3 Ways To Transition Your Company To A Coaching Culture

March 4, 2019

In today’s work environment, knowing how to coach your team is an essential leadership skill. To effectively deliver performance feedback, leaders need to be equipped with high amounts of emotional intelligence and a sharp communication skills to avoid damaging relationships, misunderstandings, resentment, and poor performance. Instead, leaders who know how coach strengthen the self-confidence, self-esteem, and motivation of their team by using specialized skills that support, encourage, and highlight shared interest in the overall success of the team.

Traditional Performance Management Is Broken

Using a traditional performance review method that includes yearly or bi-annual feedback with 1-5 ratings feels mechanical, cold, and is not effective for objectively judging performance. This process can cause unnecessary stress, anxiety, and even emotional trauma for some unfortunate employees. The worst part is that this method is based on the assumption that human beings are capable of making sound, objective judgements about the performance of others. Studies show quite the opposite. Shockingly, 61% of a “rating” is based on the bias of the boss, not the actual employee performance. Imagine the frustration of having your yearly pay increase hinged on someone whose opinion is mostly biased. This type of performance management is broken.

More than ever, younger generations are demanding that companies adopt performance management systems based on ongoing feedback discussions and coaching, rather than unhelpful, infrequent, or non-existent methods. In fact, 70% of employees think reviews should focus on skills development and professional growth.

Why Coaching Matters

Growth and development doesn’t just happen by osmosis. It takes intentional and disciplined effort to accomplish a particular goal or outcome. But it’s so worth it. Having strong coaching skills allows leaders to use an emotionally intelligent and highly effective approach that produces positive results on performance. They foster more loyalty, respect, and cooperation through their interest in, and positive attitude toward, their team’s growth and development.

When we think back on those in life who challenged us, encouraged us, and supported us, many will imagine a coach on a sports team. While they look a little different in the business world, great coaches are those who helped us set challenging goals, held us accountable when we slipped up, and most importantly, motivated and inspired us to be better each day. Coaches help us overcome obstacles and be more successful. Memorable coaches are the ones who get results by increasing our self-esteem, self-confidence, and motivation to put in extra effort.

Many companies overlook the importance of developing the coaching skills of their leaders. This often leads to unclear expectations, poor feedback, and negative relationships between leaders and their teams. How can a team perform at its best when the leader is not prepared to coach?

To be more competitive and successful in today’s work environment, companies must provide the system and support that grows leaders who can effectively coach their teams to success. Here are some things to keep in mind.

1. Replace Outdated Performance Management With Real-Time Feedback Methods

Studies show that regular feedback reduces turnover by 15% and that 85% of millennials would feel more confident in their current position if they had more frequent performance conversations with their managers.

Take a look at how your company does performance reviews. Yearly, biannual, even quarterly review systems and 1-5 performance ratings that don’t focus on ongoing feedback and growth, have long been out of style. Research shows that these methods are demoralizing, increase turnover rates, and create resentment toward a leader or company. Furthermore, these types of performance management strategies miss out on the huge growth potential of giving performance feedback on a constant basis.

A more modern approach that many companies are adopting entails weaving continuous coaching and development into their culture and performance management strategies. Using a growth and development, or coaching system of performance management, drastically improves retention, engagement, and overall company success as it creates more happy, engaged, and skilled employees.

2. Give Leaders The Training They Need To Coach Their Team

It is unwise for companies to assume that highly skilled workers who are promoted to a management role already have the skills to effectively coach and lead their team. These employees are excellent workers, but they may not make the best leaders and coaches. They are usually well-intentioned and excel at things like strategy, analysis, and problem solving, but may struggle in the area of emotional intelligence. This skills gap can lead to many costly consequences like an unhealthy workplace where disengagement thrives, trust is low, and performance is well below what it should be. Fortunately, this can change.

Switching ourselves to a growth mindset reminds us that leaders can learn the skills they need in areas like emotional intelligence, delivering performance feedback, and effectively coaching their team to success. While the Peter Principle may exist, it need not apply to companies who focus on growth and development. When managers are given proper knowledge, skills, and resources to correctly do their job, they are much more likely to succeed. Knowing how to coach can take someone struggling to lead and dramatically increase their effectiveness and performance.

