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The Journey to a Growth Mindset

Growth mindset is like nurturing a seedling.

“The journey from a protective mindset to a growth mindset isn’t about discarding our natural instincts for self-preservation; it’s about recognizing and managing these instincts to better support our personal and professional development. “

A protective mindset is often characterized by a focus on safety, security, and risk aversion, whereas a growth mindset is about embracing the possibilities for learning and progress. It is founded on the principle that abilities and intelligence are dynamic and can be enhanced through dedication, perseverance, and an active engagement with challenges.

The 4 A process: Awareness, Acceptance, Action, Acceleration

This 4A transformative process includes several key steps:

1. Awareness

This phase emphasizes the importance of seeing things critically and accurately. It involves shedding false assumptions and gaining a clear and honest understanding of the current situation. This awareness is the first step in recognizing the need for change and growth.

2. Acceptance

In this stage, the focus is on taking responsibility for the current state of affairs. Acceptance is about realizing that change is possible and that the individual or organization has the power to effect that change. It’s a commitment to moving forward and embracing the journey of growth.

3. Action

This phase is about actively working towards change. It involves overcoming the phase of being “consciously incompetent,” where one is aware of their shortcomings but has not yet mastered new skills or ways of thinking. The action phase is characterized by a determined effort to develop new competencies and achieve mastery.

4. Acceleration

The final phase is about sharing, teaching, and coaching others to develop a growth mindset. It’s a stage where the growth mindset is not just a personal journey but extends to influencing and helping others. This phase helps create a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

This 4A Model provides a structured approach to fostering a growth mindset, ensuring that individuals and organizations don’t just understand the concept but actively engage in the process of growth and development. 

Case: Controlling to Growth Mindset

John’s journey through the 4A Model of developing a growth mindset unfolded as a transformative narrative, one that began with a confident self-image and led to profound personal and professional growth. Initially, John, a strong, talkative Iowan in his mid-forties, believed he perfectly embodied the growth mindset. He prided himself on being a leader who loved to win and constantly challenged himself and others. However, a Growth Mindset 360 assessment unveiled a starkly different picture, showing him as overly competitive, controlling, and quick to judge – a stark contrast to his self-perception.

This revelation served as a critical wake-up call for John. The feedback forced him to reassess the gap between how he viewed his leadership style and how others experienced it. It was a moment of stark awareness, where he had to confront the reality that his approach might not be as effective as he had thought. This awareness marked the first crucial step in his journey – recognizing the need for change.

You cannot complete the Awareness phase until:

  • you understand the gap (or not) between your self-image and how others see you,
  • you develop a more complex understanding of your own mindset, and
  • you begin to see connections between what people do and how others respond.

As John grappled with this new understanding, he moved into a phase of acceptance. He came to realize that, despite his belief in embodying growth principles like ‘Aim High’, ‘Go High’, and ‘Lift Others Up’, there was significant room for improvement. His team’s perception of him not enabling their development was a crucial insight. Acceptance for John meant taking responsibility for his actions and their impacts. He recognized that his competitive and controlling nature was counterproductive and hindered his team’s growth.

You cannot complete the Acceptance phase until:

  • you value and want to take responsibility for weaknesses and blind spots,
  • you set development goals and choose situations and relationships where you want to change your behavior, and
  • you’re willing to ask for help.

With acceptance came the readiness for action. John embarked on a personal development journey, which might have included leadership coaching, training, or introspective self-reflection. He worked on mitigating his controlling nature and fostering an environment where both he and his team could thrive and develop. This phase was about actively working on identified areas of improvement and making a conscious effort to change his behaviors and approach.

You cannot complete the Action phase until:

  • you’ve shared your development goals and ambition to grow your mindset,
  • you’ve passed the “consciously incompetent” phase in developing new habits, and
  • you can notice protective mindsets in the moment and choose growth.

The final phase of John’s journey was acceleration. Having improved his self-awareness and refined his leadership approach, John started sharing his experiences and learnings with his team. He aimed to mentor and coach others in developing a growth mindset. By encouraging his team to embrace challenges, learn from failures, and pursue continuous growth, John wasn’t just applying these learnings to his own leadership style; he was nurturing a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

You cannot complete the Acceleration phase until:

  • you change restricting structures, processes, and systems to reinforce growth,
  • you begin teaching and coaching others to develop their mindset, and
  • you create communities of people who regularly meet to support a culture for growth.

Throughout this journey, John exemplified the transformative impact of the 4A Model. His story highlights the importance of self-awareness, the power of acceptance, the necessity of deliberate action, and the value of sharing knowledge and experiences in leadership development. It’s a narrative that underscores the importance of being open to feedback, willing to change, and committed to fostering a culture of growth and learning.

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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