Adopt a growth mindset to strengthen your team01 Dec 2022

A man appears happy to have succeeded in writing code

We recently looked into ways to improve teamwork and to perfect an individual's fit into a team. This time, we'll consider how to keep a team focused on improvement rather than solely on maintaining the status quo.

As you can imagine, the value in your team displaying focus on getting their work, their process, and planning better has immediate positive consequences for your company and clients. If each person on the team is mindful of weak points in the product or service they deliver and takes it upon themselves to raise the matter and propose a solution, you can see the path to improvement opening up.

But this approach can reach yet another level: what the team considers possible and impossible to achieve. Here is where we get to the concept of a mindset, not only in terms of an individual one but also a team's mindset. There's fascinating research by Stanford University Professor Carol Dweck on how a team's fixed and its opposite - a growth mindset impacts their thinking and undertakings.

A fixed mindset team assumes that the results of their work are forever tied to what they know and can, and their highest results are achieved by hard work and the best use of their skillset.
A growth mindset team also believes that their results depend on their skills and knowledge, but with the caveat that every difficulty and stumbling block is an opportunity to broaden their skills and knowledge.
In other words, where a fixed mindset team might say: we'll do our best to apply what we know to solving this problem, a growth mindset team says: we'll do our best to gain information and skills necessary to solving the problem.

In the real world, these approaches differentiate the accurate teams from the high-success, high-satisfaction, high-achievement ones. Moreover, teams that have adopted the growth mindset require less to no management, display higher empowerment and cause lower employee turnover, making the company more prosperous on all levels.

A manager looks content with her team's progress

How to instill a growth mindset in your team?

Give and ask for feedback

Behavior indicative of fixed mindsets is the unwillingness to ask silly or otherwise controversial questions in fear of being mocked, judged, or seen as unprofessional. But sometimes, especially in well-established organizations, a new blood employee asking a seemingly obvious question can initiate change in how something is seen and done. If your team tends to avoid asking those simple questions, actively ask them for feedback on what they perceive as unintuitive, strange, or otherwise suboptimal. Regularly posing these questions will get them comfortable with speaking their mind. After all, you all have a common goal: a successful and well-managed workplace. On the other hand, though this is less of a problem, don't be afraid to give feedback in the same manner - truly assume that there are no silly questions. It should go without saying, but by asking for feedback and encouraging the team to ask back, all parties must stay open to take and use criticism.

A lively team discussion in an office

Invest in employees

Promoting new skills development through internal means will help the team grow and foster a culture of learning and evolving. What's more, in many cases, people in who the company has invested become more likely to give back through loyalty and dedication.

Avoid perfectionism

It has to be said, that once you assume that you have to learn in order to keep getting better, the new, challenging work results will not be perfect. The team, and its manager, must be aware of that and not strive for perfection. You want your team to be continually evolving rather than robotically flawless.

Don't punish failure and maintain transparency

View failure as an opportunity to improve and make a point of treating it as such. Opening your team's entire work history, objectives, and current state to everyone's access, thereby creating complete transparency, will help that along. For example, the team failed to succeed in achieving a given objective. Rather than archiving that task under the "lost" work stage, you may want to create a new process stage on the team's visual board: e.g., called Failed - Opportunity to improve. With this approach, although the setback will not be wiped away, it will not be a complete failure, but one transformed into a piece of information on what the team needs to improve.

A woman looks at a glass door Kanban while planning the best way forward with a project

Make an effort to diversify

We've raised this point in one of the [previous articles in the series], but it also rings true in this context. You're more likely to create a growth-oriented environment by seeking out workers from all backgrounds, all levels of experience, and of different personality types, rather than matching similar team members into groups. People will naturally get inspired by each other's differences and are likely to venture outside of how they normally think and operate, which is what you want when cultivating a growth mindset in a team.

Underscore the need to go outside of the comfort zone

It's a well-established fact that an individual stepping out of their comfort zone is embarking on a journey to learn something new or combat a weakness. The action is so alien that the very thought of it makes them uncomfortable. When you're looking to expand the team members' mindset, be sure to monitor for those kinds of efforts.

There's no need to try all of the above ideas at once. But if you're going to start with just one, start with the one that seems the hardest. Doing that will help you to embrace the growth mindset. Not to mention, the rest of the journey will be all downhill. Your team's adoption of the growth mindset will make it more resilient and give it a courageous, innovative, collaborative, and open attitude to all future challenges.

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