How is success measured in your organization? Is it all about the results you achieve? Or is about the effort that you make?
If your workplace is like most, chances are it's the results that matter most. After all the ability to successfully deliver outcomes -- be it growth and profit, student results or community benefits -- is the point of nearly every organization.
But what if focusing primarily on results was undermining the very success your workplace was trying so hard to achieve?
Professor Carol Dweck at Stanford University has found that when it comes to achieving success, more important than believing in our abilities is the belief that we can improve upon our abilities. While much has been written about how these beliefs shape our individual success and wellbeing, her latest research suggests that these beliefs also exist within our organizations, and shape our ability to create innovative, risk-taking cultures and have happier employees.
You see when organizations only measure us by our outcomes, Dweck suggests that this creates a "fixed mindset" culture, where being smart and talented is prized above all other behaviors. When we're worried that the outcome is all that matters, it seems we'll do whatever it takes to deliver a result including hoarding resources (even from our team mates), lying to our colleagues and clients and blaming others when things don't go right. But perhaps the biggest risk in these cultures is that we tend to ignore, avoid, or abandon the potentially valuable learning opportunities that enable growth and innovation.
- 47% likelier to say that their colleagues are trustworthy,
- They tell growth mindset stories: They tune into the stories their teams are telling about why things are happening and what might happen next. When the thoughts, feelings and actions shaped by these stories are only fixated on outcomes that are undermining people's confidence, they respectfully challenge them by asking: "Is that true? Is it the only explanation?" and seek out equally believable alternatives that are focused on effort, learning and growth.
- They don't fear feedback or failure: They openly ask for feedback on how they and their team are doing and frame these as learning opportunities for growth and development. They also own and share their mistakes, rather than pretending they are not happening, sweeping them under the rug or blaming others. You should have seen the shock on my team's faces when I started sharing "my screw up of the week" at our weekly meetings, and invited them to do the same if they wanted.
- Finally they reward effort not outcomes: They give feedback and show appreciation for the efforts and learning they can see unfolding, rather than just the outcomes being achieved. They present skills as learnable, invest in development coaching and create cultures of self-examination, open communication and teamwork.
And if your manager isn't ready for these steps yet, perhaps you can find ways to practice some of these growth mindset actions for yourself. There's nothing stopping you challenging the stories you tell, celebrating your screw up of the week or rewarding your own efforts - without ever having to tell your manager you're redefining the goals for your own success. I know it sounds counter-intuitive but the moment I started focusing on my own goals for growth, it made achieving my manager's required outcomes much easier.
Now if you're reading this and feeling that you've got this growth mindset thing all covered, then I'm going to respectfully suggest that perhaps not very growth mindset. So if there were one action you could take to cultivate more of a growth mindset today for yourself or your team, where would you start?