3. Have a System

Gaining the skills to coach is only the beginning. Without the proper operating system or organizational backing, efforts to develop a coaching culture will most likely not succeed. Therefore, once leaders are trained on how to coach their team, it’s important to implement a structure for feedback and collaboration that will act as a guide and resource for ensuring ongoing execution. Without the support of a proper system to compliment training, it will be difficult for companies to ensure that ongoing feedback is occurring.

Final Thoughts

The changing tide in workplace culture makes knowing how to coach a critical skill for effective leadership. Transitioning to a culture of increased emotional intelligence, real-time feedback, collaboration, and goal setting skills will have a dramatic impact on how employees perform for your company. If you would like to learn more about how to establish a coaching culture in your organization, please contact Sprout Leadership today.

5 Ways to Improve Your Company's Human Balance Sheet

February 25, 2019

In business, financial balance sheets measure the financial performance and health of a company in a variety of areas. At your company, what would that sheet look like if it were measuring the health and performance of your people? Would the “human balance sheet” show substantial profits in the areas of employee well-being, engagement, motivation, fulfillment, and loyalty? Or would it show stark losses like burnout, animosity, resentment, mistrust, and lack of organizational alignment.

Missing Out on True Potential

It’s easy to see how an unhealthy human balance sheet can lead to many different negative consequences like turnover, lack of innovation, interpersonal conflicts, poor customer service, disengagement, and sluggish growth. These issues strangle the bottom line and hold a business back. While there are many possible root causes to these problems, these symptoms often originate with leadership who lack the proper skills to effectively lead and motivate their team.

Many leaders lack skills is in the area of emotional intelligence. Also known as “soft skills”. A widespread misconception posits that emotional intelligence and interpersonal relationship management have no effect on the bottom line. This notion could not be further from the truth. In fact, emotional intelligence is one of the fastest growing job skills.

Leaders who lack good emotional intelligence skills create an unhealthy and sometimes even toxic environment that erodes trust and reduces organizational speed and effectiveness. These environments put a heavy strain on the bottom line and prevent employees from developing the psychological safety needed for innovation, continuous improvement, and productivity to flourish.

The emotional intelligence of leaders has a strong correlation to employee retention, one of the largest problems companies face today. Helping your team members develop the skills they need to be an effective leader is crucial for their success. Companies must manage their culture with an emotionally intelligent and compassionate perspective, and adopt policies and development programs that reflect that view as well. Otherwise, if they have not already, they will lose the hearts, minds, and souls of the people who run the operations of a business.

Remember, people are the ones running the business, serving customers, and sparking new innovation to stay ahead of the competition. It is important to make judicious financial investments in physical capital to grow the business. However, without investing in culture and leadership development, wise physical capital investments are nearly meaningless to overall financial performance. It is as important, if not more, to invest resources into developing leadership so they can be effective at leading and motivating the people who make a difference day in and day out.

Millennials demand that companies provide an environment with enriching development opportunities for their employees. If they see that companies aren’t providing those development opportunities, ethical practices, and emotionally intelligent policy decisions, they either check out, act out, or get out.

Shifting to a Healthy Human Balance Sheet

When it comes to a healthy human balance sheet, culture is everything. Here are some ways leaders can improve your human balance sheet and create a better organizational culture:

1. Listen

When people feel heard and valued they are much more likely to connect on an emotional level. Feeling understood is critical for the formation of trust, understanding, and empathy. As humans, our natural reaction to conflict is to prove we are right. However, when we curiously listen with the intent to gain perspective, we often discover a more advanced understanding which helps build empathy.

2. Promote an inclusive culture

By acknowledging and promoting the value of people that bring different skills and perspectives, companies can foster an environment of high self-esteem and confidence, which leads to better performance and more loyal employees. When people feel included, they are much more likely to be more productive, enthusiastic, and engaged with the work they are doing.

3. Create safe space

Many work environments are places where employees don’t feel as though they can speak up, dissent, or share ideas without fear of insult, criticism, and disrespect. Without an environment that allows for vulnerability to take place, this fear destroys creativity before it even starts. As a leader, promote the notion that ideas are to be respected and recognized based on their merit. Furthermore, coach and hold accountable those who work against creating a healthy environment with their unnecessary biting criticism and non-inclusive attitude.

