Leading with a Growth Mindset
Imagine being able to see the positive in changes ahead, opportunities instead of obstacles, and failures as a chance to develop yourself and your skills.
This is what happens when you lead with a growth mindset.
A growth mindset enables you to focus on the positive instead of just the negative. It helps you step out of your comfort zone and see possibilities. Conversely, with a fixed mindset, changes feel like threats that carry the risk of failure, criticism, and embarrassment.
“Typically, the people who come into coaching do have some degree of a growth mindset. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be in coaching,” said Michael Tucker, executive coach and founder of Tucker Coaching and Consulting. “But there are those who come into it because they didn’t know what else to do, or maybe a mentor recommended it. They knew they weren’t getting the results they wanted.
“Maybe they’re not making enough revenue, maybe they aren’t achieving other goals. Having an initial conversation with them just to get a sense of how they’re thinking, from a coaching standpoint, is probably the most important thing that I can do. Through inquiry, what starts to happen is they begin to see areas where they haven’t had a growth mindset.”
With a growth mindset, you feel like you have a choice in the matter, no matter how difficult that choice might be.
Tucker said it becomes like an unveiling for the coachee, which he tries to approach gently because if you don’t, “they’re highly likely to get defensive,” he said. A fixed mindset, he added, can make a person believe ‘this is just the way I am, I can’t change, the world is not going to change, I don’t have any power,’ etc. Whereas, with a growth mindset, you feel like you have a choice in the matter, no matter how difficult that choice might be.
As a coach, he said, it’s up to him to be present for that individual and invite their curiosity to discover what’s possible. He asks questions like “Where would you like to be?” and this opens the opportunity for a client to start to see the possibilities for themselves. When they don’t see their own power over situations, it’s an eye-opening experience.
Shifting a fixed mindset to a growth mindset encourages people to:
- Embrace challenges rather than avoid them
- Work through setbacks instead of giving up
- Acknowledge that exerting effort is a sign of progress rather than failure
- Embrace criticism rather than fear it
- See others as a source of inspiration rather than competition
Vanessa Tennyson, Leadership Coach and founder and CEO of Capitalize Your Humanity, takes the approach to a growth mindset to a different level when coaching clients.
“I developed ‘The Triad of Discovery,’ which is about the journey to your one true self, but it also creates the mindset for growth as an outcome of discovery,” she said. “When we find, accept, and fully engage our one true self, the natural outcome is to grow and learn in different ways than previously were available – I call this ‘Diversity of Thought’.”
Once we embrace a diversity of thought, she said, we will begin to see the world through the lens of “things other than ourselves.”
“Since we are comfortable and confident in who we are, we get to explore with curiosity and courage – not fearing what we don’t know but embracing all that we have not yet seen,” she said.
As we start the process of discovery, she added, then our own lens starts to manipulate the data into new and novel ideas which are the building blocks for growth.
We must push through the fear that keeps us in our comfort zone, in order to experience learning and growth which then creates a new comfort zone.
“The Comfort Zone, as postulated by Alasdair White, also depicts the required path to explore learning and growth,” said Tennyson. “We must push through the fear that keeps us in our comfort zone, in order to experience learning and growth which then creates a new comfort zone. This process is repeated again and again as we yearn for more knowledge.”
Embracing a growth mindset can be difficult for some people – specifically, those who feel they are too “set in their ways” to change. But it is possible, with an open mind and continued practice, and the benefits can be freeing.