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Are there some things you find easy to do and learn? And others where you think, I will never be able to do that in a million years?

It seems that whatever you think, you may be right.

I finally engaged with the work Professor Carol Dweck on Growth Mindset. Last week I attended a thought provoking and inspiring workshop ran by Charlie Warshawski at Guildford Coaches Group.

Even from the pre-work I was a little bit shocked. I thought I had a growth mindset about almost everything. I discovered this was not true. My mindset was more mixed and nuanced. I believed I could do some things but not others. I wonder if this is the same for you too? For example, might you be:

  • fully confident in your abilities as an engineer, but, prefer to leave people and conflict stuff to someone else. You believe it is too hard for you?
  • massively comfortable as a project manager with a Gantt chart, but, think that speaking to large numbers of people to communicate the change programme is beyond you?
  • fearful that you can never, ever learn to use Excel speadsheets or technology yet, would always be happy to talk to people to solve problems?

Believing that we can do some things but not others will influence how we are seen at work. It will limit our overall success and progression in ways we do not want. So let’s look at what we mean by growth mindset a little more.

A growth mindset allows us to believe we can learn and improve, whereas a fixed mindset believes intelligence is static, and can only stay where it is.

A growth mindset can help keep you engaged in unlocking and developing your own potential, rather than allowing it to be quashed by yourself or others.

In the workplace many tasks can seem a combination of both the technical and deeply personal. The deeply personal bit is where the fixed mindset can work against us, and if we are not careful, thrive.

So what if you are a manager? What can you do with your team?

Carol Dweck’s main point seems to be to encourage effort and process not outcomes. You might need to observe, listen to and get to know your people in a different way. Your praise and encouragement might benefit from shifting to things like:

  • I can see all the effort you have put in to finding a new approach here – well done
  • I valued your courage in going that tiny step further building a relationship with our customer – I saw what you did, it will make a difference. Thank you
  • Gosh, I can see your progress with your speadsheet skills – one step at a time has really worked for you, hasn’t it.

This sort of feedback – about effort and process, not outcomes – allows your team member to envision themselves doing more and not less with the tasks they need to achieve.

It is in the tiny, nuanced accomplishments that we build our muscle of belief that we can improve and grow.

And for me personally?

I’ve realised growth mindset applies in this example too. Some years back I thought I was no good at empathy. I found a strategy though, which was to imagine myself in the other person’s shoes. At first, it was slow and clunky. Over time though, it has become faster and more natural.

I think I am quite good at empathy now. It has added to my success and professional satisfaction in so many ways. I’m so glad I gave it a go.

Might there be something here for you to consider too?


Gill How has a passion for Leadership Development, is a National Training Award Winner and a Master Executive Coach.  She loves to work with managers and professionals to help them develop awareness and skills to develop their teams and deliver results everyday. If she can add value to your team, whether you are an L&D Director in an ambitious organisation needing an extra pair of hands, or a Leadership Development consultancy needing more high calibre associates in your team, get in touch.


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Photo credit:  Singkham from Pexels

Gill How

Helping leaders grow, step up and deliver outstanding results


  • David Cohen says:

    Hi Gill,
    An interesting post.
    For years I’ve acknowledged that when it comes to business finance, I have no idea what someone is talking about – journals, budgets, virements etc. etc. – you name it. I’ve almost exclusievly steered clear of this whole area, and even if I say so myself, haven’t done too badly. Home / personal finance is a different matter, where I would say I have a reasonable understanding, mostly from being self-taught, reading, learning etc. Of course, this could be related to the fact that I’m on the autistic spectrum, but still, it’s something that has always been a bit of a brick wall, i.e. I have no understanding and “never will”.

    • Gill How says:

      HI David, thanks for your comment and great example. I can identify with what you are saying. Maybe we could both challenge ourselves as to what would be progress in this direction. Either that, or decide the area is not interest to you, and therefore we are not going to try….! Thanks again for your support of my blog! Gill

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