- Why do so many organisational initiatives or transformations fail?
- Which different types of mindsets are there?
- Why growth, caring, and abundance mindsets matter
- How do you promote growth, caring, and abundance mindsets?
Thus far, 2021 has brought a lot of uncertainty and change across the world; in people’s personal lives as well as at work. And to deal with uncertainty and change, and to keep moving forward, business leaders are expecting more and more agility, adaptability, and resilience from their employees. In order to bring about this kind of transformation, however, the right mindset – even more so than certain professional skills – is of critical importance.
Why do so many organisational initiatives or transformations fail?
According to a study by McKinsey, fewer than 30 per cent of strategic transformations succeed. Some reasons for this include poor communication, employees who don’t feel seen or heard, and an insufficiently convincing ‘change story’. This means people aren’t persuaded enough to get on board. Leaders need to be aware that getting employees on board with an idea, an initiative, or an important change doesn’t just happen because an organisation decides to launch this new idea, initiative, or change. Getting people on board happens when a certain mindset has been fostered over a long period of time, with consistent small steps and reinforcements, and when employees are regularly empowered and motivated to take ownership of their role and eventually become self-starters.
Clear communication is therefore critical during any transformation – in fact, it makes a successful transformation over three times more likely. It helps employees understand why the organisation is changing and in which direction it’s headed. The study showed that leaders who had taken the time to consider and address their employees’ mindsets were four times more likely to have successful change programmes. Role modelling is another significant factor in achieving the desired change or transformation. In another McKinsey study, in which leaders were asked whether they ‘role model desired behaviour changes’, 86 per cent said yes. However, when the people who report to these leaders were asked the same question, only 53 per cent confirmed that their leaders indeed role modelled the desired behaviour changes.
Which different types of mindsets are there?
A mindset is typically described as a person’s mental attitude, disposition, or frame of reference that predetermines their responses to and interpretations of situations. People tend to adopt one main type of mindset during their lifetime, which can play a huge role in the level of happiness, fulfilment, and success they achieve. Our mindsets can be deeply rooted and determine our level of motivation, our decisions, who we are, and what we believe, experience, and achieve.
The two types of mindsets most frequently referred to when it comes to business transformations are a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. But a study by Stanford University’s Centre for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) identified as many as eight different mindsets that can actually have a positive effect within organisations. What’s most interesting is that they have very little to do with professional skills, and everything with human and social skills. The eight mindsets defined by the study are growth instead of fixed, caring instead of control, wellbeing instead of welfare, interconnectedness instead of self-oriented, abundance instead of scarcity, reflection instead of action, productive instead of defensive, and collective instead of individual.
Out of these eight, we will discuss the growth mindset, the abundance mindset, and the caring mindset in some more detail.
Growth instead of fixed mindset
A fixed mindset is the belief that our qualities and abilities are fixed traits that we are unable to change. People with a fixed mindset tend to believe that their talents and abilities are enough to be successful and that there is no need to put effort in developing and improving them. They tend to avoid challenges that could cause humiliation or embarrassment. Their fear of making mistakes, however, also robs them of opportunities to gain new experiences that could help them – and people around them – grow.
Some examples of a fixed mindset:
- That’s just who I am, nothing I can do about it.
- I’m either good at it or I’m not.
- Criticism and feedback hurt my ego.
- If I don’t try, I won’t fail either.
- Other people’s success makes me jealous.
A growth mindset holds the belief that intelligence and abilities can be improved upon and developed with time and experience, through effort and dedication, and trial and error. People who believe that they can learn and do better are willing to put in the effort realise that this actually improves their outcome and leads to better achievements, which in turn stimulates them to put in even more effort, leading to even more success. A growth mindset helps people discover opportunities and see possibilities, which makes them more collaborative, more open to tackle challenges, and more willing to engage others in the process, which often creates more positive energy.
Some examples of a growth mindset:
- I’m a constantly evolving work in progress.
- I can learn to do anything I set my mind to.
