hostility toward them. Fixed mindset leaders destroy workplaces that require mutual respect, trust, and teamwork.

What if you already employ people with a fixed mindset?

Author Dweck asserts that people can change and offers action steps to develop a growth mindset. She asserts this is a learned skill and with sustained effort can become a person’s norm. Encouraging news for the individual and their employer! Such a conversation requires great trust and careful phrasing, offered in the spirit of professional development. Contemplate your organization’s coaching/mentoring efforts. Could such a discussion be of benefit?

Employees with a growth mindset can benefit all levels of an organization, especially star leaders who can make or break an organization. The trickiest part may be convincing someone they need to change for the good of the organization – and maybe even for their own benefit. Interested in learning more? Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, is available for checkout from the MSEC Library. Reach me at jmcdonough@msec.org or 800.884.1328.