Seeing Success: Why You Should Promote a Growth Mindset in the Workplace

By Ellie Walburg on October 11, 2018

The level of success and happiness you're able to find in your career and personal life is often centered around your perspective. There is power in positive thinking.

Take the difference between a growth and fixed mindset, for example. A previous blog article on this revolutionary thinking explains the important distinction between the two. This blog article shares how maintaining a growth mindset can dramatically benefit your positivity and help you to thrive in life.

But what does a growth mindset have to do with your performance and satisfaction in the workplace?

Here, we share how a growth mindset can dramatically benefit your work environment and equip your team for success.

What is a Growth Mindset?

Aerial view of laptop on a wooden table and hands holding a coffee cup

Before jumping into why a growth mindset is beneficial in the workplace, it's important to know what makes a growth mindset so transformative.

The concept of a growth vs fixed mindset is credited to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck. Her book, "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success," emphasizes the power of our beliefs and how they can dramatically affect our lives.

According to an article by Brain Pickings, Dweck discovered through extensive research that one of our core beliefs is how we carry ourselves and exhibit our personality. This understanding comes through either a fixed or growth mindset

A fixed mindset comes with the understanding that you are unable to change or develop your intelligence or character. Who you are is static and the success you are able to get is confined within that set level of intelligence and character. The fear of failure is strong for those with a fixed mindset as failure suggests a personal flaw in your unchangeable character.

A growth mindset doesn't see intelligence and personality as static. Rather, we have the opportunity to grow, learn and adapt to the situation as new challenges and tasks arrive. There is always the hope of improvement and pursuing success. Failure is seen not as a personal flaw but an opportunity to learn in a tangible way.

Understanding the difference between a fixed and growth mindset can provide you a new perspective in how you view your work and your life.

Growth Mindset in the Workplace

Extending beyond just your own personal goals and aspirations, the decision between a fixed and growth mindset also has dramatic implications in your professional life. Whether a CEO or an entry-level salesman, carrying yourself with a growth mindset can help create a better environment for your team and lead toward success.

A Different Kind of Workplace

Carol Dweck's research has even highlighted the effects that a growth mindset can have in the workplace. Employees in a growth mindset environment tend to work differently than those with a fixed mindset.

In fact, according to an article from Michelle McQuaid, Dweck's research found that employees in a growth mindset workplace are 47% more likely to say their colleagues are trustworthy than those with a fixed mindset. These employees are also 34% more likely to feel a strong commitment to their organization, are 65% more likely to say that their company takes risks and 49% more likely to say that their organization promotes innovation.

McQuaid sums up Dweck's latest research in saying that the growth mindset in the workplace "shapes our ability to create innovative, risk-taking cultures and have happier employees."

Leaders especially have a unique role in fostering this culture of a growth mindset. Rather than seeing success as confined in a box with the team they have, they see greater opportunity. McQuaid describes how, "leaders with a growth mindset see talent and intelligence just as the starting point and are interested in cultivating people's effort and willingness to learn."

So how does a workplace culture transform to take on more of this growth mindset? Here are three simple ways that both leaders and employees can embrace.

1) See Success as More Than Results

Professionals meeting to discuss reports

"This is something I know for a fact: You have to work hardest for the things you love most." —Carol S. Dweck, "Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential"

In an organizational setting, results matter. Sales numbers, revenue updates and analytics are key indicators of success that are not to be ignored. However, when it comes to the work of the employees of the organization, numbers are only part of the story.

When an organization is structured solely based on numerical success, it hinders opportunities for growth and genuine improvement for employees.

An article by Michelle McQuaid mentions the deleterious effects of emphasizing results above all else. "When we're worried that the outcome is all that matters, it seems we'll do whatever it takes to deliver a result."

She continues to note that when we're desperate to succeed in our results, we may be tempted to do things such as hoard resources, lie to clients or teammates or blame others for mistakes. Such behaviors do not contribute to a positive work environment.

In promoting a growth mindset in the workplace, it's important to emphasize measurements of success other than pure results.

McQuaid continues to mention how Dweck found that we work differently when we feel that putting our best foot forward and are willing to learn from our experiences. McQuaid writes, "It seems we're more willing to collaborate with others, to innovate and learn from our successes and our failures and to behave ethically. Perhaps most importantly, we're equipped to deal with setbacks and seek out opportunities for growth and innovation."

When employees are treated as more than resources to fill quotas or voices on a cold call, company culture soars. Create an encouraging environment for employees to learn and grow.

2) Set Learning Goals

"Don't judge. Teach. It's a learning process." —Carol S. Dweck, "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success"

Another key difference between a workplace with a fixed mindset and a growth mindset is in the type of goals that are set. An article by Steffen Maier from CMSWire notes that those with a more fixed mindset tend to set goals that are performance-based. If those numbers aren’t reached, failure can be hinder further progress.

However, in a growth mindset, the goals are more focused on learning. Maier writes that "setting learning goals focuses an employee on taking on new challenges, experimenting, effort and, ultimately, improvement."

Performance-based goals may be necessary for your organization. However, weaving in learning goals encourages your team to gain greater opportunities to develop new skills and experiences.

3) Provide Positive Feedback

"No matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment." —Carol S. Dweck, "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success"

Regardless of what kind of team you're on, receiving constructive criticism can boost your passion for learning. And, providing positive feedback to others contributes to the growth and development of others.

Especially as leaders in organizations, building up your team with constructive criticism can help equip others in the next steps they need to take to continuously improve.

As a leader, provide encouragement and opportunities for improvement in areas that can benefit them as employees and in their professional development. In your feedback, be intentional about what you praise, as well. Comment not only on their natural abilities but also on the effort and determination they put forth in a project or task.

Maier from CMSWire describes how providing the right kind of feedback builds up and contributes to the potential to grow. He suggests to "give feedback based on effort not natural ability. Giving more detailed actionable constructive feedback and sitting down with the employee to find out what the actual problem is will help you know the best way to coach them to success."

And as an employee receiving such feedback, take it as a way to continue to refine and grow in your skills. Don't take genuine constructive criticism as a personal attack to your identity. Rather, use it as guidance in your professional development. A growth mindset provides the framework to use such words to strive for success and satisfaction.

Success Comes From More than Just Numbers

Desks in an open concept office space

Whether you're an entry-level employee or CEO in charge of a lot of people, you can have the power to influence and encourage your company culture by demonstrating a growth mindset.

Promoting a growth mindset empowers employees and leaders to fuel their innovative thinking without fear of not getting it perfect the first time. Employees with a growth mindset are willing to ask questions and find solutions to problems in ways not thought about before.

In the journey of continuous improvement, demonstrating a growth mindset can be contagious in promoting a positive organizational culture.

More Resources for Professional Growth

Looking for more opportunities to grow in your career? Check out our free e-book, 7 Ways to Start Climbing the Organizational Ladder Today. You'll learn how to take charge of your career, find the right mentor, show your value and take the next step in growing your career.

Category: Leadership