Recently in Business Week What’s Your Leadership Mindset?
“Those with growth mindsets believe they can get better at what they do, that they have reservoirs of untapped potential. They realize that promise by working hard and making incremental improvements over time, whether they are athletes, or writers, or surgeons.
Those with fixed mindsets, however, believe they can only go as far as their natural abilities will take them. They think talent, rather than hard work, is the fundamental component of success. They are often scared to challenge themselves because they are terribly afraid of failure—which, in their minds, is an indictment of their abilities rather than an opportunity to learn and do better next time. “
Maintaining a growth mindset is a difficult thing over a long career. It is hard work to always be on the lookout for the next thing to learn about and to figure out how to apply it to improve what you do. Sometimes picking the wrong “new thing” can make you look pretty silly in the long run – however you will learn something from it anyway. I do wonder about the applicability of twitter for instance. I see it as a pretty good marketing tool, but people have to want to follow you and your message. It’s actually pretty easy to get people to unfollow you if they don’t like something that you tweet. In fact there are all sorts of tools you can use to see who stopped following you. But, I digress.
It is easy after doing a job for a few years to sit back and rest, and stop being hungry. I know that I’ve had that happen to me a few times. I recognize it, but it is oh so difficult to do anything about it. Typically I’ve found that a large change will reenergize me and get me learning and growing again. Sometimes this means learning and growing at work, sometimes it means learning and growing outside of work. New companies and new jobs are great for ramping up that growth. It can be scary to make a leap like that for some people, but frankly I enjoy it a lot. Those first few months are my favorite. Getting to know all the players, understanding the technology, figuring out where the problems are as well as the opportunities. It is a lot harder once you are entrenched in an organization to keep up the growth mindset. This typically involves challenging the people, the existing processes, and sometimes even the culture. Depending on the organization and your role in it, that can be a losing battle. In those cases you’re better of working on an incremental approach. What little thing can you do that makes things better? Ok – did someone else notice this and appreciate it? Good. What’s the next little thing you can do? Repeat. Also, don’t forget to keep delivering on what you’re supposed to do in the first place. Sometimes the incremental approach isn’t appreciated though. That is unfortunate.
One aspect of the quote above that I really liked was that failure should be seen as an opportunity to learn and do better next time. I actually try not to even use the word failure. I call those episodes – “learning experiences”. I think that anyone who has tried something new or difficult has had one or two of them. I know that I have. With every one that I have I find that I bounce back faster than the last. I prefer to stand up and dust myself off and say “well, I didn’t expect THAT to happen! I guess I need to be careful of it next time!” Into the mental file cabinet it goes.