Mindset is crucial for success. We often come across individuals with different mindsets, whether in a workplace or academic environment. We have different mindsets, and this continues to shape our individualities and also how we approach situations.
Have you ever wondered why some young individuals seem to grow exponentially and flourish in their field of endeavour? While another category of individuals are stuck at their current state for a long time with little or no growth? Studies suggest that the mindset could be at play. Research also shows that to be a lynchpin in your area of specialisation, you need to have a growth mindset. This mindset will help you approach every event or activity as if they were new to you, which would assist in opening your mind towards learning something new and accepting that you might not know what you do not know. Having a growth mindset helps keep our minds alive as we continually seek out new ways to learn new things, whether in a work or academic setting. Individuals with a gift mindset are generally those whose minds are closed to learning new things and do believe they already know it all. They have so much confidence in their skills, qualification, and talent that they think there is nothing new to learn. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, it limits us to believe we are in our best shape, and our activities, contributions or decisions are already based on best practices. While this might be an ideal way of dealing with situations or the right way to go, the danger is that it shuts our minds from accepting feedbacks and exploring new possibilities and ideas.
Have you always imagined a mentor or role model and thought the individual was successful by relying only on his innate abilities? Did you marvel at some of their skills or trait, believing they were born with these skills or traits? Granted, their natural abilities or skills might have influenced some growths; however, most successful professionals do not make it to the top, relying solely on their natural abilities. What you do not see or know is the amount of additional effort they put into their work and practice to stand out amongst their colleagues and peers. They understand that it is challenging to rise to the top by relying solely on their natural gifts or abilities. They also understand that it takes a tremendous amount of time, effort, consistency, commitment, and hard work in addition to their natural abilities to achieve the level of greatness they desire. When we encounter difficulties and challenges, if you have a learning mindset, you know that you will overcome and win with persistence, effort, and openness to learning. Individuals who believe they cannot overcome challenges and difficulties in this manner, even though they are highly talented, suppose there is a limit to their talents. Once they reach that limit, further effort is useless. These are people with Dweck’s definition of a fixed mindset
I will share a story of two individuals I met in a professional setting a couple of years ago. For this illustration, we will call them Zac and Luka. Zac completed his bachelor’s in engineering from a top ten University in North America. Zac has always been a distinction grade student. His colleagues and peers knew him as a nerd, particularly for his academic achievements. Zac was an all-A student; anything short of this will hurt Zac. He worked hard to ensure his scores did not drop below the distinction grade.
Zac thankfully secured his first job a couple of months after he completed his university degree. It was an easy pick for the employer who noticed his academic credentials and wanted to have the talent to be part of their growing team. Zac fit the bill perfectly since the organisation was mainly known for hiring top talents who have distinguished themselves through fine academic performances. A few weeks into his new role, Zac was assigned a project with nine other team members, including a team manager.
During a problem-solving session with the team, Zac would occasionally volunteer and respond to the questions asked by the team manager. Some of his answers were valid, while the others were incorrect and were sometimes countered by the rest of the team members. Zac did not like this situation, as he was too used to getting all his ideas adopted. He thought the team must adopt any answer or idea he suggested. After the meeting, Zac would become furious about why his suggestions were not adopted at the team meeting. He would occasionally meet with the team manager to ask why his recommendations were not adopted. The team manager would happily provide him with feedback that the strategies he proposed were great; however, there were suggested better strategies that would enhance the team’s performance and the project deliverables. Zac occasionally felt disgruntled by this feedback, as he believed his suggestions or ideas were always superior and should always be adopted. Zac would be agitated and often portrayed an unhappy outlook, and colleagues often noticed this.
During the mid-year performance review, Zac’s line manager would invite Zac for a one-on-one meeting. During these meetings, Zac’s manager would review Zac’s performances and provide specific feedback on how Zac could improve his performance both as an individual and in teams for the benefit of the organisation. Zac would act in a defensive manner and often did not agree with the feedback and improvement strategies laid out by his manager. Zac had a firm opinion and would always defend himself, as well as his methods and techniques. Zac does not particularly enjoy feedbacks from colleagues and managers. He would inform his line manager that he believed he was doing the right thing and was helping the organisation grow. Zac would also not adopt the learning and development plans or pathways that his line manager has set out to help him succeed. He believed his academic credentials and accomplishments were tremendous and proof of his mental and professional abilities. All that mattered to him was that he did very well in college, graduating top of his class with flying colours; therefore, there was no need to continually use his manager’s feedback to improve himself and his skills.
