How Can We Adopt a Corporate Growth Mindset?

How do you adopt a corporate growth mindset, and why is it so important now? This is a critical question all businesses should be asking themselves. A growth mindset is very different from maintaining the status quo because it means proactively looking for shake-ups, opportunities, challenges to the status quo, and problems in need of solutions. The advantages of developing a corporate growth mindset are immense, ranging from higher employee engagement to market and revenue growth. It is about throwing out a fixed mindset and opening the organization to creativity, innovation, feedback, discussion, organizational reflection, and continuous learning. It sounds like a process for seeking perfection, but pursuing an organizational growth mindset versus a fixed mindset is crucial in a business environment where continuous change and disruption are standard occurrences.  

What is a Growth Mindset? 

Dr. Carol Dweck, a psychologist and professor at Stanford University developed the concept of a growth mindset. It says that anyone can develop their skills and talents through effort, motivation, and learning. Success is not limited by intelligence or innate talent. It’s determined by personal development. In her words from the book Mindset – The New Psychology of Success, “This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments, everyone can change and grow through application and experience.” 

To understand the difference a growth mindset can make, you should first consider a fixed mindset for comparison. 

Becoming Stale is a Risk Unto Itself 

One of the challenges businesses face is avoiding becoming stale. By stale, we mean thinking and behaving the same way rather than embracing change and growth. The status quo is not challenged, employee learning opportunities are weak, and leadership avoids criticism from higher-up managers and executives by not rocking the boat. Some businesses manage to hold on, but there is little growth and almost no innovation, and the marketplace views them as an “old school” business lacking creativity.  

In this day and age, a stale business has trouble attracting high potential talent that is excited about working for the company. Even when it does hire great talent, they end up joining the Resignation Nation, looking for a job that offers opportunities for learning and development, career opportunities, and a voice in the innovation process. Leaders who have a fixed mindset avoid challenges and simply try to maintain a trouble-free status quo workplace. Anyone can develop a fixed mindset – employees, executives, suppliers, business partners, and so on.  

Signs of Fixed Mindset Leadership

When your leaders hold a fixed mindset, it drags the whole workforce down, which drags down the company. When enough leaders have a fixed mindset, the organizational culture becomes one of avoiding risks and opportunities. 

Following are some other signs of a fixed mindset perpetuated by leadership.   

  • Avoids challenges because effort may lead to failure 
  • Afraid to get or ignores employee feedback because interprets negative feedback as personal criticism instead of an opportunity to grow as a leader 
  • Hires “yes” people instead of the most qualified with high potential out of fear of competition 
  • Avoids challenges and risks because mostly concerned about failure 
  • Sees underperforming employees as problems instead of people who need new leadership approaches 
  • Doesn’t understand their personal ability to develop talents and skills, so they believe their current abilities are as far as he/she can go. 
  • Wants to look smart, carefully choosing team members who can support the leader’s perspective. 
  • Sees effort as unpleasant because it won’t produce desired results 
  • Is threatened by the success of other leaders and even employees because of a belief they make the leader look bad   

Employees with a fixed mindset have the same qualities and perspectives. However, your leaders must have a growth mindset first to develop a growth mindset in staff members.  

What is a Leadership Growth Mindset? 

A growth mindset is more than simply just the opposite of a fixed mindset. It is founded on a deep belief in people’s ability to learn and develop, which can profoundly influence leadership style and organizational success. Some of the qualities of a leadership growth mindset include the following. 

  • He/she believes employees can develop a desire to improve, so strives to help them achieve their potential 
  • Embraces challenges as opportunities for improvement 
  • Views collaborative effort as the path to developing new skills and knowledge 
  • Has persistence even when things don’t go as planned 
  • Learns from failure 
  • Accepts all feedback from higher-level management and employees as opportunities to learn and improve as a professional 
  • Is inspired by the success of others 

A leader with this perspective strives for self-improvement growth as a person and leader. They lead in a way that supports a culture of learning and development so that others are also inspired.  

growth mindset leadership

Why Does an Organization Need to Develop Leaders with a Growth Mindset? 

We have shared a lot about the importance of developing positive employee relations, and leaders who have a growth mindset have an easier time doing so. This is true because the leadership growth mindset is a positive attitude and perspective in which success comes from consistent effort, success and failure, and a willingness to attack challenges. As the Growth Institute says, “Leaders with a growth mindset tend to focus more on the process rather than just the outcome.” By focusing on the process, your leaders focus on the employee experience rather than just outcomes. 

"Learning is a lifelong journey rather than something with a start or end date." #learning #growth #growthmindset #employeeexperience

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The reason your leaders need a growth mindset is that the leadership perspective directly influences organizational culture. If your leaders are afraid of challenges, see missteps as a permanent failure, are always looking for someone to blame, and avoid risks, their employees won’t be motivated to perform at their highest levels or develop their capabilities. There’s a good chance the employees are more likely to perform at the safest minimum level, fear voicing new ideas to leadership, and blame coworkers and supervisors for issues or problems that arise rather than finding solutions. 

