Last summer, after the hottest period of weather the UK has seen for a LONG while, I jumped at the opportunity to go for an early morning swim with a good friend. When I pulled back the curtains this morning, a bit blurry eyed it was raining… what would you do?
Me? No questions I got ready. It reminded me of the wet summer holidays in Cornwall when we lived in our swimming costumes, shorts, and flip flops! There’s a saying, ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes’. More importantly, it was going to offer me quality, uninterrupted time with a person that I value deeply, to work through something that was occupying too much of my energy. Maybe you chose to close the curtains and bagged a couple of extra hours sleep?
Fixed or growth mindset
By the time we got to the beach the sun was starting to break through the clouds, it had stopped raining. I had a wry smile on my face as I have been exploring the work of Carol Dweck on Growth and Fixed Mindset.
So, what's all this got to do with my dip in the sea, mindset and business?
Carol Dweck’s TED talk centres on her research with children and the concept of ‘not yet’ rather than failure when it came to test results. And how as individuals if we shift our thinking, focusing not on the outcome, but rather on the progress made, there are other more significant gains to be achieved. Her message is simple yet requires hard work and dedication and imagine the impact that we could make as adults if we are at ease in a Growth mindset.
As human beings we operate in both a Fixed and Growth mindset, in my experience, it doesn’t have an on and off switch for work or home life. It is also important to acknowledge that in our lifetime we learn more about ourselves as we journey through different situations, both of these factors contribute to the life that we ultimately experience.
In a growth mindset, people believe that that their most basic ability can be developed through dedication and hard work. Brains and talent are just a starting point, and this creates a love of learning and the resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. In a growth mindset, individuals work to improve their skills which ultimately leads to growth and success. They value what they are doing regardless of the outcome.
In a fixed mindset people believe that their basic qualities like intelligence or talent are simply fixed traits, they spend their time documenting their intelligence or traits instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone create success without effort.
Choosing how you respond to events
I am sure like me, you have been faced with some challenging situations, be that in your personal or working life, and they might have had a significant impact on the path that you thought you would walk. Personally, I have learned to accept that whilst I can’t change the situation, I can choose my response and in turn have better control over the consequences of my actions.
So, you might still be questioning where I am going with this, there’s no relevance to my sea dip and ‘mindsets’.
Well, let me explain, if I was in a fixed mindset, I would have most likely closed the curtains and got back into bed, my intelligence telling me that I was going to get wet, the sea would be cold and my inner voice reminding me I can stay dry and warm at home, the conversation can wait. In contrast to a growth mindset where, despite this knowledge, I was compelled to share quality uninterrupted time with a friend and gain huge value from his coaching. I could take ownership and pack some dry clothes, in case I did get soaked, and focus on the fact that I was going to gain so much more having uninterrupted time! The potential outcome of getting wet was not significant for me – I was in a Growth mindset.
This blog invites you to get curious about your own mindset, I will pose some questions for you to ponder, and I hope that there will be some personal discovery for you.
Before I do that, I’d like to share a small insight to my personal journey over the last four years and how my mindset influences how I have navigated situations I have faced.
A leap of faith
In 2018 found myself, for the first time in my corporate career, having my competence questioned as a leader. I was failing to deliver the results that the business wanted to see, I was miserable, and my family felt the sharp end of my behaviour.
I own that I had accepted the position, and I recognise that it was driven by my ego. The Organisation and I knew that I had the intellect and experience to perform in the role, however, reflecting back, my leadership style was at odds with the culture. That was an impossible nut to crack and was coming at a heft cost to my personal wellbeing and relationship with my family.
My husband Don was a Business Coach working with SMEs. For a few years we had spoken about when I would leave my safe space in the corporate world and join him to actively work in the business. We could see that my experience of leading large teams and complex challenges would enhance the business offering to clients, but it was my own self-limiting beliefs that were holding me back. My head talk was ‘when xxx happens I will….’, there was always another compelling xxx. I can see that I was stuck in a fixed mindset.
I vividly recall the meeting when all of that changed, I was publicly berated again, I felt it was unjustified and this time it was very personal. Something stirred from deep within me, I had had enough. It was time to be brave and create the change that I wanted to see in my life.
The events that unfolded from this point were ironic. The day that I handed in my resignation was the day that Don was diagnosed with Throat Cancer. I am grateful that the organisation offered me the opportunity to withdraw my resignation, but I recognised that this was a test to see if I would fall into another ‘when xxx happens’ situation, I mean it was a pretty compelling one to right? This time the personal stakes were far higher, I knew I needed to be at my best to be able to emotionally support Don and my daughters, on our path of uncertainty. Whatever the outcome of Don’s treatment I needed to do this and saw that this was a step closer to achieving our goal of growing our own business– just ‘not yet’ as Carol Dweck would say.
Don passed in September 2021, we didn’t get the opportunity to realise the value that we could bring to clients, working together, however the journey that we walked together offered me countless opportunities to learn and grow.