4. Adjust decisions to align with diverse human needs and motivations

The diversity of the modern workplace also makes it complex. As a diverse species, humans need different things. When decisions come from an understanding of the needs and motivations of different groups, leaders earn respect, loyalty, and admiration from their team members.

5. Establish a formal, structured, one-on-one coaching program

Implementing a structured coaching program that allows for regular, honest feedback and dialogue to occur between team leaders and team members is crucial for improving culture. Establishing and working on building connection in relationships with team members can greatly increase the levels of understanding, empathy, and clear communication. Without regular, ongoing feedback, there is likely to be a perpetual wall between leader and team member and little room for continuous improvement.

When organizations improve the performance of their human balance sheet, they simultaneously improve their financial balance sheet. Employees who feel valued, respected, and safe are going to perform at a much higher level than those that feel emotionally disconnected, devalued, and afraid. Leaders must learn how to support their teams, meet their needs, and create a positive workplace culture.

For more information about establishing a formalized coaching system, improving your culture, and increasing the health of your human balance sheet, contact Sprout Leadership today.

Daydreaming: Not All Who Wander Are Lost

February 8, 2019

While pursuing my teaching degree, nearly a decade ago, I taught a 12th grade Psychology course. We were exploring curriculum on states of consciousness, which included topics like sleep, hypnosis, and self-awareness. One day, I had an idea for a lesson. This wasn’t an ordinary lesson that students were used to in other classes. In fact, it was the exact opposite.

For the entire class period, they were to do nothing but daydream and use a blank sheet of paper to make their thoughts come to life. Turning to the room full of confused faces, I explained, “Write whatever you want: a story, a list, a letter, your feelings, worries, thoughts, or you can draw. You can mark all over the page, in any direction.” It was total freedom to just be.

I was astonished by the creativity of the results. Students drew funny cartoons, did dream interpretations, and vented their feelings about relationship difficulties, while the inevitable few wrote about how “laaameeee” the exercise was. Despite the few unenthused outliers, seeing so many positive responses to this lesson validated what I, and science, believe is a window to accessing the creative mind.

The purpose of this exercise was to bring the students’ mental images and free-flowing thoughts into conscious awareness and capture them as they appear. This process of freeing the mind from focus and distraction has a tremendous effect on how we access ideas and solve problems. I liken this concept to soup: It’s impossible to see all the ingredients when it’s stirred quickly, but deliberately slowing down, we begin to see the bits of information that normally remain locked in the unconscious mind.

In our society, where productivity is often the sole driving force of our day, value is rarely given to a simple, yet powerful act like daydreaming. Some of the most brilliant minds, like Albert Einstein, were masters in mind wandering, pondering, and “spacing out”. Einstein knew the power of daydreaming and embraced it as a valuable tool for creative insight when constructing his Theory of General Relativity.

Science has shown that the act of taking time to let our minds wander aids in working through difficult problems, recognizing how we feel, and release valuable ideas and connections that would otherwise stay hidden. This process is sometimes called “tapping into our gut-instinct” or intuition. Try it for yourself. All you need to do is turn off the smartphone, turn off the monitor, or turn off the tv and instead, take a walk, take a seat, and take time to just listen to the source of creativity, values, and problem solving that lives within us all.

The End of Business as Usual: A Case for Conscious Capitalism

February 4, 2019

"This is what we know to be true: business is good because it creates value, it is ethical because it is based on voluntary exchange, it is noble because it can elevate our existence, and it is heroic because it lifts people out of poverty and creates prosperity. Free-enterprise capitalism is one of the most powerful ideas we humans have ever had. But we can aspire to even more. Let us not be afraid to climb higher."

– John Mackey, Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business

Conscious capitalism is quickly becoming the new status quo for modern business. It’s no secret that Millennials and Gen-Z are using their purchasing power to support businesses that align with their values. They are “activist” generations who also want to do good though their work. In fact, 88% of Millennials feel their job is more fulfilling when they have the opportunity to make an impact. But it’s not just Millennials. Overall, 93% of employees want to work for a company that cares about them as an individual.

The businesses these younger generations support, both who they buy from and who they seek to work for, are outstanding at creating value. They care deeply about the welfare of their people and about the overall impacts on all stakeholders.

There is a growing movement among many young people to avoid organizations who do not promote progressive policies and ethical practices. So much so that business leaders need to create a compelling reason why people should want to work for their organization.

What is Conscious Capitalism?

