Articles // December 17,2021

Four Practical Ways To Build A Growth Mindset

By Sripriyaa Venkataraman , Research Associate - Rupal Choudhary

Imagine you are a senior leader working for a company called Beta Global. The company’s annual Global Kick-off meeting is about to start in 20 minutes. Some of the key leaders are available in person in the plush board room,  while the rest of the leadership and management team are joining through a conference call.

The air is heady with the smell of coffee. The printer is whirring in full speed as physical copies of the different presentations get printed.

As the meeting starts, Shaun McEnroe, CEO and Senior Board Member, stands up to talk about the company’s vision for 2025. He sums up the achievements and learnings for the year and then outlines his plans for the coming years. He then ends his speech by talking about the importance of developing a “Growth and Multiplier Mindset”. He believes it is the only way to surge towards achieving the company’s vision by 2025. He, however, provides no further information.

Does this sound familiar?

Growth Mindset has become a corporate mantra for sustainable growth and business results, but nobody explains in real terms how to start developing it.

It is a no brainer that individuals, professionals, managers, and leaders can go nowhere with a fixed mindset. We need to build and practice Growth Mindset, but this calls for a MINDSET shift. And Mindset shifts can happen only when we break rigid patterns of hard-wired mental conditioning.

As Dr Srini Pillay, world renowned psychiatrist and brain researcher says, “Humans are wired to master disappointment rather than seek fulfilment.”

I had the opportunity to hear Dr Srini Pillay share a narrative in one of his talks – “A doting mother is rocking a cradle with a happy baby in it. She needs to step out of the room for a while and decides to give the baby a doll. The child is happy. The mother steps out of the room and the child begins to cry and drops the doll. The mother rushes back in, takes the doll and hands it back to the baby and goes out of the room. She believes that the child cried because she dropped the doll. The child, however, observes it differently. She thinks that if she cries and then drops the doll, the mother will come back to her.”

While we are aware of the fact that our intellect can be malleable, there is a certain hard-wired affinity to mental rigidity and inflexibility. Therefore, breaking hard-wired mental patterns becomes key to developing and practicing a growth mindset for multiplier results.

Growth mindset is not a mere proclamation, rather a meaningful journey towards bridging achievement gaps.

So, what are the practical approaches to developing a growth mindset?

In this article, I wish to share the “How to” rather than the “What is” of growth mindset.

First, let us begin our growth mindset practice with some inputs from neuroscience.

Research studies have shown that whenever we perform a difficult task and challenge ourselves, our neurons make new connections. They engage neurotransmitters that impact our body exceptionally. They are indicators of mental/intellectual growth. More the neuron connections, greater the IQ.

Dr Carol Dweck developed a math game called Brain Points based on the Growth Mindset Principle. You could play the game for as long as you wanted, and it would give you points only if you faced some challenges or struggled to solve the questions and gained creativity out of it. Whereas, if you did not face any challenges and solved all the questions effortlessly, you would not gain any points. This is often termed as “Creativity under Constraint”

“The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life”-  Dr Carol Dweck

Second, let us continue our practice of growth mindset with some inputs from psychology –

  1. Often when we face challenges or constraints, our mind searches for past reference points to address it. Although it is a good place to begin, we need to give ourselves permission to explore.
  2. Catch your old pattens with some self-directed cues.

For example, your approach to exercise may be fixed and indexed to lack of time. But if you place your exercise outfit and shoes in your line of sight, perhaps the next day you will stop yourself from answering emails and instead get started with an excise regimen.

It is good to use cues to help change set patterns and excuses and have more options in front of you. This is a good start to the practice of growth mindset.

Third, let us continue our growth mindset practice and adoption with some inputs from social proof –

Psychology tells us clearly about humans’ affinity to social proof. When we know that someone is watching us, we are more inclined to follow through on our commitments. If you have made a strong decision to practice growth mindset, it is time to find some mentors and practitioners and get some ground inputs on –

  1. Their ability to practice growth mindset consistently.
  2. What are the key detractors that came in their way and how they addressed it?
  3. Their reward mechanisms for achieving their milestones in the journey.

Another important dimension of social proof is having an accountability partner, who does not hesitate to challenge and provide constructive feedback.

These suggestions can help you deepen your practice of growth mindset as a way of life and leadership.

For example, one of the leaders that I coach, had lethargy and procrastination getting in the way of his key deliverables. This included providing weekly project status and progress reports to the senior leadership team. He felt he had no time. I provided him social proof and simple guidance by asking him to make his calendar available to his entire team. This helped him get rid of unnecessary meetings and allowed him to focus deeply and provide the weekly reports, in a more strategic manner rather than his usual tactical updates.

This leader also improved his health, by asking his wife to be his accountability partner. She did not hesitate to keep him to his plan. With regular exercise and other wellness practices, he was able to bring his thyroid problem under control. This also helped him fix his issue of lethargy and procrastination.

“Move away from the epidemic of excuses to the pandemic of possibilities” Venkataraman Subramanyan

Fourth, let us make the practice of growth mindset stronger by practicing self-trust, deep self-belief, and building meaning and purpose –

“Do you even believe the words that come out of your mouth?”, is a powerful question to test “self-trust”. A strong practice that begins with self -trust coupled with grit and resilience is a strong ally in the growth mindset journey.

A journey without allies is often boring and hence learning to make friends with stress helps us bounce back stronger every time we go back to our old patterns of thinking and doing.

Coming to terms with what brings meaning to our life and aligning it with our values, is also a key ingredient in the growth mindset journey.

Let me provide a personal example. Being the co-founder of a couple of organizations, and leading their innovation and coaching practice, sometimes feels overwhelming. At every instance, I have observed that my deep alignment to the purpose of “making others great” and “transforming the world around me through the power of education”, has been a great ally. It has kept the energy and focus on practicing and nurturing a growth mindset not just for myself, but also for my teams and organizations.

Move away from the tyranny of the ‘OR’ and embrace the possibilities of the ‘AND’. Enjoy your growth mindset journey and move the needle from mere proclamation to action.

One Comment

  • Narayana Shenoy says:

    You have made it simple. Though we hear this in many places where leaders keep narrating this, now one says how. You have explained it in a simple manner and make understand this more. Also felt this is nothing new rather we should use a magnifier and see what needs to be improved, tweaked, who can help us to align everything together.

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