What is your approach to learning something new? Are you able to adopt a growth mindset and approach it with excitement and opportunity?
Or do you see it as a challenge which feels too difficult?
In the latest episode of Making Sense of Work, Jean shares the idea behind a Growth Mindset and how to build one.
Book recommendation: Mindset - Carol Dweck
Connect with Jean Balfour here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeanbalfour/
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Hi everyone and welcome to Making Sense of Work. Last week I ran the final workshop for a cohort of our Level one accredited coach training program. The final workshop is always an opportunity to share and hear learning and insights about the journey. What particularly struck me last week was that many students commented on one key takeaway for themselves and also for their coaching clients, and this was the idea and the impact of a growth mindset over the course of the program. They had come to see that in their own lives they could. Spot what we might call a fixed mindset and see other opportunities as well as helping their coaching clients to do the same. So I thought this was an opportunity for me to share my thoughts on what is a growth mindset and why does it matter. Before we dive into this, if you are curious about coach training and think you might like to learn that you're not sure, you can now sign up for our free and on demand taste of course, and I'll put a link in the show notes for this. It would also be great if you could take the time to rate and review the podcast growing. The impact of any podcast is partly dependent on your reviews, and I really appreciate your support. One of the hardest things we ever learn to do in our entire lives is learn to walk. Not much else is as hard as that yet. At about one year old, we don't stop and think, wow, that looks too hard. I think I'll stay sitting. We get up, we fall down, and we get up again. We just keep going. We have all the coaches around us clapping and chairing and looking on and wonder as we try, and yet the thing about learning to walk is that it's quite dangerous. It's a lot of falling down and oftentimes getting hurt and oftentimes being upset about being hurt. Yet, despite this, as adults, we stand by and we encourage the baby to take these risks. To step out, to learn to stand without balance. We get them going with small stages and steps. So we approach this idea of learning to walk with a growth mindset. The challenges are worth it because then we'll be able to walk. It's quite a fundamental human thing, but it isn't long into our childhood so that we start saying, I can't do that. I'm no good at this. And less the adults in our lives are celebrating effort. We're putting into things, especially when we don't get things quite right. We start to see that there are things that we are good at and things that we aren't, and we can become quite fixed about This idea, and this goes on to impact a lot of our lives. It impacts our personal lives and it impacts our work lives. We stop trying new things, or we maybe feel boxed into a career choice for fear of trying those new things. We become afraid of failure, and we don't take the risks like standing up and walking again. I sometimes hear coaching clients say, I'm not sure if I can be a leader. I'm not sure I've got what it takes, or I don't wanna take on that big assignment. What if I fail? But if we consider taking a growth mindset, there are so many opportunities and possibilities for us in our lives, big and small and every opportunity is a chance to try something new, to learn a new skill, to try a new piece of work, to move into a different parts of the organization, to learn some new software anything is an opportunity. I often talk about my very public experience of failing my coaching assessment in front of my peers. And I remember after that in the first few weeks, I was really in a fixed mindset. I kept saying things like, I can't coach. I clearly don't know how to, but as I began slowly to come out of that, I could begin to see what I could learn from the experience, and then I could begin to see what were the reasons I failed. It wasn't that I was a bad coach or that I can't coach. There were some things I didn't do and I needed to get better at those, and once I did, I. Got to where I am now. So one result of this experience for me was that I saw that I needed to move from this fixed mindset. I can't to a growth mindset. What do I need to do to make it work? And I also began to think about how do I teach this so people don't have this experience? And so there's masses of learning from my failure that's been built into our coach training. And if I make a connection to this about learning to coach in the experience of coaching. It also encourages us to have a growth mindset. If you think back to the students from this program, coaching is really about helping clients create a picture of an ideal future. And moving towards this, it's about seeing obstacles as something to overcome or be moved around. It's not fixed. A growth mindset is about identifying how we can move forward. So lemme go into a bit more depth about what is it that we mean by these words. Growth mindset, fixed mindset, and then look at some strategies for developing a growth mindset in those moments where we find it hard. Harold Dweck is the person who's brought these terms to us, and in her book mindset, she talks about these two states fixed mindset and growth mindset. And it came to her because in her research she began observing. How differently children dealt with a failure and she saw that some children saw a failure as an opportunity for learning and some felt quite demoralized by it, that they felt they couldn't do it. How about if you think about these two statements, the first one, intelligence is something you can't change very much. What do you think about that? Do you think you can change your intelligence? The second one, there are areas where it's impossible to become more talented. Do you think maybe like me, that you are no good at drawing and that you can never become any good at drawing? Well, Carol's ongoing research has suggested that actually neither of these statements