What’s the secret to long-term happiness at work? While things like friendly teammates, fun perks, and end-of-year bonuses bring joy from time-to-time, psychologists say the key to long-term happiness is all in your head.
It’s your mindset, that is. And having a growth mindset can have a profound impact on your happiness and success in all aspects of life, work included.
The concept extends to teams and organizations too. Those that foster a growth mindset environment see greater innovation and a stronger sense of trust, ownership, and commitment across the team.
So what is a growth mindset and how can you unlock it? We’ll cover all that in the sections below.
The concept of the growth mindset was created by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck.
In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck defines two different mindsets.
Someone operating with a fixed mindset, might get easily frustrated when a new challenge is thrown their way because they believe if they don’t already have the skills necessary to get it done, they’ll fail. They tend to see feedback as a criticism, and even an attack on their personal character.
On the flip side, someone with a growth mindset might view a new challenge as an opportunity to grow their skills and expertise. They take feedback less personally, because they believe it will help them become even better at what they do.
Do either of these mindsets resonate with you?
If the examples of fixed mindset sounded a little familiar, don’t sweat it—it’s normal. In fact, we’re rarely just one or the other when it comes to growth and fixed mindsets. More often we tend to be a combination of both.
So does it really make all that difference which mindset you operate with? Dweck says absolutely.
Shifting to a growth mindset can have a profound impact on all aspects of life, especially work—where the ability to be resilient, competitive, and innovative greatly contribute to one’s success.
Individuals with a growth mindset are more apt to learn new things, push themselves, and level-up their skills often.
They’re happier at work and are more likely to advance in their roles and responsibilities.
Research shows that teams that foster a growth mindset are better off too. Team members are 34% more likely to feel ownership, loyalty, and commitment to the team, and team-wide trust can grow by 47%.
Experts also say a growth mindset can bring about greater innovation. With more open feedback loops and psychological safety, teammates feel confident pushing boundaries and taking risks.
Folks also feel equally valued—rather than having one or two “star players”—and are therefore more empowered to communicate openly with one another.
“Supervisors in growth-mindset companies expressed significantly more positive views about their employees than supervisors in fixed-mindset companies, rating them as more innovative, collaborative, and committed to learning and growing. They were more likely to say that their employees had management potential.” — Harvard Business Review
If you want your team to put growth first, it’s important to show that it’s valued within your organization.
Conveying learning as an organization value is one of the most powerful ways teams can create a growth-mindset environment. One way to show that value is by investing in learning opportunities for your team on a regular basis.
If possible, give team members an education stipend to use on things like classes, workshops, and conferences that will level-up their skills. Share interesting books, articles, and talks with each other. Or try setting up mentorship and apprenticeship programs, where folks can get career coaching and shadow others.
Giving feedback in a way that promotes learning and future success is another key attribute that fosters a growth-mindset environment, says Dweck. But good feedback is an artform, and it takes practice to get right.
As a leader, start by providing tools and resources to help your team get more comfortable with constructive feedback. A few we’ve found particularly helpful:
Check in with your team often about feedback to make sure the processes you have in place are working for everyone too.
“Set up regular cadences and processes to make sure you're giving frequent feedback—developmental feedback, constructive critique, and even more importantly, praise and appreciation. It's been important for us to standardize that and make sure that we're doing it frequently.” — Joaquín Roca, Founder of Minerva
If you want a growth mindset, you can’t be afraid to fail.
Failure is foundational to growth. It’s an opportunity to learn from our mistakes, recalibrate, and come out stronger on the other side.
“What matters is how people fail, how they respond to failure and where those failures lead.” — Scientific American
In fact, research shows direct links between how we respond to failure and ultimate success too. Those who take time to learn from failure and strategically adjust what didn’t work the first time are more likely to succeed than those who fail and try again without developing that understanding.
Fear of failure too often holds teams back from taking risks and trying new things.
Embracing failure helps team members know it’s OK to push their own boundaries and test out new skills without having to be perfect.
The best way to flip your team’s perspective on failure is to start by modeling it yourself.
Missed a deadline? Launched with a bug?
Speak up and share your personal failures…and what you can all learn from them.
It’ll help set the stage for greater psychological safety where the rest of the team feels comfortable sharing their experiences with failure too.
Building a culture of experimentation on your team is another way to show that successes and failures are valued.
“To successfully innovate, companies need to make experimentation an integral part of everyday life—even when budgets are tight.” — Harvard Business Review
Experimentation and growth are rooted in the same ideas: try something new, see how it works, recalibrate, and try again. Instead of being an expensive mistake, experimentation culture frames failure as valuable learning.
It also democratizes decision-making, cultivates greater team-wide curiosity, and can help folks feel more ownership and buy-in around outcomes.
To codify growth mindset, encourage your team to set personal goals related to growth each quarter and treat them just as seriously as you would any other goal.
You might encourage folks to expand their current skill set or explore new areas of interest they feel passionate about.
Some examples include:
Build growth into your team’s performance review process too, evaluating team members not just on how hard they worked that quarter, but also on how they expanded their role, responsibilities, and expertise.
Organizations that embody a growth mindset encourage appropriate risk-taking, knowing that some risks won’t work out. They reward employees for important and useful lessons learned, even if a project does not meet its original goals. — Carol Dweck, What Having a Growth Mindset Actually Means
Fear of asking questions—because it implies you don’t have all the answers—is a fixed mindset way of thinking that creates information silos and other major communication issues at work.
To avoid this, you want your team to know it’s OK if they don’t have all the answers. This is another team norm that works best if leaders and managers model it first. Open the door for getting vulnerable, and show your team there’s no such thing as a dumb question.
In a growth mindset environment, a new skill is viewed as learnable, says Dweck. This means anyone on a team can be capable of growing into any given role and taking on new responsibilities, challenges, and leadership opportunities.
One way managers can show their commitment to a growth mindset is by hiring for potential and promoting folks internally, whenever possible.
To hire for potential, consider the things that demonstrate a strong growth mindset in candidates—rather than just their credentials. Things like a passion for learning, growth in past roles (even if it’s unrelated to the current one), collaborative skills, and a love of new challenges are all strong indicators of someone’s potential for growth.
Growth shouldn’t be a once a quarter conversation. If the only time you’re talking about it is during performance reviews, it can lose value and fall off folks’ radar for other output-based priorities. When that happens, you fall back into the trap of a fixed-mindset environment.
One simple way to bring growth into the daily and weekly conversation is through Range.