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Top Tips for Encouraging a Growth Mindset

Top Tips for Encouraging a Growth Mindset

By Judith Hirst, Greenbank’s Head of Leadership Development


You have likely seen the term ‘growth mindset’ making its way through leadership articles in the last couple of years.  However, like many important concepts it all too often gets used simply as a buzzword with a limited or confused understanding of what it actually means.

So, we want to help demystify what having a growth mindset actually means and maybe the best way to do this is to go back to the original ideas and research and clear up a few myths and misconceptions   Especially as, from recent work with our own clients, we know there are significant benefits it can bring to individuals and organisations in the current challenging business world!

What is a Growth Mindset?

The term was coined by the psychologist Carol Dweck, as a result of several years observational research into children’s attitudes towards failure. The concept of growth v fixed mindsets developed when Dweck and her colleagues noticed that some students rebounded quickly after setbacks while others were left devastated. The term was coined to describe the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence.

So, it is just about positive thinking? I’m afraid the answer is both Yes and No. Some people consider a growth mindset to revolve around being flexible, open minded and in general having a positive outlook on life.  However, whilst, it does include these things it so much more – specifically a growth mindset is far more active – it means asking for feedback, learning from experience, and coming up with strategies for improvement.

Quite simply, a growth mindset is all about how individuals view challenges and setbacks:  those with a growth mindset view these as opportunities and they know that with effort and support they will be able to improve and overcome these challenges or advance their skills. The opposite of a growth mindset is a fixed mindset where people feel that there is nothing they can do to improve.

What are the benefits of a Growth Mindset?

There are a lot of benefits – not least that it allows people to reframe their challenges and stay motivated during trying times. As a result, individuals with a growth mindset tend to have a higher achievement rate, because they are more likely to take on challenges and learn from them.

When a whole organisation embraces a growth mindset by encouraging a culture around support, collaboration and innovation then employees have reported feeling more empowered and committed to the business. Conversely when an organisation has a predominantly fixed mindset, employees reported more focus on seeking to out-match each other in a status and talent race rather than focusing on company goals and collaboration.

So, can you develop a growth mindset? Well, we would be doing you a disservice if the answer was no, so I think we have already given this one away, but to be clear – yes you can definitely change your mindset!

While the original research focussed on children, even as adults our attitude to life is not set in stone and people may fluctuate between a growth mindset and fixed mindset depending on the situation or environment. Most importantly you can encourage your own mindset to default to a ‘growth’ mode!

How do you develop and maintain a Growth Mindset?

Some people think that a growth mindset develops from praise, but it is more nuanced than that – for instance it depends on what is praised. One of the earlier studies into growth mindset compared two groups of school children, one group was praised for their intelligence and the other for their effort. It was the group that was praised for their effort (within their control) that showed the greatest improvements and encouraged the development of a growth mindset!

Here are some top tips for how to develop your own growth mindset – and support colleagues too!

Personal Awareness: Considering how you currently approach challenges at work, so you can identify when you are using mostly a fixed or growth mindset. This awareness can then help you to choose your best response to challenges in the future.

Reward Effort: That is not to say a growth mindset is just about rewarding effort, outcome does matter, and unproductive effort is well… unproductive. However, it’s helpful to reward yourself and others for learning and progress, as well as activities such as seeking help, developing new strategies, and turning setbacks into positive action.

Identify Organisational Triggers: Individuals and organisations can be full of fixed mind set triggers such as insecurity and defensiveness which Dweck identified as one of the main fixed mindset triggers.  

To develop and maintain a growth mindset we need to identify these triggers and reduce them where possible – for example, role model this yourself – be prepared to be personally open when things haven’t worked first time for you, and emphasise the learnings that you got as a result…

Learn to Take Risks: Taking risks and accepting challenges are a key aspect of a growth mindset and we need to encourage calculated risk-taking perhaps embracing the maxim if at first you don’t succeed try, try and try again (having learned from the first time of course…)!

Identify role models: Think about people who you’ve seen succeed against the odds. Think about how they achieved their success and what this says about their ability to develop their capabilities. Discover what they do and how they approach challenges and think about how you can apply similar tactics.

Seek Feedback: Whether you’ve been successful in a project or not, seeking feedback from others is a good way to develop a growth mindset. They may give you new insights into where you’ve successfully developed or what still needs improvement. In turn, this can help you to set goals for further improvement.

‘Not Yet’: Essentially, this part of a growth mindset is about realising that there will be skills or subjects that you’re not good at or at least Not Yet. However, with work, perseverance, and support you can still improve in these areas even if they may never be your greatest strengths.

Developing a growth mindset is about realising that your weaknesses may be strengths you haven’t necessarily developed yet.

Reframe Your Mistakes: You’re not going to get everything right the first time of trying. Allow yourself to make errors but then make sure you learn from these missteps. Rather than thinking that mistakes equal failure, think of them as part of your learning process.

Mistakes give you the chance to identify where you may have a weakness or lack of understanding – areas you can work hard to improve.

Develop Self Advocacy: Last but not least … it is important to be able to speak up when we need support and help to improve. This is one that will be easier once we have embraced ‘Not Yet’ and been able to reframe mistakes as part of a learning process.

How do you promote a Growth Mindset within an Organisation?

To develop, support and maintain a growth mindset it’s vital that the organisational culture supports this..

To achieve this, organisational policies can make these values real and attainable and reduce fixed mindset triggers. Here are some key growth mindset policies that may need developing and promoting:

  • Making information sharing as easy as possible
  • Actively encouraging collaboration across as well as within teams
  • Making innovation and continuous improvement a KPI for all
  • Seeking and receiving feedback on a regular basis
  • Leaders avoid a blame culture for errors or missteps along the way instead seeing it as part of the learning process.

Further Actions

We hope this has stimulated your thinking around growth mindset. Both you and your organisation may still have some way to go on the road to growth mindset – but remember you are just not there…Yet! If you want to learn more about how Greenbank can help you as a coach or work with your team to develop, support and encourage a growth mindset please do get in touch with us.

Alternately if you want to read more about growth mindset, we recommend Carol Dweck’s book ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success’. 


About Greenbank

Greenbank are an innovative, ‘boutique’ consultancy delivering completely tailored leadership, negotiation and sales development programmes to clients ranging from top 5 global firms to tech start-ups.

We are now delighted to be running truly blended programmes, which make the most of both virtual platforms and interactive face-to-face workshops, to deliver motivational, cost-effective development.

We also have our own industry-leading, multi-lingual, 360° assessment platform, Navigator360 which provides our clients and other training providers with a completely flexible approach to gathering powerful confidential feedback.

If you would like to discuss how we can help your own sales or leadership teams, then we would be delighted to have a relaxed conversation – please contact Ian Hirst or (+44) 7812 074359.