Embrace a Growth Mindset Culture: High Expectations Plus Strong Support

In today’s fast-changing business world, having a growth mindset culture is gaining importance. To understand why this matters and how it affects what we expect from our teams, we must first understand what a fixed and a growth mindset are.

Psychologist Carol Dweck laid out these definitions for us in her research. Fundamentally, if you think your abilities are unchangeable, you have a fixed mindset. On the other hand, a growth mindset means you believe you can improve your skills with effort and perseverance. Further, her research shows that people with a fixed mindset are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset.

Mindset and Business Culture

Let’s consider the “genius culture” as a business example of a fixed mindset. In this culture, bosses often rank the employees according to their perceived capabilities. They hire only the “smartest” people and promote only those who succeed (stack rank). I once worked for a company where I was encouraged to keep a list of low performers to fire in a time of need. This culture leads to a harmful environment where some employees feel left out and stuck in their growth.

The downsides of a genius culture are significant. It hampers innovation and makes employees afraid to admit their mistakes or ask for help, which leads to stagnation. The environment becomes rigid, and potential growth is limited. They can become hyper-competitive internally where people purposefully hold back on sharing valuable information with others to guarantee their promotion. It becomes a culture of “me.”

Switch gears to a growth mindset culture and you’ll see a more encouraging environment. Everyone has an equal opportunity to learn, contribute, and succeed. This culture believes in the ability of its employees to learn and adopt new skills. An emphasis on strategy, action, and resilience leads to a continually evolving and strengthening team. Information is shared willingly. Businesses can then strive for ambitious goals, adapt to change, and innovate without fear. This is a culture of “us.”

Concerns on Growth Mindset in Culture

While the growth mindset is hailed for its myriad benefits, it does face some criticism. Misinterpretation and over-emphasis on effort can limit its effectiveness. This mindset might neglect individual limitations and could unfairly shift the burden of shortcomings and failures onto the employee. And, in situations where knowledge and expertise are paramount, you may find a growth mindset approach less effective.

Also, remember the concept of a growth mindset is a long-term strategy. A lack of immediate results can often be misconstrued as ineffectiveness. That can mean that leaders, in their concern, will move back to the genius culture they are more comfortable or familiar with.

Much of the concerns expressed with a growth-oriented culture come from a misunderstanding of the intricacies of different mindsets. It requires an awareness of how the current company’s culture reveals itself to its team members and knowing the gap to a growth-oriented culture. It also takes a strong commitment to a teach-and-learn culture that embraces a view of people as having the potential to excel.

Expectations and Support

Companies with a growth mindset should have high expectations for their employees. But beware that this might fail if the leaders do not match their actions to their words. If the top management only rewards the “natural talents” as they do in a “genius culture,” that undermines the growth mindset culture.

To maintain a growth-oriented culture successfully, companies must foster high expectations alongside significant moral and material support. This means providing not only challenging tasks but also detailed guidance and necessary resources. And most importantly timely and helpful feedback. Companies must invest in building coaching skills, asking questions, and aligning rewards with effort and progress, rather than talent alone.

This approach changes how employees see high expectations. Instead of viewing them as impossible goals, they perceive them as opportunities to improve and grow. When companies equip employees to meet these expectations, they propel the team towards productivity and growth rather than inducing stress.

In brief, when a growth mindset culture is tied to a strong support system. Employees will flourish in environments that mix high expectations and support. Have company values that strongly align with a growth mindset, and cultivate a teach-and-learn environment conducive to employee and business growth, leading your company towards sustainable success.


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