are true. Incredibly, we can grow our intelligence, and I'm gonna talk a little bit more about that later, and we can become more talented at things. So if we take the example of drawing, if I was to put effort in and get a art instructor, I would become better at drawing. It's a skill. I may never be Monet or Picasso, but I will become better so I can improved. So, In each of these terms, fixed mindset and growth mindset. There are a number of ways that we can help to see where we are. If we have a fixed mindset, for example, we see our talent as something that we either possess or we lack it. So if I. Have a fixed mindset, which we all do in bits of our lives. I might feel that I need to look smart to look like I know things. I'll avoid challenges as I've been talking about. I might see effort or hard work as a bit pointless because maybe I think it's not gonna lead to something new or I don't believe that there's opportunities for growth. There's a particular link to fixed mindset about negative criticism. We often push it away because it can feel very fixed. It's like it's a statement about us that who we are, and if we have a fixed mindset, we believe we can't change. So we don't want to hear negative criticism because it can feel very finite. And cause of all these things we might end up plateauing in our career, in our personal lives because we are not seeing roadblocks as opportunities for growth. We're feeling stuck, and so we may be less likely to reach our potential when we are in a fixed mindset frame. We can say things like, I can do it or I can't do it, or I'll stick to what I know. And I think that unless we are truly on this, we become very aware of this. There will always be areas that we hold a fixed mindset. So, you know, I got the idea from an early age, I think that I couldn't learn a language. It's a, something that I've said to myself, stories of. Told, being told to be my family and things, oh, we are not a family who learns languages. We are no good at that, and therefore I didn't put the effort in, and it becomes a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I had. I think I probably still hovered a bit a fixed mindset about learning languages, but actually I know that that's not true. I know that if I put my mind to it, I could do it. And that's where holding a growth mindset comes in. So this is where we enjoy challenges, we're striving to learn and we see the potential to develop new skills. So we know that we can take on that challenge and we can do it, and that we really enjoy learning. We also, when we have a growth mindset, see effort as a path to learning. So we know we have to put in those stages and we see it as an important part of the journey. And we're prepared to keep trying and linked to what I was saying about criticism. If we are holding a growth mindset, we are more open to criticism. We're more open to learning. From it for seeing what the opportunities for growth are and therefore we can keep moving forward because we believe we can improve and we believe that success will follow our improvement. And of course with that, it becomes more likely that we're going to reach our potential. When we've got a growth mindset, we are saying things like, I can learn anything I want to, or Challenges are an opportunity to learn. Or even if things aren't going well, I'll look for ways to get around it. There's a curious thing about having a growth mindset that it means we even believe that we can change core parts of our personality and we can change beliefs we hold about ourselves and our way of being. And there's something really important here linked to neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is our brain's ability to grow new neural pathways. We now know that our brains have infinite potential to grow, to heal, and to change. Sure, it takes effort, but if we have a growth mindset, we're open to this effort. We can really bring about major changes in our lives. I have a, a bit of a funny story from my childhood about this. I remember hearing a man say when I was about eight, that women couldn't read maps and were no good at navigating. And I remember being quite indignant and thinking, Hmm, I'm gonna show you. And so I said about learning how to navigate, learning how to read maps. Well, and now I'm pretty good at it. There is a funny thing about this. I don't think I'm naturally very good at it. I don't, it's got nothing to do with being a woman. Actually. I think I've had to learn it, put the effort in, and yet now I really love it. I've navigated at Sea on Land and long before G P S, it's become something that's really fulfilling. I've no idea who that person was, who said that, but it hit me in a growth mindset place, and off I went to see if I could prove him wrong. Having a growth mindset isn't also just about individuals. For those of you who are leaders, you can enable a growth mindset within your team and within your organization. If you are in an organization that sees challenges as opportunities for learning or just something to be got through, Do you encourage your team in difficult situations to think about what can we learn from this and how do we grow through this situation? And just one final thing about this before I go on to tips and techniques, and that's that if you think about this term mindset, it implies a set of beliefs. And if you think about it, we can choose what we can believe so we can choose to believe that we can learn and try new things, or we can believe that effort is pointless. We can choose to see that we can get better at things over time and we can enjoy the effort. Just a little bit about some of the reasons this really matters, and I'm gonna start in a slightly curious place, and that's with the idea of happiness, something we're all seeking. We all want to be happier. There was a study at Google that found that people who were approaching work. With a growth mindset, we're actually happier at work. After all, if you think about it, we are programmed to learn to keep learning, and learning is fulfilling. Think about that huge satisfaction you get by learning something and then getting better at it. This has to be good for our happiness levels, so it makes sense. Think about overcoming a