The Idea: Over the last thirty years of assessing the mindset of top performers, I am convinced more than ever before that the best in every industry possess a growth mindset. What separates the good from the great is clear: they embrace personal growth. Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University has “mainstreamed” the idea of cultivating a growth mindset while minimizing the risks associated with a fixed or a limited mindset. People who willingly accept a growth mindset reconsider what personal failure and challenge means to them. What else do they believe?
People with a fixed mindset believe their skills, talents and intelligence are static or fixed. In other words you are born with it. This leads to a life of not welcoming self-development. They also believe that skills, not effort, drives success. Leaders with a fixed mindset avoid challenges and have a tendency to get defensive and discouraged very quickly. It is a very limiting belief pattern that hinders performance.
In a growth mindset, people believe effort – accompanied in part with talent – is the blueprint for growth. They are learners; they are coachable; they are very tenacious.
They believe challenges must be embraced and are an opportunity for growth. When hitting a challenge, they see it as an opportunity for a shift. Dweck’s research has found that almost all high performers possess a growth mindset.
Which attributes distinguish the best from the good?
- Self-Direction. This is the single most powerful differentiator I have noticed in my own research. The top performers don’t need to be told what to do next. They enjoy risking, leading and assessing new opportunities. And when someone does have to remind them, they are very coachable, non-defensive and encourage feedback.
- Resilience. You cannot be right all the time. We all fail and suffer from occasional defeat. People with growth mindsets, accept it, learn from it and move on quickly. They don’t call pity parties and they rarely blame others. They learn from the moment and don’t let these moments define them. They have reframed what “losing” means. The cliché is true: failing opens up the potential to learn.
Carol Dweck reminds us in her book The New Psychology of Success, “We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes that were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.”
The most talented understand that growth is a choice.