This post is part of a series of articles being prepared alongside our bespoke, in-house Leadership Training programme. You can read more about the inspiration behind this initiative here.
The first structured session in our Leadership Training programme was centred around Carol Dweck’s seminal work on mindset – and, in particular, how to cultivate a growth mindset. In this article, I’ll be sharing a brief summary of some of the principles that we discussed together, along with some of the highlights from the three group discussions that we ran last month.
Intelligence and capabilities can be developed
At the heart of Dweck’s message is the crucial principle that intelligence is not static; it can be developed over time. This is very significant for us at Swanky, because the majority of our team are in the first 10 years of their careers. If intelligence, and by extension career/life trajectory, is something that we have no influence over, then our team is likely to plateau early and fail to achieve their full potential.
However, our experience to date at Swanky, and Dweck’s conclusion, is that a desire to learn, manifested through (i) embracing challenge, (ii) persisting in the face of setbacks, (iii) seeing effort as the path to mastery, (iv) learning from criticism, and (v) celebrating and finding inspiration in the achievements of others, can help us to reach ever-higher levels of achievement. Farnham State has produced an excellent diagram that explains this and contrasts growth mindset characteristics with those associated with a fixed mindset.
We discussed several of the principles in Dweck’s work, including:
- The principle of using ‘not yet’ to give feedback instead of a more binary ‘pass/fail’.
- The benefits of setting work / challenge which is currently “slightly too hard” for us.
- A more controversial assertion (particularly given the average demographic of our people) that we have “raised a generation of people who can’t get through the day without a reward”, including why this might be true and the extent to which it is fair.
- Whether, and to what extent, each of us has a fixed or growth mindset, predicated upon the understanding that there is generally a spectrum that each of us finds ourselves on (and how this can change over time).
Our observations and reflections
I was once again struck by the depth, maturity and robustness of the discussions in each of our three groups. Whilst there was a general appreciate for Dweck’s work, and a consensus that cultivating a growth mindset is an admirable goal, there were a number of nuances to our conversations, including:
- The responsibility that leaders in organisations have to use ‘not yet’ feedback carefully and appropriately, particularly if an individual continues to fall short of their goals.
- The close link between our motivations/circumstances and our mindsets, and the reality that operating out of a growth mindset tends to require more energy and motivation than a fixed mindset – recognising, for example, that it can be exhausting to pursue challenges and overcome obstacles in every area of our lives simultaneously.
- How mindset can change over time – with one colleague sharing how they had changed from a growth mindset to a more fixed mindset in recent years, but were now proactively pursuing challenge and learning.
- The link between individual mindsets and the wider culture in a workplace – for example, in terms of what is expected from individuals, whether pursuing challenges and giving/receiving detailed feedback is encouraged or frowned upon, and whether we celebrate team successes together or incentivise individuals to perform selfishly.
As usual, I learnt a huge amount from listening to everybody’s observations. I am personally inspired to continue stretching myself, have a healthy attitude towards obstacles and effort, and continue working to create an environment in which the personal and professional growth of all our people (and, by extension, our clients and partners) is prioritised.
Next time: Radical Candour
Our teams are currently looking at Kim Scott’s book Radical Candour (you can find a helpful 6-minute video summary from the author here) and thinking about how each of us can care personally for those around us, whilst also directly challenging those things that need to be spoken about.
Scott has a very particular (and candid!) way with words, and I suspect that in an extremely caring and collaborative organisation like Swanky we’ll be grappling hard with her idea of ‘Ruinous Empathy’!
I’m excited to hear how this material can help us give clearer and more constructive feedback to one another, both internally but also in the context of supporting our clients more effectively.
I look forward to sharing further insights next month.