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Leading With a Growth Mindset: Your Words Matter

Published about 1 month ago • 3 min read

Do You Have a Fixed or Growth Mindset?

Let's look at some examples...

"Your intelligence is something very basic about you that you can't change very much."

"You can learn new things, but you can't really change how intelligent you are."

"No matter how much intelligence you have, you can always change it quite a bit."

"You can always substantially change how intelligent you are."

Did you find yourself agreeing more with the first two phrases?

...or with the last two phrases?

In her book 'Grit - The Power of Passion and Perseverance', Angela Duckworth discusses how studies have shown that people who agree more with the first two phrases tend to have a FIXED mindset.

While those who agree more with the last two phrases tend to have a GROWTH mindset.

The difference?

Eventually, at some point, you will hit a bump in the road on this journey of life.

Those who have a FIXED mindset interpret setbacks as proof they are not good enough and will be derailed on continuing down their path.

However, those with a GROWTH mindset will more likely choose to work harder, or get support to overcome the setback and continue down their path.

Both mindsets agree that you can learn skills... how to ride a bike, or do a sales pitch... but they disagree on whether your capacity to learn skills... your intelligence or talent... can improve or be trained.

Here's how Leaders can unknowingly or knowingly undermine vs. promote a growth mindset (and grit) within their team (these examples are from Angela Duckworth's book 'Grit'):

"You're a natural! I love that." (Undermines)

"You're a learner! I love that." (Promotes)

"Well, at least you tried!" (Undermines)

"That didn't work. Let's talk about how you approached it and what might work better. (Promotes)

"Great job! You're so talented!" (Undermines)

"Great job! What's one thing that could have been even better?" (Promotes)

"This is hard. Don't feel bad if you can't do it." (Undermines)

"This is hard. Don't feel bad if you can't do it yet." (Promotes)

"Maybe this just isn't your strength. Don't worry - you have other things to contribute." (Undermines)

"I have high standards. I'm holding you to them because I know we can reach them together." (Promotes)

Language is a funny thing, isn't it?!?!

Sometimes it is just one word that changes the perceived meaning of what you say.

Think this isn't really all that important? Why should you care?

According to Berkeley professor Jennifer Chatman who surveyed Fortune 1000 companies, the difference is found in the overall company's culture.

In FIXED mindset companies, employees agreed with statements like:

"This company seems to believe that people have a certain amount of talent,

and they really can't do much to change it."

"Only a few star performers are highly valued;

the company isn't invested in other employees' development."

"I keep secrets, cut corners, and cheat to get ahead."

In GROWTH mindset company cultures, employees were:

47% more likely to say their colleagues were trustworthy.

49% more likely to say their companies foster innovation.

65% more likely to say their company supports risk taking.

I've seen the difference personally... in a dramatic shift within a team that I took over.

In my first week, I was given a list of people on my team who were low performers, whom I should plan to fire.

I didn't fire anyone...

In fact, I ended up promoting one of them after watching her flourish in both her role and self confidence. Another one became a star performer on the team.

The company had an anonymous survey that all employees took. The scores my new team had rated their own engagement was as poor as how they viewed the company.

The survey, just a year after I took over told a different story...

The previous year's score showed this team having 62% engagement. The very next year, they rated their engagement to be 87%. This team now had a new mindset and their rating grew year over year.


It may sound inconsequential, buy you really can make a difference in even the smallest of ways.

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Hi! I'm Stephanie, founder of the Empowered Leaders Academy.

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