The Second Element: The Importance of Encouraging a Growth Mindset

by Roger Longden | Oct 04, 2016

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brain-pic-for-blog-6In my previous article, I touched upon the first of nine crucial elements that form a revolutionised performance management system – and in this article, I’d like to carry that trend on with the second element: Adopting (and Encouraging) a Growth Mindset.

I’m going to tell you something that might surprise you at first. For quite some time, the scientific community had us believe that our intelligence was fixed from birth – hence the phrase ‘we only have what we’re born with’. In actual fact, we now know that this isn’t at all true, and individuals can continue to learn and develop throughout their lifetimes thanks to the plasticity of the brain. (This is the part where I could go into the biological explanations behind skill-building and plasticity, but I think we’d both agree that this is neither the time nor the place!)

In business, however, this thinking is still apparent in the worrying trend of a ‘fixed’ mindset; many managers unfortunately think a member of staff is recruited to do a specific job with no scope for growth, limiting their potential. For the sake of successful performance management, this has to change.

Removing Limitations

So we now know that we can carry on learning and growing and developing for our entire lives. Great: that’s one intimidating limitation overcome, but there are still many more limitations lurking within your organisation.

The idea of ‘plasticity’ has huge implications for businesses and the way people within the business should be managed, as well as what can be expected from them and how they should be motivated. Plasticity challenges the expectation that people are limited to their abilities, and shows us that if managed properly, they can achieve so much more. Understanding that people are more than their roles – and have the potential to be develop new roles and offerings within the business – is the first step to providing employees with the freedom they need to grow.

It’s not just the widespread mindset that’s limiting personal and professional development, however. Even today, there are managers guilty of suppressing this potential for growth, or at the very least they seek to control it, despite plenty of evidence from renowned sources arguing against controlling and limiting employee growth. To stamp out managerial limitations and cement the growth mindset, you need to start championing the cause.

Championing Growth

It goes without saying that your team will need to have direction – as well as encouragement and reinforcement – in order to feel confident in the course their development is taking. If you explicitly state that you expect staff to develop and will champion and even celebrate that development, then you’re publicly demonstrating your own belief in building this incredibly powerful new mindset. Remember, it’s the perception of action being taken which you have to manage, so having the policy and even the practice is not enough if it’s only going on quietly. Keep on championing loudly and proudly!

Of course, words only have so much power and championing the newly embraced growth mindset needs to be followed through with training, intelligent design of the performance system (for example, guidance on structuring great conversations), and integration into the values and expected behaviours. Without this follow-through, you’re essentially selling a false promise.

Once this system of encouragement is in place – and regularly reinforced – you’ll soon notice the growth mindset spreading among the individuals in your organisation. Of course, it doesn’t end there, because that would be far too easy!

Lead by Example

It’s essential at every stage of setting up your new performance management (and especially when forming this element) that you lead by example. By adopting the feedback tools suggested throughout this article series, while making provision for and honouring commitment to staff development, you will be visibly demonstrating your belief in a growth mindset; you’re actively showing that you’re as on board as they should be.

This effectively means that your championing should never end if you want this mindset to continue; consistency is key to ensure the mindset is being adopted top-down.

Why is This Element Important?

We’ve discussed the basis of adopting a growth mindset as part of an exciting new performance management system, but we’ve yet to understand why it’s held in such high regard – why are we using it as the foundation for a new performance management system?

Simply said, you’re offering individuals the chance to develop within the company, and with that comes the opportunity for the company to develop as well in so many different ways.

That’s exactly what a great performance management system should do: manage people’s performance – in this case by providing opportunities to work towards personal growth and company growth – whilst giving the business a chance to evolve and prosper as well.

Using training, intelligent design and integration into the values, employees have the chance to evolve their skills through a measurable approach, all the while helping the organisation to expand both in terms of performance and capability. New offerings, better service, and diversification are all achievable if your teams are capable of growing their abilities and developing new skill sets.

Essentially, if you take anything away from this article, make it this: your business and your team need each other to grow, personally and professionally – as they say in the old proverb, if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together’. And this is one journey you’ll definitely want to take together.

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs for short) are changing how companies define and communicate success. Why not have a read through our free beginners guide to OKRs to get more information on how you can align and grow your company.

If you’d like to find out more about the changing world of performance management or adopting a growth mindset, please feel free to download my recent research paper, available over on my website.