challenge or failing and then succeeding at something amazing impacts on our happiness. Holding a growth mindset also helps us build resilience because we see failures and challenges as opportunities for learning and not finite. We are less devastated and we are more open to exploring how we can learn from them. And of course, having a growth mindset helps us grow in our career because we look for opportunities. We take opportunities. We're prepared to stretch into areas that feel hard, but we know we can learn. We apply for new roles that are outside our comfort zone, and we grow in our maturity as a leader. I don't believe that we have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. I think we have moments of each. I hold a growth mindset about building a growth mindset, and I believe that we can become more open to learning and change. So here are some ways that you can think about doing this. And the starting point, of course, is to notice when you are in a fixed mindset moment, and we all have them, it's human nature. So notice that yourself saying things like, I can't, I don't, I'm not like that. I didn't grow up like that and move from that into. Um, maybe I can try or I'll give that a go or I'll look into it. So, for example, if you are saying, I'm no good at spreadsheets, or I'm, I'm terrible at presenting in public move to, I haven't yet worked out how to do this effectively, I'm gonna look at the effort involved. And link to that it's good to start valuing the effort, not just the outcome. So if you think about the example of presenting in public, actually we often have to do it quite a lot to feel comfortable at it, to do it well. And instead of waiting for that moment, we could learn to enjoy the moments where we are doing it, where we are not perfect. And see that this is part of the learning, part of the growth, part of the journey. We see this as important because one of the key pieces of the research from Carol Dweck is that if we value the effort, actually we're more likely to learn and we are more likely to be adopting a growth mindset. Here's another example. If you are learning a new approach to sales, Reward yourself for the time you spend focused on it rather than how far you got. Maybe set goals for testing your approaches on certain days or do some small steps because if you take these small steps and value the effort involved, more likely to learn and grow through it. Another way is to explore your approach to failure. I recorded an episode on failure and you can listen to this episode 35, permission to Fail, but Simply Moving From I Am a Failure to This Failed is what we need to do, taking it as an opportunity to learn. Another thing is links to what I've been talking about in relation to criticism. Because criticism and our ability to hear and learn from criticism is key to us holding a growth mindset. So again, there's a podcast, episode number 40. The gift of feedback, even if it hurts, gives you some insights into how to move into getting better at hearing criticism, because it's always an opportunity to evaluate. How we're doing, you could see yourself a challenge to learn something new. It's funny, but learning to coach is actually one example of this. Learning to coach is much harder than it looks, and students often comment on this. They come into the program thinking, oh yeah, this will be okay. And then they think, wow, this is really difficult. And this is because when we learn to coach, we have to learn to stop giving advice. And it's really hard, and we have to learn to do this by practicing in front of others and getting a lot of feedback. So we also have to step into a growth mindset to be prepared to hear that feedback without it stinging. It forces us to try things to see if they work and to go round the loop. It forces us to value the effort. Another way that you can explore a growth mindset is to look back on experiences that you feel perhaps defined you in some way and left you not feeling good. Often. For many people, this might be a story of being made redundant or ending up in a job that you felt you had to leave because you weren't. Capable or competent in it. And then notice the stories and the feelings you have around that situation. And then think about what you learned. How did that experience make you the person you are today? How could you continue to learn from that experience? Another way of developing a growth mindset is to become aware of the stories that other people hold about you, perhaps people's limited opinions about you and what you are capable of. So this is actually really hard for me. I take people's views very seriously and as a recovering people pleaser, I often want to take what they're saying on board to please them. It's often their view about who we are and what we are good at, and it's not our view. And so we often need to step back and say, how true is this? And if I took a growth mindset to this, what would happen? What might I be capable of? This is maybe an opportunity for me to learn. It may be that person's view of me, but it's not necessarily the whole story. And you can also do this by looking at people you admire and looking at their journey to where they got and what effort they put in. Perhaps look at people whose careers you admire and find out what they did to become effective in their role. I sometimes hear the story of Beyonce as someone people talk about, because apparently she comes out of every performance and reviews it and looks for improvement. She holds a growth mindset all the time. All the time, all the time. How are the people you admire learning and growing through a growth mindset? And then finally on this, if you are in a team or if you're a leader, think about how you can invite your team to move to a growth mindset. How can you invite people to learn from things or to stretch and grow into areas they think they may be not so, so good at? How can you coach them through it? So I hope I've convinced you that having a growth mindset is good for you. It's good for your career and good for your life, and I encourage you to think of one area in your life where you could adopt a bit more of a growth mindset, put in a bit more effort, and see what happens over the coming weeks.