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Misrepresentation of Growth Mindset at Workplace

My friend and mentor, John Maxwell is known for sharing with the world the concept that one’s personal effectiveness is limited only by one's leadership ability, that is, no one can rise above their leadership ability, unless they are willing to intentionally grow.

The growth mindset is a buzzword when designing a company culture, while drafting an employee engagement plan, a HR development plan, etc. It is the talk between employees as they aspire to climb the corporate ladder, it is the gyan given by seniors to the junior employee. I can go on with the examples, but you get the picture. The pandemic has once again brought the mindset of growth furiously back on the table of discussion. Sadly sometimes the interpretation of what is a growth mindset is very far from the truth.

While in a discussion with a successful entrepreneur, she said to me, Sony, I want you to help me build an organisation with the Growth Mindset as the core value. I was really thrilled to do it, because that's what I love to do. But my true excitement was how well informed and clear she was about the concepts of the Growth Mindset. It was a joy to grow together and reap the rewards of having a growth culture.

Like all psychological concepts, the growth mindset is ripe for misinterpretation, And unfortunately when entrepreneurs misinterpret growth mindset, instead of leveraging the benefits from it, they limit their growth, productivity, performance and success.

There are success stories of global top organizations working the growth mindset concept into their work and talent processes for years, and getting good return on investment from it, but only those that stick closely to the science of growth mindset are weaving it into the overall employee experience.

Even small business and starts-up want a piece of this action. They too want to leverage the benefits from having a growth mindset driven business. The challenge is having the resources and patients to stick to the science of personal growth. The limiting understanding of Growth Mindset keeps them from truly leveraging the benefits, but get into trouble as they scale. When in reality, having a growth mindset culture will greatly benefit the scaling up of business.

It is a fact that the misinterpretation of the growth mindset by the entrepreneurs on a personal level and on the business level negatively impacts the business growth. A growth culture is extremely critical while scaling up the business as the growth mindset positively endorses change thus minimizing the resistance from employees.

Some leaders believe a growth mindset means keeping an eye only on the profits. It is very important for entrepreneurs to be very mindful of the growth of their bottom-line, after all there is no point in building a business with a great culture, only to lose it within a few years.

A growth mindset is the belief that continuous improvement is possible and that failures are opportunities to learn. It gives a much larger reward in the long run. Here are some common misunderstandings about growth mindset that hurt business growth in the long run.

Growth is Infinite and Unlimited

I fondly remember my parents telling me, “You can do anything, as long as you put your mind to it.” This sentence is empowering, but under the wrong context it can be disempowering and also destructive. There was a time in my life I prepared and aspired for the Indian Civil Service. And I learned the hard way, just because you can, does not mean you should.

I believe that potential is unlimited and infinite, but I learned the hard way that it doesn't give the right to pursue any challenge. In fact, this is the same feeling of limitlessness that may distract employees from pursuing what they were hired for, or from what they excel at most. The result is often demotivation and confusion.

This is what happens when a business leader implements a growth culture without completely understanding the actual implication of limitlessness, because limitlessness and infinite potential doesn't mean anyone can achieve anything all the time.

The meaning is simple, each of us has infinite potential for growth, but that does not mean we can be anything you want to be, you can try and maybe get close to it, but your greatness may have been in something else, had you put in half the effort, you could have reached double the potential and success.

Growth mindset is binary.

For the longest time, as I was navigating the science of personal growth, I was not sure if the growth mindset is something some people have and others don't have. Was growth binary in nature?

It got me thinking and reflecting on the people I have helped and the studies in the field of cognitive science, human behavior and psychology. What I realized is some falsely believe that a growth mindset is something you either have, or you don’t. In reality, people aren’t confined to one mindset or the other.

People can have a fixed mindset about their cooking abilities but a growth mindset about their public-speaking skills. Many growth arenas do correlate with one another, but each lives on its own spectrum. And while it is possible to spot your own fixed mindset, thinking and reframing into a growth orientation won't happen overnight, especially changing a chronic limiting habit.

As an entrepreneur or a business leader, it is important to understand that growth is not binary, and rather than criticize and brand an employee as not having a growth mindset, you can get more from the employee by helping them see their fixed mindset and equip them to overcome it.

Growth mindset means always having a Go-Getter Attitude.

Can-Do- Attitude, or Go-Getter Attitude are generally praised by entrepreneurs, leaders and managers. It is common practice to highlight in a performance evaluation that an employee is a ‘go-getter’ and prematurely, interpret that the employee has a ‘Growth Mindset’

And this misunderstanding about growth mindset, puts corrosive pressure on employees, where leaders use growth mindset to chastise employees who say they have too much on their plate. This is counter-productive.

The truth of the matter is, growth mindset must take people’s cognitive capacity into account, and we all know for a fact, no two people are the same, meaning no one has similar resources at their disposal or similar cognitive bandwidth or the similar growth journey, even if they have a growth mindset.

So when people really do have too much on their plate, attacking their mindset is counter-productive. Because the problem isn’t their attitude — it’s that they can’t bend the laws of space and time.

Sadly many entrepreneurs lose valuable employees under the pretext of not having a growth mindset, when in reality they are not meeting your expectations. Your expectation has nothing to do with a person’s growth journey, or growth mindset.

It is possible judging others of not having a growth mindset can just be your limiting understanding of what is a growth mindset. Only growing your skill and knowledge is not the whole picture, there are different areas of personal growth that work in tandem to help you become your best version.

Growth mindset is a frame of mind held inside a person’s mind. With the help of the leaders and the right organizations culture, specific habits and practices the employee can adopt and mature in their growth mindset

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