4 steps to a growth mindset for teams

Resilient employee

Why is having a growth mindset important now?


A growth mindset is a fundamental tool at the best of times, and never more so than during a global pandemic. As organisations continue to navigate seismic changes in both their business and operating models, teams and individuals need a growth mindset to move out of survival mode and into a longer term focus on performance.

Carol Dweck, a leading educational psychologist, defines a growth mindset as a set of beliefs and attitudes which encourage people to seek out challenges and use failures as lessons to be learnt from. People with a growth mindset are open to change, an attribute which has been hugely valuable during the pandemic.

Whatever scenario your team finds itself in, we are all adapting to changes in the workplace, and inevitably people will make mistakes. At Lane4, we believe that a willingness to make and learn from mistakes is fundamental to thriving in the workplace. We spoke to Andrew Gillespie, a Senior Consultant at Lane4 with a Masters in organisational psychology. He gave us four steps which will help managers nurture a growth mindset in their teams.

A growth mindset is defined as a set of beliefs and attitudes which encourage people to seek out challenges and use failures as lessons to be learnt from.

The three business benefits of a growth mindset

Three of the key business benefits to a growth mindset are:

1. Innovation

Having a growth mindset benefits innovation in two ways. Firstly, a growth mindset and an ability to take risks is a necessity for organisations to have a cutting edge which will differentiate them from the competition. Secondly, having a growth mindset within the company culture means that employees are more likely to be curious about how things could be done differently. This curiosity means that when innovation is operationalised, employees will be ready to adopt new ways of working rather than resisting them.

2. Relevance

Staying relevant as a business is no small task – but having employees with a growth mindset makes it more achievable. For example, mental health has become a topic which is spoken about more in the workplace, and which employees now expect their employers to address. For some generations, this is a huge shift in communication, and being open to change will help them adopt the open mindedness needed to support these initiatives.

3. Talent

As the business world evolves after COVID-19, leaders will need to create new roles and develop their talent so that they can fill them effectively. If your business adopts a growth mindset, it will be easier to help people step into these roles and learn the relevant skills.

So, how can you, as a team leader, encourage a growth mindset in your team?

Four steps to developing a growth mindset in your team

1. Believe in potential

The number one belief which you need to dispel as a team leader is that talent is innate. An example of where this belief might manifest itself is people talking about ‘born leaders’, or expressing reticence at completing a task because they ‘aren’t good’ at it. By exploring the thought pattern behind such statements, it quickly becomes clear that these beliefs will hold people back: if they believe they’re innately bad at something, they won’t try as hard.

In psychology, we talk about a ‘confirmation bias’, which explains how we will more often search for evidence to confirm the beliefs we hold rather than evidence to challenge them. Our natural confirmation bias paired with a fixed mindset means it can be challenging to persuade people that talent is malleable. As a leader, it’s key to help your team unpick these beliefs.

Team leader tip: Spot the excuses your team members use to avoid things they believe they’re bad at and help them to confront these beliefs by providing encouragement and support.

2. Create an environment of psychological safety

Psychological safety is one of the cornerstones of a high performing team because it means building a great deal of trust. For this reason, it’s also paramount to a growth mindset: if team members don’t feel safe, they won’t want to take risks or challenge themselves through fear of making mistakes.

Creating psychological safety isn’t about telling your team you don’t care if they make mistakes. On the contrary, it’s about providing your team with the knowledge that mistakes are learning opportunities and won’t be punished.

Team leader tip: As a manager, it’s important to role model this attitude with consistency, so that trust can be built and a growth mindset embraced. Share a mistake you made and learned from next time your team are encountering failure.

3. Approach mistakes with curiosity

Once psychological safety has been built and mistakes are being discussed rather than reprimanded, encourage your team to approach their mistakes with curiosity. Ensure that you are exploring the downfalls in process, skills and communication of each mistake so that your team can learn for the future.

GB hockey coach Danny Kerry used to hold ‘thinking thursdays’ every week in the lead up to big championships where the team would get together to be set challenges and learn from failure. The issues were rarely hockey related, and often quite tough, aimed to create skills and processes whereby the teams were quick on their feet at solving problems. This activity embodies the principles of a growth mindset: athletes were being challenged to get comfortable with things going wrong.

Team leader tip: Set aside 10 minutes in your team meeting each week to discuss the failures your team have encountered, overcome and learned from that week. Role model openness and honesty during this activity.

4. Recognise when it’s worth working together

As a manager of a team, you should encourage them to recognise opportunities for collaboration. In businesses with a fixed mindset, there may be a culture of racing to the top, encouraging people to compete for the limelight. This attitude undermines team trust and puts a limit on what can be achieved.

In bouldering, people often climb in groups and watch one another attempt the same ascent. After each turn, the group will convene and feedback on what could be done differently, with the ultimate aim of uncovering the best pathway. Instead of focusing on which individual achieves this goal, the emphasis is on furthering human capability together.

Team leader tip: When approaching your next team project, encourage your team to take on the attitude of boulderers by seeing what’s possible. To help them adopt this mindset, make sure that the emphasis is on the team achieving the goal rather than on certain individuals.

If you can follow these tips and encourage a growth mindset in your team and organisation then you’ll be in a much better place to bounce forward out of this crisis quickly.

Want to learn more about developing your teams? Lane4 can help.