the ceo magazine, growth mindset,
Ruth Veloria, Executive Dean, University of Phoenix School of Business

Growth mindset, a term coined by Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck, is the idea of inspiring individual and organizational confidence to achieve goals. It is about believing that talents and abilities can be improved through effort and new strategies: a fixed mindset believes talents and abilities are set. A powerful approach to maintaining a positive rather than defeatist workplace, it calls for more time and greater flexibility from employers and employees alike. Business leaders can help employees to achieve and maintain a growth mindset in two ways: by verbally encouraging this mindset, and also by enabling it to thrive though the implementation of policies that inspire growth, empowerment, and learning.

A University of Phoenix innovation workplace survey recently found that almost 60 percent of employees do not feel their skills are current. That is why it is important for employers to offer training and guide employees to grow beyond their current skillset. One approach is to direct them to appropriate resources, while also providing positive reinforcement. Employers who adopt practices that encourage and empower their employees to grow and thrive, can ultimately build a culture that values a “growth mindset.”

Provide Encouragement

Another recent University of Phoenix survey asking employees and employers on their perceptions professional development opportunities in the workplace draws attention to the fact that employers and staff do not see eye-to-eye when it comes to encouragement and enabling policies. While more than 80 percent of employers reported they are confident that their employee development programs can strengthen their workforce, more than one in three (37 percent) employees do not feel confident that their employer’s development programs will enhance their skills.

A job description is an indicator of qualifications and competencies, but it is important not to view it as a ceiling on capability or achievement. Managers should encourage employees beyond their current skills and abilities helping them to unlock their full potential.

Be open to allowing employees to struggle with problems, make mistakes and learn from the mistakes of others. Offer verbal praise for the process of their work, not just the end product. Praising the process, rather than solely the work product itself, and offering help with their development, will encourage them to approach new challenges with renewed self-confidence.

Enable Success

Instead of telling employees to do better, allow them to work through and lead projects that teach them something new. Build in extra time for failure and feedback, as this will make them stronger workers, bolster their confidence and, in the long run, deliver a better work product. Finally, implement an office policy where employees can openly acknowledge and work through past errors and challenges once a product or project is completed. As with encouraging their thought process, building in time for post-game analysis will create a strong organizational culture for employees to feel confident in their work.

Don’t Oversimplify

Finally, adopting a growth mindset is not shorthand for unadulterated praise. Rather, it is creating an inviting environment with smart and forward-thinking policies that allow employees to approach new challenges. Thirty-two percent of employees from the professional development survey say they do nothing to update their skills. If employers deployed growth mindset in their workplaces as a tactic to encourage employees that fall into that category, they will be more likely to get outside their comfort zones and push their limits by discovering new skills and competencies.

Business leaders must remember to inspire those around them by demonstrating, through policies and leading through positive example, any work process can improve, not simply the work product. Ultimately, implementing the growth mindset is an ever-evolving, ongoing process of interacting with and empowering employees. Inspiring individual and organizational confidence is not a one-off event. Learning through new challenges should be a constant in all of our lives.

About the Author

Ruth Veloria was appointed as the executive dean for University of Phoenix School of Business in December 2013. In this role she is responsible for the School P & L and all key process from enrollment to graduation, including curriculum development. Ruth has spent the most recent years of her career leading a reinvention of the student experience as the Senior Vice President of Student Experience at University of Phoenix.  


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