Developing a Growth Mindset

This edition of the Workbooth, is focused on the enterprising organization. To be enterprising an organization needs to continuously evolve and change with the times. The leaders will continuously

stay ahead of the marketplace and trends by learning from the past and challenging itself to continue to grow. It also means that to be a successful employee you must adapt to the ethos and culture of the organization. You need to have a growth mindset. Even if you work for a company that is not enterprising, you owe it to yourself and your life’s goals to have a growth mindset. Let me share a few thoughts on how you can do this.

1. Keep the Vision in Focus

My first week on my new job a long time ago, I met someone whose job was the regional head of talent for Africa Middle East. It was inspiring for me to aspire to a role that would influence across multiple countries. I mentally filed away a thought ‘one day I’ll be in that job’. From that point on my actions and interactions with the regional team were always focused on making an impact through results. I had only periodic contact, but it was enough to make a mark. The first time I got the opportunity to apply for a role covering multiple countries, I lost out due to ‘lack of international experience’. That taught me a lesson, I needed to be growing global recognition even while I remained local.

Every time I had reason to call them, make an input to a project, I was always adding an extra push to the tasks and deliverables. I didn’t necessarily go around talking about taking on a regional role, but my focus was growing and building enough knowledge to be in the reckoning for future opportunities. I had mapped out steps to take, things to achieve in the local market before moving on to a regional role. When the call came, it was 2 years earlier than I had planned. I moved into the regional team in London for a different role than what I wanted. I took this as the opportunity to be one step closer to my vision. After 6 months, I was promoted to the role I had always seen in my mind’s eye. Getting the role was one thing, keeping it meant a new level of growth. I focused on rediscovering myself and learning in the best words. You should always change and adapt to the expectations of your new circumstances.

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2. Failure is not Final

In one of my roles, I was the programme manager for the company’s graduate trainees. The individuals spent 2 years in rotation across several departments within the company. Within the 2 years, they have reviewed every 6 months. The outcome of the review is ‘up or out’. i.e. either confirmed to progress or the individual will be asked to leave the company. When it comes to having the conversation to terminate employment, it can be difficult, and we prepare for all kinds of scenarios. There was one of the trainees that we had discussed his performance at the people review meeting and we decided to terminate his appointment. He had shown potential but didn’t demonstrate the leadership behaviours we expected consistently. I went into his final evaluation meeting preparing for a difficult conversation. I was completely thrown by his reaction. He was full of relief. He admitted to feeling out his depth and was finally pleased to be able to walk away from it all. He told me he was very grateful for the opportunity and he had learned a lot. He was looking forward to leveraging it all wherever he went.

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Shortly, he got another job with a different company. With the experience from his previous role with us, he was appointed a team leader. You see, he demonstrated one of the important principles of having a growth mindset – failure is not final. It is inevitable to suffer some sort of disappointment or the other. See it is as a learning experience. If you lose the opportunity, you keep the learning. Sometimes, seeing the outcome of another person’s loss can be a great learning experience too.

3. Speak well of yourself to…yourself

How come when a close friend comes to us with an issue or challenge we are wired to speak to that friend with compassion and support. Yet when we make a mistake, we speak to ourselves in hyperbolic exaggerations. Sometimes we make hasty generalised statements about the situation that sounds self-defeating. Think about performers that entertain us, if they stepped on the stage thinking they cannot do it or saying negative words to themselves, they would falter. I am always amazed by stage artists. They have the same show running for several nights, maybe on the first night or the tenth night, the artiste makes a mistake on stage, they get back out the following day doing what they love to do. Catch yourself when you use those self-defeating thoughts after a mistake. Treat yourself like that close friend that you would support and celebrate. To pursue growth, visualize and speak positively to yourself about the outcomes you want. Celebrate your success and it’s ok to tell yourself…Well done!

4. Count them all

Yes, all the moments, the seconds, minutes, hours and days. You learn every day whether you realise it or not. It could be listening to a friend during an exchange of ‘what have you been up to?’. It could be watching children play, reading a book, completing a task or even playing your favourite game. Sometimes you are simply reflecting, and a thought drops into your mind. Counting the moments means remembering them for what they are: learning moments. Recognize when something new was added to you. Find your space and time to capture these moments. Typical reflection moments include – end of the day before going to bed, end of the week, month/year. Key anniversary dates are also important moments to reflect on how much you have grown. Keeping this reflection points in mind will help you capture your learning moments as days pass by.

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Finally, having a growth mindset means you recognize that you never stop growing. I discovered the Japanese principle of Kaizen early on during my time in consulting and it was a fascinating concept. The literal translation of Kaizen is continuous improvement. It is the philosophy that has contributed to modern approaches in lean business management. Kaizen applies to individuals too and if you commit to relentless continuous growth, it is a principle you need to imbibe.

I wrote the words to the poem below on the last day of my master’s program. I shared the full version with my colleagues on the programme but I’ll leave only the opening stanza here.

The Mountaintop isn’t the stop

The top of one mountain is the base of another one

Just as you glory on reaching the summit

You look up

Take a deep breath

Start climbing again

So it is with life’s goals

There are always new peaks to attain

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