Growth Mindset in the workplace

by Nov 26, 2018Workplace0 comments

Cultivating a growth mindset has the power to positively impact many areas of our lives, especially our workplace performance. When we value learning and continually seek growth opportunities, we can meaningfully contribute to organisational goals and advance our own career trajectory.

The idea of growth and fixed mindsets have been studied extensively by Stanford University psychologist, Carol Dweck, and popularised by her best selling book and talks.


In her best selling book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck uses the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset to describe the underlying beliefs we have about our intelligence and learning potential.

Dweck writes in Mindset, “In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.”
“In a growth mindset, people believe their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work – brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”

Key attributes of the Growth Mindset:

Passion for learning

In the workplace, those who value learning and chase opportunities to expand their knowledge will outperform their fixed mindset peers who stick to what they know.


Learn from failures and setbacks

A growth mindset isn’t weighed down or distracted by setbacks. Instead, it’s an opportunity to learn from mistakes and apply new knowledge to the next experience or project. Failure is seen as a vehicle for improvement, not a reason to give up.
Even the most growth-focused of us can be tempted to slip into a fixed mindset during tough challenges. Tune out internal doubts and negative self-chatter, and instead reinforce positive statements to stay focused and on track.

Dedicated to go the extra mile

A ‘natural’ presenter may rely too heavily on her talents and choose to wing an important presentation rather than putting in the groundwork. On the other hand, someone with a growth mindset, while perhaps lacking a natural ability for presenting, will go the extra mile to make sure he’s done the hard prep work.
He sees it as an opportunity to push himself and break new ground in his professional development rather than stay safe in his comfort zone.

Inspired, not threatened by the success of others

Harbouring resentment and envy about the success of a colleague is fixed mindset thinking. Pouring energy into these types of emotions is mentally draining, distracting and can cause seriously fractured workplace relations.
The success of others actually inspires people who cultivate a growth mindset. They don’t get caught up thinking that other people’s success means they can’t succeed or that everything is a once in a lifetime opportunity. They operate from an attitude of abundance, not lack. They’ll also share knowledge and help teammates reach their highest potential.

Strives for challenges, not just success

Those with a fixed mindset are more concerned with proving how smart they already are and protecting their image at all costs. They usually strive for success in the realms of what they already know. Those with a growth mindset on the other hand, strive to be smarter and are open to showing vulnerability while learning new things.
Someone with a fixed mindset may recoil from a challenge, seeing it as a potential threat to their intelligence and current competency. What if they fail, look silly or feel like they’ve lost? Someone with a growth mindset will instead welcome the challenge and see it as an opportunity to learn something new and upgrade skills, regardless of whether the outcome is ‘successful.’


We’ve got a few actions you can take as a leader to begin to tackle fixed mindsets and encourage your team to grow.

Set learning goals, not just performance goals

How you set goals for your team can help to encourage a growth mindset.
Performance-based goals are the norm for many organisations and while these goals can fuel achievement, leaders should also include learning based goals in the mix.
Why? Performance-based goals are an idealistic view of current abilities and employees may play it safe and commit to completing job tasks at a level they know they can achieve.
Learning goals, on the other hand, place emphasis on knowledge and skill acquisition as the foundation for achieving higher levels of performance. Cultivating an individual’s growth mindset means challenging them to step into new learning opportunities rather than achieving more success in areas they are already competent.

Hire from within

Carol Dwek points out, in this article from the Harvard Business Review, that organisations who foster growth mindsets usually hire from within their ranks while fixed-mindset organisations will look for outsiders.
Instead of seeking an outside hire with the ‘right’ credentials and past experience, look within your current team. Who has proven they’re capable, enthusiastic and collaborative learners, even if they lack the degree or previous accomplishments?
Promoting these types of people creates a ripple effect when it comes to cultivating growth mindset throughout the organisation.

Provide strong opportunities for professional development

Actively pursuing professional development ensures your team’s knowledge and skills stay relevant and up to date.
Rapidly changing trends, especially in tech, mean it’s more important than ever to cultivate a willingness to adapt quickly in evolving workplace environments. A report by McKinsey Global Institute found that by 2030, in 60 percent of occupations, at least one-third of the constituent activities could be automated, implying substantial workplace transformations and changes for all workers.  
Professional development opens us up to new possibilities, knowledge and skill areas. The opportunity to learn in different ways leads to enthusiasm and inspiration in day to day work activities and initiatives.

Harness the power of ‘Yet’

‘Yet’ is a powerful word, the cornerstone of a growth mindset and a simple reminder to continue to persevere.
Dweck points out how using the word ‘yet’ promotes the idea that while some things seem challenging now, through continual learning and development, they can be accomplished.
Encourage your team to harness the power of ‘Yet’
I’m not good at client presentations…..yet
I haven’t figured out this new technology…yet
I’m don’t have a strong grasp of budgets and projections…..yet
‘Yet’ says that where we are now isn’t where we’ll be forever. Continual learning and development is the vehicle to take us from our current abilities to where we want to be.

Do you have any tips for encouraging a growth mindset in the workplace? We’d love to hear them in the comments!