- Criticism and feedback help me improve.
- I see failure as an opportunity to grow.
- Other people’s success inspires me.
According to analysts Elise Olding and Graham Waller from worldwide research and advisory firm Gartner, a growth mindset “stimulates an enterprise’s innovation because of its focus on learning and growing as the way to reach a goal. In other words, to foster innovation within an organisation, it’s important to build a company culture with a focus on a growth mindset – and then reskill employees using the concept of lifelong learning.”
Caring instead of control mindset
As a result of the pursuit of maximum efficiency, many organisations try to push their staff members to do the most in the least amount of time, investing as little money or other resources as possible. These organisations often have strong hierarchies, rigid rules, lots of management layers, and staff members with strictly defined roles and responsibilities, policies and procedures. The majority of employee experiences in these types of work environments are shaped by control mindsets.
These are the environments in which people are cautious of venturing outside of their carefully controlled ‘comfort zones’. In the modern working world, this type of control mindset discourages employees from exploiting their talents, taking initiative, or innovating, and makes it harder – not easier – to get work done. Collaboration and open communication are discouraged by politics, and many start the week already looking forward to the weekend. People become anxious of the unknown, are hesitant to embrace change, and often wrestle with stress or burnout.
People working in positive, high-performing organisational cultures, however, experience and express more caring and compassion, which leads to a heightened sense of connection and more openness. In these environments, more people model value-based positive behaviours and experience less burnout, lower absenteeism, improved job satisfaction, and more efficient team work. As a result of its proven value, various organisations – among which are Southwest Airlines, Zappos, and PepsiCo – have started to include caring in their leadership principles. A caring mindset within organisations leads to empowered and engaged employees who can make all the difference. According to a study by Gallup, workplaces with the highest levels of employee engagement seriously outperformed the ones with lower engagement scores. These workplaces enjoyed significant higher levels of productivity, profitability, and client ratings, as well as lower percentages in terms of staff turnover and absenteeism.
Abundance instead of scarcity mindset
When we have a scarcity mindset, we tend to continuously focus on what’s lacking and perceive everything in our environment – such as money, time, love, or success – to be limited. This results in constant feelings of concern or worry about things potentially going wrong, whether this happens consciously or unconsciously. A scarcity mindset can also lead to resentment, stagnation, victimhood, and entitlement, and influences how we perceive our work environment and the people we work with. People with a scarcity mindset tend to fall into a negativity cycle, preventing them from achieving goals. In the workplace, a scarcity mindset can cause colleagues to compete instead of working together, and only look out for their own interests instead of helping others to succeed. Furthermore, leaders with a scarcity mindset can create a culture in which opportunities, recognition, and (financial) compensation are (perceived to be) limited, sometimes even hoarding resources – like money or power – instead of sharing them for the benefit of all.
An abundance mindset helps people venture into a world of limitless possibilities. It enables people to realise their strengths and develop their talents. People with this mindset generally value themselves and, as a result, also know how to celebrate the value in others. Because of the belief that there’s enough for everyone, an abundance mindset also helps increase our confidence levels. Leaders with an abundance mindset offer broader perspectives, and integrate and value other people’s experiences, opinions, and needs and allocate resources accordingly. In work environments with these kinds of leaders, employees are given the space and opportunities to connect with and explore their creativity and purpose, and to operate and grow without anxiety for the future. Employees in this type of environment feel supported, which leads to increased motivation and innovation. Organisations with an abundance mindset focus on opportunity and creating synergy, and are often more successful and more profitable.