Capitalism is the greatest system of wealth creation in recorded human history. However, most businesses miss the point and potential of such a powerful tool. These businesses view their existence purely as a means to maximize profit to shareholders and treat all participants in the system as a means to an end. In his book, Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business, founder and Co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, John Mackey, provides a different view. He explains,

This approach may succeed in creating material prosperity in the short-term, but the resultant price tag of long-term systemic problems is increasingly unacceptable and unaffordable. Too many businesses fail to recognize the significant impacts they have on the environment…and on the physical health and psyches of team members and customers. Many businesses have created stressful and unfulfilling work conditions…The myth that profit maximization is the sole purpose of business has done enormous damage to the reputation of capitalism and the legitimacy of business in society. We need to recapture the narrative and restore it to its true existence: that the purpose of business is to improve our lives and create value for stakeholders.

The view that money is the only measure of value is a narrow one. Businesses can create value for many different stakeholders: employees, customers, vendors, the environment, their community and so on. This type of value creation extends the limit on human ingenuity, collaboration, trust, as well as material wealth.

There are numerous types of wealth that are either generated or destroyed by business practices. These include financial, mental, physical, spiritual, emotional, environmental, social, and intellectual wealth. Mackey writes, "A business that generates financial wealth but destroys other forms of wealth (which can have greater impacts on people’s well-being adds far less value to the world than it is capable of. If it destroys enough of the other kinds of wealth, the business has a negative net impact on the world."

Shifting perspective to a more conscious vantage point allows leaders to look at their operations as a piece of an interconnected system. Doing so reveals opportunities to capitalize on value for stakeholders that would otherwise have gone unnoticed and unmaterialized.

Conscious Businesses Get Results

Conscious businesses like Southwest Airlines, IKEA, Warby Parker, Patagonia, Costco, The Container Store, and Whole Foods Market provide quality products at a fair price while also building causes into their mission and business model. These types of companies perform extraordinarily well in comparison to the S&P 500.

Conscious business practices are not simply about doing what is right or nice. The benefits elevate the well-being of those in the organization while simultaneously benefiting the bottom line through reducing turnover, increasing engagement, attracting the best talent, reducing negative conflict, and sparking innovation. Better employee health and well-being means less of what we all don’t want: burnout, turnover, and negative workplace interactions; and more of the good stuff: engagement, fulfillment, and happiness.

These positive outcomes are important because companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share. Additionally, in a review of over 200 studies, 88% showed that good environmental, social, and governance practices result in better operational performance and reduces the average turnover rate by 25-50%.

Leading with Conscious Capitalism at the core of the business inspires, motivates, and energizes an organization. This can lead to extraordinary results for a business. Studies show that “Inspired” employees are much more productive than employees who are merely satisfied. By focusing on adapting your business management operations to align with Conscious Capitalism, leaders will be better equipped to bring their team to their highest potential.

Integrating Conscious Capitalism

Conscious organizations foster:

  • A deeply meaningful, higher purpose
  • Loyal customers
  • Engaged and passionate employees
  • Collaborative and innovative suppliers
  • Healthy communities and environment

Here are some questions to work through:

  • What are the ways in which your business currently creates value? Where are the opportunities to increase that value to your system of customers, employees, the community, and other stakeholders?
  • What are you investing in? Are you working toward increasing your employee happiness, engagement, and fulfillment through initiatives like onboarding and continuous personal and professional development? How are you creating a great customer experience? Study after study shows that happy employees usually means happy customers.
  • Are you promoting and developing Conscious Leaders?

You can’t have a conscious business if your leadership is not conscious. Mackey says, "Leadership in the third millennium must be based on the power of purpose, love, caring, and compassion. Conscious leadership is fully human leadership; it integrates the masculine and feminine, the heart and the mind, the spirit and the soul."

Who doesn’t want to work for a company that has soul? Leaders have a responsibility to become more conscious. As leaders evolve and grow, so will the organization.

Closing Thoughts

We live in a rapidly changing, interconnected world where the solutions of the past will not work for the problems of the present and future. The changing culture and growth in popularity of conscious business practices leaves businesses with a clear choice. Leaders must adapt a more conscious way to operate if they want to continue to grow, develop, and lead the 21st-century. That road starts with finding the right people to help you get there.