Organizations need to be innovative to remain competitive. Tracy Kemp is a member of the Forbes Technology Council and the Senior Vice-President and Chief Information and Digital Officer for Allegion. She writes, “To foster innovation within an organization, you must first build your culture with a growth mindset focus and then reskill your employees using this concept of continuous learning — the idea that learning is a lifelong journey rather than something with a start or end date.”  

Innovation and a corporate growth mindset go hand-in-hand, and it’s your leaders who develop and nurture the corporate culture. According to Kemp, a corporate growth mindset challenges the workforce to “try new technologies and new ways of doing things” and “encourages innovation,” increasing revenues, profits, employee morale, and employee engagement

"To foster #innovation within an organization, you must first build your #culture with a #growthmindset" - Tracy Kemp, SVP of Allegion #innovativeleadership

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 How to Begin Instilling a Growth Mindset in Teams 

Continuous learning is essential to innovation, so leaders at the top become the role models. They have to be willing to let go of some control and accept some risks. All leaders embark on a continuous learning journey that they develop with their staff. Instilling a growth mindset in teams takes some time because your leaders must understand the principles of the growth mindset before they can apply them in collaboration with employees.  

So, the first step is leadership training. They learn a new mindset and how to turn the new perspective into leadership behaviors. For example, leaders master tackling problems by using unconventional thinking. They also learn to: 

  • Speak about personal challenges and failures 
  • Encourage team members to accept new challenges  
  • Encourage employees to speak up 
  • Tie performance evaluation to learning rather than output 
  • Become coaches instead of “bosses.” 
  • Celebrate the success of others 
  • Reward actions that reflect a growth mindset 
  • Develop a collaborative work environment 

This is a process that begins with awareness and eventually adoption. Someone with a fixed mindset won’t change their thinking without training and conscious effort.  

corporate growth mindset

Sustaining a Growth Mindset 

Sustaining a corporate growth mindset takes conscious effort, though once developed, this mindset naturally guides behaviors. It significantly impacts the talent management processes.  

For example, your organization will want to hire people who like to collaborate, embrace challenges, and continuously learn. The performance review process is changed because it now focuses on the employee’s development process. Instead of rating based on successes and failures, an effort is considered, and failures are respected as opportunities for learning and growing the right mindset through collaboration with others. The performance reviews become regular performance conversations. The leadership and employee development processes are embedded with the growth mindset principles. 

Sustaining a growth mindset is done in a variety of ways.  

  • Leaders become role models through continued training and practicing behaviors like storytelling, town hall meetings, conversations with other leaders, etc. 
  • Employee awareness and engagement training solutions are offered. 
  • Regular employee surveys are conducted to collect data on the employee experiences as they exercise a growth mindset. 
  • Learning resources, like online eLearning training modules and bite-sized videos, are available to leaders and employees 24/7. 
  • Employees are given opportunities to share thoughts and strategies because talking about the application of a growth mindset is a reinforcement strategy. 
  • Employees are encouraged to stretch their capabilities through collaborative work effort. 

As you can see, there is no one defined method of developing a growth mindset. The common principle across industries is that the corporate growth mindset is embedded and nurtured in the organization at every opportunity.   

Positive Effects of a Growth Mindset 

Empowering employees to aspire to higher effort and outcomes without fear of failure benefits people and the organization as a whole. The corporate growth mindset means your employees are willing to take measurable risks in order to create new opportunities and not just respond to them. Some of the many positive effects include: 

  • Creativity and innovation become a way of doing business. 
  • Employee engagement is significantly strengthened as employees are more committed. 
  • Positive employee relations are developed, which cascades into other benefits like staying union-free so the organization can concentrate on sustaining creative energy. 
  • Collaboration and networking across the organization become the work style. 
  • The employee experience is a positive journey in which people are encouraged to reach their potential.  
  • Leaders and employees work together with a shared purpose
  • Fear of failure is ended, which draws out people who are afraid of failing and so never speak up or share their diverse perspectives. 

The corporate growth mindset is all about developing capabilities in everyone, from the CEO to the frontline workers. The organizational culture supports learning and development, creativity, a defined level of risk-taking, employee autonomy in how a person manages their work, and leadership potential. It is a business model perfectly suited for today’s business environment filled with challenging changes that can be turned into opportunities.     

About the Author Walter Orechwa

Walter is IRI's Director of Digital Solutions and founder of UnionProof & A Better Leader. As the creator of Union Proof Certification, Walter provides expert advice, highly effective employee communication resources and ongoing learning opportunities for Human Resources and Labor Relations professionals.