In his children's book, The Little Engine That Could, author Watty Piper ingrained the mantra, "I think I can. I think I can. I think I can," into generations of young minds, teaching us one of the first and most important lessons we all must learn: that achieving success in any endeavor requires perseverance and belief in oneself.
The same belief, perseverance and confidence displayed in 1930 by the Little Engine is the cornerstone of Growth Mindset – the "new" way of thinking that's taking corporate culture by storm.
What Is a Growth Mindset?
Professor of psychology at Stanford University, Carol Dweck first coined the term, "growth mindset." In its essence, having a growth mindset means believing that intelligence is not fixed or predetermined. For example, growth mindset is the difference between thinking, "I'm not good at organizing, drawing, running or math," and thinking "I'm not good at that thing, yet." Having a growth mindset is having the ability to recognize that the human brain is plastic, not static – the human brain has the ability to learn and improve.
When businesses and business leaders operate with a growth mindset, they seek challenges and embrace failure as a positive part of the learning and growth process.
By leading with a growth mindset, business leaders also cultivate and encourage a mentality of growth mindset in their companies, encouraging their employees to challenge themselves and learn with a growth-oriented company culture.
8 Ways to Promote Growth Mindset and a Company Culture for Growth in Your Business
1. Know the Difference between Growth and Performance
Many companies base their company culture around performance: who makes the most sales, lands the biggest deal, opens the most client accounts or makes the most calls. While it's great to recognize successes in your business, to cultivate a growth mindset, it is also important to reward efforts, learning experiences and innovation in order to create an environment in which employees feel welcome to challenge themselves, try out new ideas and learn from failures.
2. Limit Your Fixed Mindset
Judging someone as too young, too old, too inexperienced or not educated enough for any job is a huge mistake made when operating with a fixed mindset. An individual whom you deem as "too anything" to get a job done right just might have the fresh perspective necessary to get the job done better. Provide all of your employees with educational tools and training resources to continue learning and challenging themselves in order to help your business thrive.
Fixed mindset limits business growth in another way, too: tradition and/or rigid policies and procedures. Be open minded when it comes to the way you do business. Just because your method has proved viable for years, it does not make it the only method, the fastest growing or the best method.
3. Perpetual Education
Look at your (and your employees') deficiencies as opportunities, rather than shortcomings. Each new thing you realize you don't know presents a new opportunity for education and growth.
4. Fail to Succeed
If you have never failed at an endeavor, then chances are you never tried. Failure paves the path to success with opportunities for growth and learning. When you or those working for you fail, acknowledge and reward the attempt. To cultivate a growth mindset in your company, you must create a culture in which employees do not fear failure.
5. Welcome Challenges
Sigmund Freud said, "Out of your vulnerabilities, will come your strength." It is human nature to be uncomfortable in a new, challenging experience. Learn to recognize this feeling of discomfort and chase after it. Most often, the challenges that make you feel the most uncomfortable are also those that turn out to be the most rewarding.
Although we all love to receive compliments, the most valuable feedback is that which fosters improvement, rather than feelings of approval. Be open-minded when hearing criticism and make good use of it. If negative feedback rattles your nerves, give yourself a night or two to sleep on the comments, before you take action to be certain you respond with a level head, from a rational perspective.
7. Celebrate Others' Achievements
Experiencing feelings of jealousy or frustration while witnessing the success of others' (especially when you are facing challenges) are only natural. These feelings, however, are not healthy. To truly foster and operate with a growth mindset, you must feel wholeheartedly happy for others' successes and achievements; a growth mindset seeks improvement in all areas – not only in one's own endeavors. Let others' success encourage you by thinking, "If they can do it, I can, too!"
8. Be Tenacious
Growing is hard, and when striving to grow with a growth mindset, you should expect no less than difficulty. Growth requires tenacity and perseverance. Growth requires you to keep your goals in sight and push through frustrations, failures and challenges along the way.
Encouraging Growth with a Smart Back Office
If you prime your company culture for improvement with a growth mindset, your business will also need a back office to match. In order to really see your small business take off, it is just as important to have a growth mindset from a bookkeeping and finance perspective, as well as from a human resources and company culture perspective.
As in other aspects of business, your company's bookkeeping and accounting department will face challenges, experience cash flow shortages and hit plateaus. When growth mindset takes hold in your back office, however, you will be able to identify the wealth of opportunities each of these challenges presents your company. Take advantage of these opportunities to expand.
In bookkeeping and accounting, growth mindset appears slightly different than it does culturally in your company; it's the difference between having a smart back office, not only set up for compliance and day-to-day function, but also for management accounting and reporting.
With transparent financial data coming from your business's back office, you can create written goals, make changes to achieve them and monitor your company's progress along the way.
With a smart back office and growth mindset, you can identify shortcomings (opportunities for improvement) and use your financial reports to reveal how you should embrace these challenges to make the most of each opportunity for growth you find.