We can settle for the way we’ve always done things, or we can harness the power that Conscious Capitalism brings to create meaningful value in ourselves, our teams, our organizations, and all stakeholders involved.

Let us help your business create a more cooperative, humane, and positive future. To learn more about how to become a more conscious business, contact Sprout Leadership today.

Increasing Engagement Through Conscious Leadership

January 28, 2019

The modern workforce is undergoing a tremendous shift. Gallup reports that 53% of the workforce is considered “not engaged” and 13% of the workforce is “actively disengaged.” The staggering number of workers who are merely going through the motions to collect a paycheck demonstrates this engagement crisis.

Millennials and Gen-Z are transforming nearly every aspect of business and revolutionizing the way we look at leadership. Value is shifting toward healthy, people-centered cultures. Employees expect that businesses serve a higher purpose, and focus on employee development. As a result, leadership and motivational tactics of the past are becoming less viable.

The twenty-first century is calling for a new type of emotionally intelligent, compassionate, and courageous leader: the Conscious Leader. Conscious Leaders have a high degree of self-awareness, productively manage their emotions, effectively communicate with others in a healthy manner, connect with those around them in meaningful ways, and creatively use business to solve problems in order to make the world a better place.

Why Conscious Leadership Matters

Businesses compete to attract talented employees. As a result, power has shifted from companies to employees. Organizations can no longer get away with having toxic cultures, at least not for long. Great cultures win great employees.

Many companies today are run by command and control management. In these environments, employees are not properly valued or recognized for their achievements. Morale destroying policies are often held-over from a time when workers were seen as simply replaceable parts, and unclear and uninspiring philosophies foster little engagement, alignment, or focus. In other words, most companies aren’t leading well!

Businesses succeed when they build people-centered cultures that maximize the potential of current employees and attract the right people to the organization. This means adopting a strategy to develop conscious leadership within their walls.

Consciously Leading

Consciousness is synonymous with awareness. This starts with knowing yourself and learning how to lead yourself. Who are you on a deeper level? What matters most to you? Self-discovery is like peeling an onion, layer by layer. The process of observing your thoughts, emotions, and the world around you releases valuable insight into the core of who you are: your values, strengths, motivations, and emotional states. Going through this process allows you to live life in accordance with who you are, to cultivate your most authentic self.

In healthy cultures, leaders are encouraged to bring their most authentic self to work every day to inspire, motivate, and improve organization. Organizations that promote and value the expression of the authentic-self foster employees with higher self-esteem, confidence, empathy, and well-being. Furthermore, collective impact is maximized when strengths are understood, valued, and leveraged.

It is important to note that being your authentic self does not mean treating people however you want, verbally abusing, or mistreating others simply because “that’s just who I am.” As a leader in today’s workplace, expressing your authentic self is only effective when paired with strong emotional intelligence and compassion for others.

Role of Compassion in Conscious Leadership

Most leaders give their best effort, but often get in their own way by not understanding and empathizing with the human beings they lead. Savvy workers recognize poor leadership and either check-out or ship-out. Many of these workers have huge potential that remains dormant in an unsupportive, Machiavellian environment. It is up to leadership to improve the environment and cultivate that potential.

Part of Conscious Leadership is learning how to compassionately lead other people. Once again, this starts with awareness. By understanding other people on a deeper level, leaders are more effective at motivating, inspiring, and fostering the success of their team. This forms a personal connection that demonstrates “we’re all in this together” and “how can I best support your growth and success?”

Interacting with your team in a compassionate manner breeds higher engagement, loyalty, and emotional connectedness to the organization. It’s much easier to strengthen the bonds of trust and respect if people are treated with empathy when individual challenges and tough decisions arise. Conscious leaders utilize compassion in hard situations by using methods such as onboarding, flexible schedules, and outplacement. These techniques soften the blow of a difficult circumstance and increases loyalty and admiration for the company.

Compassionately leading means creating a psychologically safe environment that allows everyone to be vulnerable. This allows trust to form by showing the humanness between both people. By using compassion as a way to garner trust, leaders will create an environment of open communication, respectful feedback, less interpersonal conflict, and a culture of courageous action and ideas.

