Enter your name and email below, and discover surprises in your inbox when you sign up!


Growth Mindset is about emotions

Growth Mindset Circle - depicting the key elements of mindset and areas for development

Emotions, Not Beliefs, Are the Most Important, Untold Story of a Growth Mindset

In the discussion of growth mindset, much attention is given to beliefs and thought patterns. However, the untold story, the deeper current shaping our actions and reactions, lies in our emotions. Emotions, often raw and tangible, are the first signals we send and receive in any interaction, setting the stage for everything that follows.

Emotions is the untold story of growth mindset

Creating an unsafe culture

In the echoey confines of Locomotive Repair Shed 14, BHP Billiton’s Port Hedland Site in dusty Western Australia, Peter, a towering figure in safety management at the site, stood up. It was time to share insights from a reflection task I had assigned. The exercise was simple yet profound: “Reflect on what you’ve learned and discuss with your partner what actions or behaviors might be hindering your success at work and in life.” The room, filled with 16 men, had been buzzing with earnest discussions since early morning.

Breaking the chatter, Peter’s voice carried a mix of introspection and revelation. “Skip, I’ve had some realizations about my anger management,” he began, his tone somber yet resolute. “In my role, dealing with safety concerns, I find myself often engulfed in anger and frustration. It doesn’t just stay at work; it follows me home, affecting my family.”

He paused, seemingly gathering his thoughts. “But what struck me most,” he continued, “is the realization that my approach isn’t fostering a culture of safety. Instead, I’ve been perpetuating a cycle of blame. My focus has shifted from preventing accidents to penalizing those responsible. In doing so, I’ve been unwittingly sabotaging the very essence of my role.”

Peter’s story delved deeper, tracing back to his childhood in a small town where his father, a local policeman, often disciplined him publicly. These experiences, he realized, had unconsciously shaped his approach to handling safety reviews. “These meetings have become less about problem-solving and more about public shaming, much like the dressing-downs I received from my father. I’ve come to understand that if I truly want to instill a culture of safety, I need to master my anger and shift towards constructive engagement.”

This moment of self-awareness in Peter represented more than just personal growth; it was a testament to the transformative power of emotional intelligence in leadership. His journey from anger-driven reactions to a more empathetic and constructive approach underscored a crucial lesson: understanding and managing one’s emotions is key to effective leadership and creating a positive workplace culture.

The Primacy of Emotions in Human Interaction

When you enter a room for a team meeting, the emotion you project – be it anger, sadness, depression, or joy – becomes the foremost communicator. “We are emotional first and rational a distant second,” which means our emotions provide the framework for our thinking and subsequent actions. This is particularly true in contexts that feel unsafe, where our emotional responses can dominate our rational thinking. Understanding this dynamic is crucial for developing a growth mindset in both ourselves and our teams.

The Four Dimensions of Emotional Nature

1. Anticipating Consequences with Feelings: Human nature allows us to anticipate consequences through emotions like guilt. This anticipation plays a critical role in personal and social regulation. For instance, feeling guilty about a potential negative action (like stealing) prevents us from acting against societal norms.

2. Emotional Connectivity: We are inherently connected to the ’emotional cloud’ of those around us. This empathetic connection means we often mirror the emotions we perceive in others, whether it’s the anxiety or joy felt in a group setting.

3. Emotions Without Stimulus: We experience emotions even without real stimuli, like fear while watching a film. This aspect of our emotional nature highlights how stories and narratives can deeply influence our emotional state.

4. The Power of Negative Emotions: Negative emotions tend to have a stronger and more contagious impact than positive ones. This negativity bias is a fundamental aspect of our nature, emphasizing the importance of managing these emotions effectively.

The Role of Emotions in Leadership and Psychological Safety

In leadership, understanding and managing emotions is vital. Leaders must recognize how their emotional state and the way they handle emotions in the room can significantly influence team dynamics. This understanding is particularly relevant to the concept of psychological safety. When team members feel safe, they are not overwhelmed by negative thoughts and emotions, allowing them to approach challenges with positivity and optimism.

Mapping Emotions for a Growth Mindset

To develop a growth mindset, it’s essential to map and understand your emotional landscape. Recognizing and regulating the spectrum of emotions – from anger to excitement – is key to effectively interacting with others. By doing so, you can create an environment that fosters growth, from a mindset of survival to one of thriving, from anxiety to excitement, from suspicion to trust.

Our journey to a growth mindset is intrinsically tied to how we understand and manage our emotions. By acknowledging the primacy of emotions over thinking, we open the door to a more profound understanding of ourselves and our interactions with others. It’s a journey that requires us to not only acknowledge our emotions but to actively shape them to match our situations and goals. In doing so, we unlock the potential for true growth and transformation, both personally and professionally.

Ultimate Guide to Growth Mindset

Skip Bowman, keynote speaker on psychological safety and growth mindset

Skip Bowman

Author of Safe2Great, keynote speaker on psychological safety and growth mindset

Share this Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *