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The importance of a growth mindset to development

Companies spent an average of $1,286 per learner in 2019. This indicates that organizations recognize the importance of investing in the learning and development (L&D) of their workforce. 

However, the success of any development program relies heavily on the mindset of your employees, which can determine how well they engage with your L&D initiatives, how much progress they make, and more. 

In this post, we’ll explain what a growth mindset is and why it’s foundational to your development programs.

What is a growth mindset? 

The concept of a growth mindset was first popularized by Dr. Carol Dweck. She defined a growth mindset as the belief that intelligence, skills, and abilities are fluid and can be improved. In contrast, a fixed mindset is the belief that intelligence, skills, and abilities are fixed and can’t change. 

We’ll explore a few examples to understand the differences between the two.

Let’s imagine that an employee with a fixed mindset was promoted to a managerial role for the first time. While he was a great individual contributor, he’s understandably struggling to adjust to the additional responsibilities that come with being a manager. Instead of recognizing that this is part of the transition process, he gets discouraged. To avoid feeling like a failure, he refuses to ask for help and shirks any responsibilities that he doesn’t naturally excel at. As a result, he sees little to no progress with his managerial skills.

Now let’s imagine the same example. But this time, with an employee who has a growth mindset. While this individual is facing the same challenges as the person with the fixed mindset, she views the transition period very differently. Instead of shying away from obstacles, she views this as an opportunity to learn and isn’t afraid to ask for help from more experienced colleagues. In a few short months, she sees huge improvements and is one of the top-performing managers in her department. 

Why a growth mindset is foundational to your development programs

1. Emphasizes progress over perfection 

Effective development happens when employees are stretched slightly outside of their comfort zones. This means having goals that are challenging to achieve but are obtainable with a bit of effort.  

People with a fixed mindset feel very uncomfortable in this space because they expect to get everything right on the first try. As you might expect, this can hinder progress since employees will become easily discouraged when they’re not ‘naturally’ talented at something. 

On the other hand, people with a growth mindset thrive when they’re stretched beyond their current capabilities. They understand that it takes effort and hard work to see improvements, so they focus on incremental progress and the journey. This is a much more sustainable and conducive approach to growth.

2. Develops resilience 

An employee’s mindset can also determine their reaction to obstacles. People with a fixed mindset are likely to think: “I can’t overcome this challenge because I’m not smart enough.” Compare this to the reaction of someone with a growth mindset, which is more likely to be along the lines of: “I can learn from this setback and do better next time.”

The type of resilience that comes with a growth mindset is key to achieving personal and professional growth. Why? It lets employees practice compassion and patience with themselves, even when they face setbacks – not to mention it also encourages openness to learn from mistakes. 

3. Makes the learning process fun

People with a fixed mindset are under constant stress to perform at the highest levels, be perceived as smart, and constantly achieve. They’re fearful of losing their ‘status’ as a high performer, which can lead to:

  • Fear of failure
  • Refusal to challenge oneself 
  • Hesitance to learn new things or admit mistakes

On the other hand, someone with a growth mindset views the learning process as the best part. They enjoy the struggle and don’t mind being bad at something in the beginning because they know they’ll progress with hard work. 

When development is stressful for employees, they’re much less likely to engage in those programs or make an effort. That’s why it’s so important to cultivate a growth mindset for employees to help them find success in their personal and professional development. 

How to help your employees discover a growth mindset 

So how can companies encourage more of their workforce to adopt a growth mindset? No matter where your employees are in their journey, there’s always room to improve. Here are a few resources your organization can provide to help. 

Invest in education 

The first step to overcoming a fixed mindset is to understand the problem and have the strategies, tools, and knowledge in place to take action. That’s why we encourage companies to introduce resources that can educate employees about the importance of mindset and the impact it can have on their goals. For instance, you can: 

  • Hire an external expert to give a training on the power of a growth mindset
  • Host an Ask Me Anything with anyone on the leadership team who wants to share personal struggles or triumphs with both mindsets
  • Offer a small budget so employees can take courses or attend virtual events related to this topic

Offer mentoring and coaching

It can be challenging for employees to overcome a fixed mindset on their own. Mentoring and leadership coaching are great ways to offer your workers the one-on-one support they need to develop a growth mindset.

These relationships are powerful because they can help employees identify fixed mindset responses, provide guidance on how to override their initial response with a more growth-oriented one, and stay motivated while developing this skill. If you use a mentoring and coaching platform, your employees will even be able to keep track of their progress in this specific area of development. 

Create a support network 

Your employees may feel like they’re the only ones struggling with the problems that come with a fixed mindset, but that’s likely untrue! Everyone, even very growth-oriented people, can struggle to approach every situation with the right mindset. 

That’s why it may be helpful to create a community for employees to discuss their progress, share advice, or hold each other accountable. This can take the form of Slack communities, virtual groups that meet every month, or regularly facilitated conversations. People will feel much more inspired to continue their pursuit of a growth mindset when they realize they’re not on the path alone. 

When your employees adopt a growth mindset, they’re more likely to see progress with their development. Make sure to set your workforce up for success by providing them with the resources they need to approach their journey with the right attitude. To learn how Torch can help your employees with their personal and professional development, request a demo