Conscious Courage

It’s not enough for leaders to just foster an authentic self and use compassion in dealing with their teams. Conscious Leaders also focus on how their organization can play a role in courageously creating the future. A higher level of awareness allows Conscious Leaders to think holistically about the interconnectedness of their organization as part of a larger societal system. These leaders promote organizational growth through the power of concepts like diversity and inclusion, collaboration, sustainable practices. They look for opportunities to create value not ONLY for owners, but for many different stakeholders.

Organizations that adopt this way of thinking are some of the best performing. In fact, Raj Sisodia, business professor and author of the book Firms of Endearment states that studies have shown:

[Conscious] companies not only do all those good things, but also deliver extraordinary returns on their investments, outperforming the market by a nine-to-one ratio over ten years. Clearly, this was not just about “nice” companies doing good things. A lot more value creation is going on with these companies than at first evident.

Often times in business, leaders operate from a zero-sum perspective. They think in terms of how they can squeeze out the maximum profit at the expense of things such as employee health, the environment, vendors, etc. This outdated way of thinking hurts the overall value creation, not just of the organization, but of the system as a whole. It misses out on opportunities for creative problem solving and growth. For example, exploiting a vendor on price will affect their ability to invest in machinery that increases the quality of their products, thereby hurting your business in the end and missing out on shared value creation.

These ideas are foundational to Conscious Capitalism, an evolved form of capitalism which presents business as an opportunity to maximize value creation to as many stakeholders as possible. This means that decisions are not based on defensive scarcity (“someone has to lose and it’s not going to be me”), but rather on courageously searching for win-win (and in some cases win-win-win-win-win-win) solutions in dealing with employees, vendors, the environment, and so on. This way of leading looks for how we can all work together to create value that would never exist if it weren’t for cooperation. This type of thinking not only works toward building a better future, but is a tremendous way to foster engagement, loyalty, and respect for your organization.

Consciously Leading the Future

Companies that want to stay competitive and relevant in the changing workforce will have to change how they view leadership. As new generations continue to challenge the status quo, it’s important for organizations to adapt their cultures and begin to elevate their level of thinking and operating. After all, people are the most important part of your business. These changes may seem daunting, but the upside potential will be extraordinary for your business, your industry, and your life.

To learn more about Conscious Leadership, please contact Sprout Leadership today.

Growth Mindset: Are the Minds of Your Employees Prepared for Success?

January 21, 2019

At the end of January, many of us find ourselves tripping up on resolutions we set during the holiday season. We aim high with renewed resolve but soon falter. Sometimes failure to accomplish our goals can rob us of the motivation to change, learn, or grow.

Consequently, this is a perfect time to talk about “growth mindset.” Championed by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, and popularized in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, growth mindset is the belief that personal characteristics, talents, and traits can be developed over time.

A mindset is your attitude and beliefs about yourself and the world around you, which is often formed by the way you were raised or your early experiences in school. Mindset matters because it plays a critical role in how we deal with the many challenges we face in both business and life. Business leaders who foster the right type of mindset in their organizational culture can make the difference between a workforce that is resilient and courageous or one that is fragile and fearful.

In her book, Dweck talks about two opposing mindsets: fixed mindset and growth mindset.

Fixed Mindset

Individuals in a fixed mindset believe that personal traits such as intelligence, creativity, and empathy are set in stone and can never be changed. The fear of failure and judgement that accompanies a fixed mindset leads many people to avoid attempting to improve themselves altogether. Furthermore, when that improvement is attempted and failed, fixed mindset prevents us from pulling insight from that failure, getting back up, and trying a new way to conquer the challenge. The fear of failing and “not being the best” that is brought about by fixed mindset prevents people from taking the bold action necessary to reach one’s full potential.

Fixed mindset can also be projected onto other people in the form of believing that a given person cannot learn a particular skill or achieve a certain level of success. This narrow view does not leave room for change and is embodied in the phrase “you either have it or you don’t.”

This negative attitude toward ourselves and others causes many issues in our work and personal lives including reacting to failure with anger or disappointment instead of reflecting on how to learn and grow from the experience.

Growth Mindset

Growth mindset is quite the opposite, with an emphasis on the dynamic relationship of our personal traits and abilities. Common misconceptions in popular culture about intelligence and creativity have given us a false sense of the permanence of skills and traits. In fact, Alfred Binet, creator of the IQ test, has criticized the mischaracterization of his measurement tool. Dweck writes:

“Binet designed the test to identify children who were not profiting from the Paris Public Schools, so that new educational programs could be designed to get them back on track…without denying individual differences in children’s intellects, he believed that education and practice could bring about fundamental changes in intelligence.”

