A Successful Mindset

Hannah was reviewing her two new hires with her boss prior to formalizing their first performance reviews. Greg had a much more distinguished record. He went to a prestigious school with a high GPA. Cassie went to a land grant school and also had a high GPA. Both had shown promise, but Hannah was concerned about Greg.

What concerned Hannah wasn’t hard to pin down, but she could recall conversations she had with him about his work. He would often use phrases like “whatever”, “it is what it is”, “not my thing”, and “too much for me”. When she described her concerns to her boss, he responded by saying, “It sounds like Greg has a fixed mindset.

Hannah:               What’s a fixed mindset?

Boss:                     It’s when you believe you abilities are fixed traits and can’t be changed. That’s in contrast to a growth mindset, where you believe you can learn what is needed to be successful.

Hannah:               That seems to describe Greg very well. I would have never expected that given his educational background. I wonder how someone becomes trapped into a fixed mindset.

Boss:                     I just read about that. In a number of scientific experiments, researchers have found that when children are labeled as they are growing up, they begin to develop a fixed mindset. I’m betting that Greg was labeled as a being smart as a young child and that started him thinking in a way that his abilities were fixed, and things that didn’t come easy to him were out of his control.

Hannah:               Wow! I never realized that labels can become so life affirming. How do the researchers suggest we avoid creating a fixed mindset?

Boss:                     It’s something I’ve started doing. Don’t praise the outcome. Praise the process. When we reach a milestone, I talk little about the milestone itself but the effort it took to achieve the milestone.

Hannah:               This conversation has really changed my thinking about how I manage. What can I do to create a growth mindset in my employees?

Boss:                     That’s also something I’m trying to do. Here’s what the research has found to be effective:

  • Focus on process to achieve results rather than outcomes – This means that you do a lot of reflection on how you do your work rather than just an outcome.
  • Think of struggles as plateaus when you’re climbing a mountain – You need to find a resting place before you take on the next phase. That helps overcome the defeated attitude of a fixed mind.
  • Look at challenges as opportunities – Don’t ever shy away from taking on a task where you are initially uncomfortable.
  • Eliminate negative thinking – When faced with doubts, always ask yourself, “When have I failed?” You’ll realize that you rarely fail and when you do, you end up learning from your failure.

Hannah:               I’m so glad we had this conversation. I can tell already that I’m confident I can impact mindsets of my employees because you’ve changed mine.


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“Successful people don’t have fewer problems than unsuccessful people; they just have a different mindset in dealing with them.” – John Maxwell (Leadership Author)


How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.