Luka, another member of Zac’s group, behaves slightly differently. Luka had great academic results from college, although Zac’s academic reports were superior. Luka always assumed he was average, so he worked hard to ensure he did not fall short of his academic expectations. All that mattered to Luka was to continually upgrade his skills and develop himself based on research and feedback. Luka was a great team member, and his colleagues loved working with him. During team meetings, Luka would offer suggestions and provide answers to the best of his abilities. It did not matter to Luka if the team did not adopt his suggestions or ideas. All he cared about was to assist the team by responding to questions and offering advice to implement projects. He would gladly accept the feedback offered by his Team Lead and other colleagues on his work, and he would utilise this feedback to improve his skills and performance.
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During the mid-year performance review, Luka was provided with an overall assessment of his work performance. Interestingly, Luka thought he was not a great employee as he either rated himself low or average on areas where his manager rated him otherwise. Luka’s manager was highly impressed with Luka’s overall performance and only offered areas of improvement in a few areas. Luka accepted this feedback and designed his developmental plan to address these gaps.
One year later, Luka was promoted twice to a more senior role. He was now Zac’s senior. Although the position was internally advertised, the hiring manager found it convenient to promote Luka over Zac. The leadership team believed Luka was teachable and open to learning. In addition, he accepted feedback, acknowledged his weaknesses and was constantly developing himself. Zac, on the other hand, had limited growth in his career due to his gift mindset. He remained in the same role for years because he believed in his innate or gift abilities. He did not leave his comfort zone to learn new skills or accept new challenges. He was not a great team player and was open to learning. His colleagues preferred not to run ideas by him, as they thought he was not open to suggestions and feedback.
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Professionals with a growth mindset are a pleasure to work with both in a formal and informal setting. They are great team leaders, managers, mentors, peers, and subordinates at work. They accept that they might be wrong and are always open to listening to others and receiving positive feedback to improve themselves. These individuals learn from their mistakes daily and practice continuous professional improvement as they routinely check their mindset and actions against what is expected. They are quick to change their views if their arguments are weak, accept that their ideas or approaches are inadequate and are always open to learning.
When you focus on the good, the good gets better
On the other hand, professionals with a gift mindset are not as great to work within academic or professional settings. They are not great managers of teams, and neither are they the colleagues, peers and teammates you would desire to work with. They are not quick to accept there might be flaws in the ideas. They have confidence in their ideas, approach and strategies and believe they know everything they need to know. They are unwilling to accept new ideas or change their way of thinking even if evidence suggests their approach is wrong.
As professionals, we have so much greatness and power within us, and we can achieve anything we set out to achieve if we believe in ourselves as evolving individuals. We have the power to develop further the skills and abilities we think are fixed or innate. We must imbibe the growth mindset to advance and continue to be the best we can be in our education, work, career, and day-to-day lives. We need to believe that our natural abilities can be further developed and reshaped to help us get better and brighter at any endeavour by investing a tremendous amount of time and effort through constant practice. We must shift away from the gift mindset, which undermines our personality by believing that our abilities and skillsets are fixed.
In summary, to advance your career and be the professional you want to be. It would be best if you imbibed a growth mindset. You must accept that there is power in knowing what you do not know, and every feedback can be used to further improve your natural abilities and skills. You need to accept challenges as opportunities for growth and look for positive clues or lessons for tangible gains. Individuals or professionals with a gift mindset believe that their skills and qualities are constant variables, which can lead to personal, academic or career regression or stagnation. A growth mindset is based on the notion that qualities are developed through your efforts, commitment, and time you devote yourself.
We have the power to develop further the skills and abilities we think are fixed or innate.
Set out to develop a growth mindset today and be the best you can be. This new change might be a challenging step; however, this will make you a better person and help you achieve your goals by giving you the confidence you need. A growth mindset sees failure not as a failure or setback but as a catalyst or indicator for success. All that matters is not how skilled or great you are in your career but how good you want to be. A growth mentality is a mechanism for career success. Individuals with a growth mindset generally have a positive and winning outlook. They will continue to be the leaders and change-makers whom colleagues, peers and managers can trust for the leadership and motivation needed to inspire the team and achieve their goals.
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We can achieve a growth mindset by discussing setting and achieving learning and developmental goals. Setting goals is paramount to achieving them and an individual with a growth mindset will always seek out ways to achieve his or her goals using a defined plan of action over time. It’s also essential that individuals vary their approaches and question their thoughts and ideas. As much as possible, do not rest on best practices or the usual way of doing something, instead vary your approach and remain open and be approachable to new ideas. Seek out the positive aspect of feedback and use this to improve yourself. You have nothing to lose; if the feedback is great, it will improve you. If you think the feedback is not helpful, you move on; either way, you learn from it. Remember to understand and embrace your weaknesses; knowing where the gaps are can potentially motivate you to improve yourself.