At the end of last year, I wrote a blog post that encouraged business leaders to head into 2018 committed to have several important conversations, among them the topic of workplace excellence (click here). At Trilix, we believe all organizations need to be on a purpose-driven, unending journey towards betterment, uniquely melding together sound operations and vibrant culture to help their business reach desired goals.

Let’s dive a bit deeper into one of the fundamental psychological reasons achieving workplace excellence can be so complicated—the fixed and growth mindset.

As business leaders, we are required to be innovative, transformative and industry-leading. But the reality is that it’s challenging and often impossible! Some of us are hardwired for this new reality and many are not. We lead teams that are stuck in the past, embrace the status quo and resist change at all costs. When it comes down to it, our personal mindset will dictate our degree of success.

But how do we know if we have the preternatural ability to drive innovation, transformation and change? How do we know if our teams have an appetite to lean towards change or not?

There are many helpful personality assessments (from Myers-Briggs to Social styles to Disc) that can help business leaders get a firmer grasp on their dispositions. But one of my favorites has always been the psychological framework by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, author of the must-read book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.” Her research found that people embrace one of two mind types: fixed or growth.

  • Fixed Mindset: Those with a fixed mindset believe their intelligence, character and creative ability is static, or given. They are more focused on documenting their talents and maintaining the status quo than evolving.
  • Growth Mindset: Those with a growth mindset, conversely, believe their intelligence, character and creative ability can be developed over time. They are fueled to evolve, push their limits and stretch creatively.

(This infographic does a nice job of distilling down each further)

In the old world industrial economy, a fixed mindset was your ticket to success. We needed to be rigid in our thinking, blindly follow orders and execute highly repetitive tasks. But we are in a new world of advanced economies that mandates a growth mindset. Today, we need to be open, flexible and agile.

Fixed Mindset

Have you ever worked with someone whose default answer is, “That’s not part of my job, and I don’t know how to do it.” Or someone who determines whether they will say “yes” to a new work responsibility simply based on whether the outcome will reinforce the talents they believe to have or challenge/expose limitation?

We all know someone who has a fixed mindset; it might even be ourselves! These are the people who are resistive to change, comfortable with the world they know and focused on mining the base—or doing what they have always done well for years. In the workplace, however, this type of mindset can result in this individual:

  • Handling criticism ungraciously
  • Seeing the glass as half empty
  • Viewing the world as black and white
  • Avoiding conversations that could lead to negative feedback
  • Dwelling on their limitations rather than their possibilities

As a result, they may never live up to their full potential, instead opting for complacency and comfort. Dweck writes, “Believing that your qualities are carved in stone—the fixed mindset—creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over.”

Growth Mindset

Conversely, those with a growth mindset believe they can improve or change their behaviors, attitudes, characteristics and qualities over time. People with a growth mindset typically:

  • Try new things
  • Remain positive
  • Embrace change
  • Seek to be challenged
  • Strive to learn
  • View challenges as opportunities
  • Don’t need to be confident; they become confident

They constantly strive for ever-greater levels of success, performance and achievement. At the heart of the growth mindset is a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval.

Workplace Excellence and the Growth Mindset

Perhaps not all that surprisingly, organizations with leaders who embrace a growth mindset are more likely to reach a heightened level of workplace excellence, simply because at their core they are not just OK with change, rather they seek it out.

How does this play out in the day-to-day? Consider someone with a growth mindset who runs operations within an organization They will likely:

  • Scoff at the phrase “It’s the way we have always done it” in favor of “How can we make this process better?”
  • Notice the lack of user adoption with a new technology rollout and immediately want to get to the root of why versus focused on the belief that it must just be the employees
  • Call out organizational waste (e.g. redundancies, bottlenecks, process breakdowns, etc.) just for what it is—waste.
  • Usher in change (e.g. automation, systems integration, application development, etc.) to combat problems head on.
  • Believe that all team members can be stretched strategically, creatively and operationally—searching for ways to evolve roles and get team members away from manual work

In 2009, Dweck was interviewed by Forbes and asked whether folks more disposed to a fixed mindset can evolve towards growth. Fortunately, she believes they can (more on that here). Though I agree with Dweck that anyone can adjust their perspective and mind space, this is HARD. (I will explore this further in a subsequent blog post).

When we look at the big rocks we must tackle in the coming year—improving business operations, investing in the right technologies, strengthening corporate culture—keep in mind that we can only do so if we approach our challenges with the fundamental belief that everything can always get better. We must fiercely believe that we have the skills, perspectives, experiences and mindset to get our teams there.

So, are you up for the challenge? If your response is “yes” then you are tapping into that growth mindset and taking a critical step forward towards building that workplace excellence.

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