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The 7 Practices of a Growth Mindset

Man doing Tai Chi in a park to symbolise the growth mindset practices

Do you have the mental practices that differentiate between ordinary and extraordinary leadership?

Over the course of a 25-year career in executive coaching in companies across the globe, I have honed a methodology for evaluating and nurturing a growth mindset in leaders. This approach is centered around seven key criteria, which are crucial for assessing where an individual stands in their developmental journey, particularly in terms of mindset and capability to adapt to change and uncertainty. These criteria also focus on how individuals can enhance their relational skills to optimally leverage their leadership and positively influence others. 

Man doing Tai Chi in a park to symbolise the growth mindset practices
Growth Mindset practices are like Tai Chi – Photo by Mark Hang Fung So on Unsplash

While tools like the S2G Growth Mindset Leadership 360 offer an objective analysis of a leader’s mindset, these conversations and personal assessments are integral to identifying and developing these seven qualities, shaping leaders who are not only adept at navigating the complexities of their roles but also excel in bringing out the best in those they lead.

“A growth mindset ultimately allows you to realize and exceed your personal potential and relational potential. To bring out more than you ever thought possible in yourself AND others.” 

This mindset is not just about individual achievement; it’s about elevating and transforming those around us. Let’s explore the seven practices that form the essence of a growth mindset, as framed within the “Safe to Great” philosophy.

1. Self- and Other-Awareness: The Insightful Observer

This practice involves a profound understanding of oneself and a deep empathy towards others. Recognizing your emotional responses, strengths, and areas for improvement is essential for growth. Similarly, understanding others’ perspectives enhances teamwork and collaboration. This dual awareness is key to effective communication, fostering a supportive and inclusive environment. Are you able to sense how you are feeling and describe internal states like emotion when reviewing meetings or other events? Can you identify your needs in a conversation, especially when they are not been met and express them respectfully? Are you able to notice how other people are feeling or the needs they are expressing indirectly?

2. Critical Evaluation: The Inquisitive Explorer

Critical evaluation is about actively questioning and analyzing experiences and observations. It encourages an inquisitive mindset that seeks deeper understanding and challenges preconceived notions. Myth and bias busting are crucial features. This practice is vital for developing insight and making informed decisions that are not only beneficial for oneself but also for the greater good of the team or organization. Do you have enough humility to question how right you think you are? Do you know how much you don’t know? Are you able to hold conflicting ideas and possibilities in your head for longer periods of time? Do you stop up to question whether you are open to alternative viewpoints?

 “Have you ever asked yourself, what are the deepest principles upon which my management beliefs are based? Probably not. Few executives, in my experience, have given much thought to the foundational principles that underlie their views on how to organize and manage. In that sense, they are as unaware of their managerial DNA as they are of their biological DNA.”

– Future of Management, Gary Hamel

3. Independent Thinking: The Creative Innovator

Independent thinking is crucial for fostering innovation and creative problem-solving. It involves venturing beyond traditional thought patterns and daring to explore new ideas. This practice is integral to driving change and discovering unique solutions to complex challenges. Do you know when to influence and when to yield to someone who knows more? Are you able to separate facts from assumption or fakes? Are you able to think or support ideas that are outside of the box? Can you suspend judgment to truly explore new ideas and wooly problems?

4. Self-Mastery: The Adaptive Navigator

Self-mastery is about gaining control over one’s reactions and emotions, particularly in changing or challenging situations. Developing resilience, maintaining composure under pressure, and managing stress are essential aspects of this practice. It involves a continuous journey of self-improvement and balance. Emotional intelligence starts on the inside. Do you know your emotional state? Can you direct your energy to ensure an alignment between energy state and intentions? Can you recover from setbacks and remain calm when under personal attack?

5. Embracing Change and Uncertainty: The Resilient Optimist

In today’s dynamic world, embracing change and uncertainty is a vital practice. It requires seeing change as an opportunity for learning and growth, being adaptable, and maintaining a positive outlook in the face of new challenges. This resilience is key to not just surviving but thriving in times of uncertainty. Do you know how you react to uncertainty? What are the uncertainties that push you into the Fear zone?

6. Collaborative Learning and Knowledge Sharing: The Collective Learner

This practice underscores the importance of teamwork, open communication, and the mutual exchange of knowledge. It’s about building a culture where collective learning is valued, and every team member contributes to and benefits from shared experiences and insights. Are you a multiplier or a diminished? Do you make others feel more intelligent and competent? How can you bring out the best in others and mobilize people better towards common goals?

7. Linguistic Deconstruction: The Mindful Articulator

Inspired by the concept of linguistic deconstruction, this practice involves using specific language to understand and articulate mental processes. It’s a powerful approach for personal transformation, enabling the identification of hidden barriers to change and the development of strategies to overcome them. Do you have an approach to understanding and controlling your emotional state? Are you able to stop, think and choose your response in a challenging situation? Do you know your biases and how to disrupt them? Are you aware of your competing or contradictory commitments that inhibit your personal growth?

Conclusion: Embracing a Comprehensive Growth Mindset

Together, these seven practices offer a multi-faceted approach to cultivating a growth mindset. They represent a journey towards realizing and exceeding one’s personal and relational potential, as highlighted in “Safe to Great.” By embracing these practices, individuals can foster a mindset that is geared towards continuous learning, adaptability, and the empowerment of oneself and others, laying the foundation for success in an ever-changing world.

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

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