That title is from Ginny Rometty, CEO of IBM. Pithy, huh? I relate…
I’m a guy that breathes persistence. I don’t give up. I lock onto my intended purpose. I grow through wilful discomfort all the time. Painful. Embarrassing. And, for some reason–hard to admit. I wish things flowed easier. Still, I believe that my ability can be developed. I focus on my growth. I don’t warm to a fixed mindset.
What about you? Do you see your “ability as something inherent that needs to be demonstrated or as something that can be developed?”
Stanford: Fixed vs. Growth Mindset (click to enlarge image)
According to a Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck, “You’ll reach new heights if you learn to embrace the occasional tumble.” Her evidence “shows that if we hold a fixed mindset, we’re bound not to reach as high as we might.”
Dweck’s research is solid:
If you want to demonstrate something over and over, it feels like something static that lives inside of you—whereas if you want to increase your ability, it feels dynamic and malleable,” Dweck explains. People with performance goals, she reasoned, think intelligence is fixed from birth. People with learning goals have a growth mindset about intelligence, believing it can be developed.
Three takeaways for CEOs and other leaders:
- An “excessive concern with looking smart keeps you from making bold, visionary moves. If you’re afraid of making mistakes, you’ll never learn on the job, and your whole approach becomes defensive: ‘I have to make sure I don’t screw up.'” says Robert Sternberg, Ph.D. and former president of the American Psychological Association.
- Stanford Business School professor Jeffrey Pfeffer says Dweck’s research has implications for performance management. He faults businesses for “spending too much time in rank-and-yank mode, grading and evaluating people instead of developing their skills.”
- Having a growth mindset (see diagram above) is good for your relationships. Dweck found that people who believe personality can change were more likely than others to bring up concerns and deal with problems in a constructive way. Dweck thinks a fixed mindset fosters a categorical, all-or-nothing view of people’s qualities; this view tends to make you ignore festering problems or, at the other extreme, give up on a relationship at the first sign of trouble.
Dweck research proves that you can change mindset. An effective leader knows how to guide, calibrate and pace change. You can’t do that from a fixed mindset. Are you in a ready-state? I’ll say this: joining my CEO peer group ensures your mind stays focused on growing. My members (your peers) promise that.
Next up: how can leaders “create positive, useful discomfort for someone else?”