One of the most powerful things you can do if you want to run a successful business is to develop a growth mindset—and cultivate that growth mindset in your team.

You’re probably familiar with the term. It’s just what it sounds like. A way of thinking that leads to things growing, instead of being stuck.
A growth mindset is understanding that your abilities and intelligence can grow through hard work.

Let’s break it down some more with the help of Dr. Carol Dweck who coined the terms “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset” over 30 years ago.

A fixed mindset is when you believe that the way things are now is the way they always have to be. It’s believing that you have a certain level of talent, a certain level of intelligence, a certain level of capability, and you can’t grow beyond that. It is what it is.

A growth mindset believes that when you make mistakes, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed, you’re done, it’s over. It just means you have an opportunity to process those mistakes, learn from them, correct them, and continue on the path to achieving your dreams.

I highly recommend this 10-minute video from Dr. Dweck. She’s brilliant and funny, and I’ll highlight a few things she said here.

She talks about kids in school and how good teachers (like a good boss) can help them reframe failure. She shares the story of a grading scale in one school that, instead of giving failing grades to students, gives them the grade of “not yet.”

I love that.

You didn’t fail; you just haven’t achieved success quite yet. (This concept is similar to what I’ve long talked about—failing fast, forward and frequently. See this post and this one for more.)

“You failed” signifies that it’s over, the end of the road. “Not yet” is encouragement to keep going.

She says of students with a fixed mindset: “Instead of the power of yet, they were gripped by the tyranny of now.”

How many of us have fallen into that trap?

She goes on to talk about the workplace. “Many employers are coming to me and saying we’ve already created a generation of young workers who can’t get through the day without an award.”

Listen up, business owners/CEOs/bosses. Praising your team is vitally important. You want to build them up, let them know they’re doing great, give positive feedback.

But be smart about it.

Don’t just praise your employees’ talents and intelligence and results. Praise them for the process. Praise them for their hard work. Praise them for their perseverance, for stepping out of their comfort zone, for sticking with something really hard, for failing fast, forward and frequently.

When you do this, you’re encouraging a growth mindset. You’re letting them know that you believe in their ability to grow their abilities.

“The growth mindset transforms the meaning of effort and difficulty,” Dr. Dweck says.

When you’re just starting out as a business owner, don’t just stick with what comes easily to you. Believe that you can grow in any area you want to grow in, just by putting your mind to it and not giving up.

Hard work makes all the difference in the world. If you’re willing to put in that work, you can achieve anything.

I’m a living, breathing example of that.

This is a good article that talks about the growth mindset in more detail. It’s got some great information about how our brains work, if you like that sort of thing. (I do!)

I think about how many of us were told as kids that we just weren’t smart or we wouldn’t amount to much. That’s a really difficult mindset to overcome. When you think you’re not smart, gifted, talented, creative, whatever - then you’re just not going to try. Why bother, right?

From the article: “When students believe they can get smarter, they understand that effort makes them stronger. Therefore they put in extra time and effort, and that leads to higher achievement.”

As business owners, we want that extra time, effort, and achievement from our employees. But they have to believe that their time and effort will be worth it. We can’t let them fail once and think that means they just don’t have what it takes.

We can model failure as “not yet” for them and let them know that their growth is important to us, not just the results they produce for the business.

Focusing on a growth mindset—both in yourself and in your employees—will make all the difference in the world.

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