Building on an understanding of brain’s potential to rewire itself, modern science is demonstrating a much larger learned component to traits and abilities. Recent findings highlight a greater capacity for lifelong learning and brain development than we previously thought possible.

Having a growth mindset means seeing challenges, failures, and setbacks as opportunities to learn, grow, and gain insight into ourselves and life in general. This type of mindset means that we don’t count ourselves out when presented with the chance to learn a new skill, change a personal habit, or tackle a project in an uncharted area.

Of course, raw talent does exist. Dweck explains: “People have unique genetic endowments and people start with different temperaments and aptitudes, but it’s clear that experience, training, and personal effort take them the rest of the way.” After all, she says “It’s not always the people who start out the smartest who end up the smartest.”

Fixed Mindset at Work

Workplaces that operate in a fixed mindset often have plenty of blame, criticism, and excuses to go around. Those with a fragile ego avoid accepting blame, fearing the perception of inferiority in their own mind and in the minds of their colleagues. Furthermore, bosses who display an attitude of superiority over their team create an environment where management can be abusive or controlling, leading to a culture built on compliance where people work solely to please management. Dweck writes:

“When bosses become controlling and abusive, they put everyone into a fixed mindset. This means that instead of learning, growing, and moving the company forward, everyone starts worrying about being judged. It starts with the bosses’ worry about being judged, but it winds up being everybody’s fear about being judged. It’s hard for courage and innovation to survive a company-wide fixed mindset.”

When fixed mindset exists in the workplace, groupthink rules the day. Nobody speaks up or dissents for fear of judgement, getting their hand slapped, or being ostracized, demoted, or fired. This type of psychologically unsafe environment stifles creativity, promotes disengagement, and fosters frustration, fear of making mistakes, and unhealthy conflict. It works against critical business outcomes like innovation, collaboration, and healthy interpersonal relationships.

Shifting Your Business to a Growth Mindset

Even companies with good cultures often need to remind themselves of the importance of growing and developing their team. Integrating growth mindset principles into your organization is important for creating and maintaining a culture of innovation, teamwork, and continuous improvement. Leaders who take this approach to interacting with their team, promote loyalty, friendship, and enthusiasm. This type of support and favor strengthens their bonds, which translates into increased engagement, creativity, and ultimately, a healthier bottom line.

Dweck outlines the following ways to cultivate growth mindset:

· Promote the idea that skills as learnable

· Implement development programs to convey that the organization values learning and perseverance, not just ready-made genius or talent

· Give feedback in a way that promotes learning and future success

· Frame managers as resources for learning

Additionally, she outlines some great questions to explore your situation and take practical steps toward positive change.

What kind of workplace are you in?

Do you feel people are judging you or are they helping you develop? Maybe you could try making it a more growth-mindset place, starting with yourself.

Is it possible that you’re the problem?

Are there ways you could be less defensive about your mistakes? Could you profit more from the feedback you get? Are there ways you can create more learning experiences for yourself? How do you act toward others in your workplace? Are you a fixed-mindset boss, focused on your power more than on your employees’ well-being? Do you ever reaffirm your status by demeaning others?

Can you foster a better environment?

Consider ways to help your employees develop on the job: Apprenticeships? Workshops? Coaching sessions? Think about how you can start seeing and treating your employees as your collaborators, as a team. Make a list of strategies and try them out. Do this even if you already think of yourself as a growth-mindset boss. Well-placed support and growth-promoting feedback never hurt.

Do you have procedures to overcome groupthink?

Is your workplace set up to promote groupthink? If so, the whole decision-making process is in trouble. Create ways to foster alternative views and constructive criticism. Make the workplace a safe environment where ideas are freely shared and appreciated without ridicule or defensiveness. Remember, people can be independent thinkers and team players at the same time. Help them fill both roles.

If we want to foster skills like resiliency, creativity, and emotional intelligence, we have to first believe that change is possible in ourselves and others. Developing a growth mindset is the first step in creating that positive change. To learn more about how you can develop yourself, your team, and your organization to reach its potential, contact the Sprout Leadership team today.

© Sprout Leadership LLC 2019