As I write this today, having taken a dip with my friend, I know Don is doing a little Scottish jig for the courage that I show each and every day as I shape the new direction of our business. From what I hear, the guy that took over from me is doing a cracking job.
I don’t share this for sympathy, but to make the real life point that thing happen in life that are out of our control and our mindset plays a huge part on how we respond.
Now let’s bring the attention to you and your work life. You might already know a thing or two about the Growth and Fixed mindset concept. Perhaps it’s new and you are curious, happy to stick with the article to the end, irrespective of the outcome. What mindset are you demonstrating here?
A few questions for you…
I invite you to take a few minutes to consider these questions about the team or organisation that you work in and to what degree the answer matter to the fulfilment you have in your role?
Are you empowered to make decisions within the scope of your role?
How does your team/organisation respond when you’ve taken an appropriate risk?
What does collaboration feel like in your team/organisation?
How does your team/organisation respond to setbacks?
How receptive is your team/organisation to giving and receiving constructive feedback?
Do you feel a sense of belonging?
Are you valued, seen, and heard?
It doesn’t take a Rocket Scientist to work out that these questions embody the essence of what a Growth mindset culture is. The question is how much of it exists within the team culture or Organisation that you work in? In a Fixed mindset culture behaviour that we might observe finger pointing when things go wrong, poorly delivered feedback, and if an individual’s Ego is out to play, the feedback might be completely ignored.
The Pandemic offered us a great insight to the cultures that exist within organisations and it’s no surprise that those with a Growth mindset culture are reaping their rewards today.
We were all thrown into the same stormy seas, with chaos and uncertainty hitting the boat (organisation) from all directions. Whilst we couldn’t change the situation, we were all response-able for our own actions. I observed a level of understanding from employees as business leaders sought to steady the boat. In the first lockdown there was a level of forgiveness for limited visibility and communication. By the third lockdown, employees expectations were evidently changing, individuals were dealing with their own personal challenges, they were expecting MORE from their organisation, and due situations such as furlough, feeling forgotten, some were questioning what really mattered to them, a great example of this being commute time.
The Great Resignation
The Great Resignation has been widely reported and has become as common a phrase as pivot. In ‘McKinsey Quarterly’ published in September 2021, 40% of employees surveyed reported they would leave their current job in the next 3-6 months. When senior executives were asked why their people had quit, they cited compensation, work-life balance and poor physical or emotional health. Whilst these were factors that mattered for employees, the top three were, 54% didn’t feel valued by their organisation, 52% didn’t feel valued by their manager and 51% didn’t feel a sense of belonging. Imagine the difference in results if those interviewed worked in a culture that embraced a growth mindset, if they had insight to the responses to the seven questions, I posed to you above.
When was the last time you reflected on what really matters to you?
How aligned are your actions to your thoughts?
How have experiences in your life changed what matters to you now, how does this impact the way that you show up in your life today?
If you are someone who strives to experience life in a Growth mindset, accept that it’s a lifelong commitment of self-discovery and learning. It’s about personal permission to make mistakes and see them as a chance to create change in our lives. Every day is an opportunity to embrace ‘not yet’ and live in alignment with what matters to us. I like to call this wholehearted living, it’s both courageous and liberating.
If you are a Leader, when was the last time you sat with your team members and asked them for feedback about how it feels to be led by you? If you are actively doing this, brilliant! The more, we seek feedback the richer we are as leaders to grow healthy and thriving cultures. If the idea of this sends a cold shiver down your back, what do you fear?
I invite you to open a conversation to understand their hopes and dreams, I don’t mean the next job, I mean the things that they would love to achieve in their lifetime. What impact do you think that this would have on the relationship that you have with them?
How aligned are your own personal values to the values of the organisation? I’m sure if I asked you right now, you’d find it really easy to reel off 3 or 4 things, don’t stop there go deeper, and then ask yourself WHY they matter to you. What do you discover about yourself?
Imagine the impact that this could have on your team if you were to each complete this exercise and you created a set of shared values as a team? Creating time and space to really get to know each other brings a whole new dimension to team dynamics and when the going gets tough, having a set of shared values is a powerful way to re-connect. And whilst in a Growth mindset we are comfortable with ‘not yet’ what is often observed is business results improve exponentially as a result of individuals feeling valued by the organisation, their manager and they have a deep sense of belonging.
If the vision you have created is appealing, here’s a hard truth. No-one is coming to do the hard work for you, and just like my ‘when xxx happens’ reason, the next hard truth is that you can always use intellect to find a reason not to.
You might be thinking that I’m up for it, but this is too big a step for the whole of the organisation, how about you re-frame this to ‘not yet’ and you give your attention to focus on just your team, your own circle of influence.
Start by going back to my seven questions and get real with yourself and your team. If you are stuck in a Fixed mindset your intellect will always provide you with plenty of evidence of to support, no change. Only you can choose to change it.
Personal development and living wholeheartedly are a choice, and in the words of Winston Churchill ‘Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It’s the courage to continue that counts’.
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