Why growth, caring, and abundance mindsets matter
Organisations should encourage the adoption of growth, caring, and abundance mindsets among their employees – and leaders. People with these mindsets will be more committed to their work, and will have the desire to learn, grow, and flourish. Research has shown that people with these mindsets will readily get involved in more challenging projects, collaborate better, and behave more transparently. These are the people who will reach their goals, and in turn help organisations reach their business objectives. Former LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner believes finding employees with growth mindsets is more important than having a university degree, and, according to Lenovo Group senior vice president and CIO Arthur Hu, a “growth mindset is important because the world is dynamic and changing more quickly than ever. And with nobody able to stay at the cutting edge of every technology field, it is an invaluable orientation that ensures you stay focused on learning how to embrace the latest challenges and focus on discovering the best ideas to capitalize on these challenges, rather than spending energy defending your own ego as the person who has to have all the answers.” Hu continues: “When a leader role models a growth mindset, this also creates a more inclusive work environment as you recognise that each team member has an opportunity to learn from others’ strengths and talents.”
One great example of a company that adopted a growth mindset that led to a culture turnaround is Microsoft. When Satya Nadella became CEO of Microsoft in 2014, he said that he had been inspired by world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol S Dweck’s ideas for Microsoft’s culture change. When he took over, the company was in the middle of an identity crisis. The company had become complacent and appeared content to continue riding a quickly fading wave of success. Its competitors, however, were charging ahead with exciting and innovative ideas. Nadella rolled out new mentoring and coaching initiatives for managers and implemented a top-down growth mindset orientation.
“You need new ideas and you need new capabilities, but the only way you’re going to get those new ideas and new capabilities is if you have a culture that allows you to grow those,” Nadella said. “If you take two kids in school, let’s say one of them has a lot of innate capability but is a know-it-all. The other person has less innate capability but is a learn-it-all. You know how that story ends. Ultimately, the learn-it-all will do better than the know-it-all. And that, I think, is true for CEOs. It’s true for companies.”
How do you promote growth, caring, and abundance mindsets?
Fostering growth, caring, and abundance mindsets can transform an organisation into a haven for innovation. Without it, employees, leaders, and the organisation itself may never reach their full potential. But how do you go about this?
Keep fixed mindsets in check
A fixed mindset could harm, rather than benefit, the growth of your company. Organisations with a growth mindset strive for success based on understanding and reflecting on their mistakes. Also, a focus on rigid policies, procedures, or traditions that may have served a company in the past may no longer be useful now or in the future. It’s important to stay open-minded and embrace change and innovation. When it comes to staff members, a fixed mindset might also lead you to automatically judge someone as too inexperienced, too old, too young, or not having the right qualifications. It’s important to realise that this might cause you to miss that perfect candidate who might actually have just the right perspective and do an incredible job.
Know the difference between performance and growth
Most companies base their company culture on staff performance and focus on things like which team member lands the biggest deals, achieves the highest sales targets, or is the most efficient. And while recognising success is important, it’s even more important for the future of an organisation to shift its emphasis to recognising and rewarding learning experiences, effort, and innovation. This will lead to a work environment in which people feel comfortable enough to fail (and learn), challenge themselves and others, and explore new ideas.
Create an environment in which people aren’t afraid to fail
Failure paves the way to success with opportunities for learning and growth. When an employee or colleague fails at a task, it’s important to at least acknowledge and reward their attempt. Creating an environment in which people aren’t afraid to fail every now and then will go a long way towards fostering a growth, care, and an abundance mindset in your company. This goes for challenges as well. It’s only human to feel uncomfortable when dealing with a challenging experience. It’s important to realise, however, that uncomfortable challenges often turn out to be valuable and rewarding learning experiences that lead to growth.
Although we tend to think that intelligence, talent, creative thinking, personality, and strong decision making skills are the most important traits for succeeding – whether at work, in business, or in our private lives – various studies have found that our mindset is actually the best predictor of success. Employees who work at organisations that encourage growth, care, and abundance mindsets are 34 per cent more likely to feel a strong sense of ownership and commitment to the company, 47 per cent more likely to find their colleagues trustworthy, and 49 per cent more likely to say that the company fosters innovation.
In the words of Carol Dweck: “When you enter a mindset, you enter a new world. In one world – the world of fixed traits – success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other – the world of changing qualities – it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself.”