Are You Supporting Your Staff with a Growth Mindset?

Mariel Stevens, Former Assistant to the Managing Director, B. Psychology, Management and Marketing

In the Momentum Management Program, one of the systems that we support our clients to establish, is growth conferences. The purpose of a growth conference is to provide an opportunity for an open and non-threatening discussion on what a team member is doing really well (from both employee and management perspectives). It’s also an opportunity to discuss room for growth, and how everyone can work together to support the development of that team member. It might not surprise you to hear that we use growth conferences for our own Momentum team too.

I’ve recently been reflecting on the outcome of my own recent growth conference. In our discussion, Dr Toni and I set out goals and an achievable plan for me to move into coaching, and to assist in our marketing strategies and implementation (I’m feeling glad that my Psychology and Marketing degrees are coming in handy!). Going through this process has reinforced my feeling that Momentum is a fabulous place to work. Toni sees potential in her staff, knows that they can learn if given the opportunity, and wants to gain the best out of them. Why not provide your staff with opportunities to grow? Wouldn’t their growth ultimately make them a more valuable employee?

So I had my first foray into training- a one-hour presentation at our recent short-course The Outstanding Dentist: Patient Communication and Case Presentation. I had a brief to research, prepare for and deliver a presentation on Mindset Theory (read on to learn more). Toni gave me “outs” along the way, making it clear that if I were too nervous, to not feel pressured. But the point of the exercise was not to deliver a perfect training on my first go. The point, was to take the first growth-step; to learn and to improve.

In Stanford University Professor Dr. Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: How you Can Fulfil Your Potential, Dweck describes decades-old research that has found that there are two predominant perspectives that people hold of their ability to learn. Those with a fixed mindset, believe that intelligence and abilities are innate- that you’re “born with it”. Because it’s not viewed as a changeable entity, effort is seen as fruitless and challenges are avoided (just in case the outcome of the challenge reveals- or is counter to their perception of- their true abilities). Interestingly, and importantly, getting things wrong and receiving feedback is also viewed as a negative (feedback reveals limitations).

Conversely, those with a growth mindset believe that intelligence and abilities can be developed. Challenges are embraced to improve at tasks, effort is seen as a path to mastery and getting things wrong and receiving feedback is viewed as a positive. Feedback guides their further improvement. There are no prizes here for guessing which mindset you’d want to encourage in your team (or of your kids, partners or friends)!

But if you’d want others to adopt a growth mindset, isn’t it true then, that you’d have to take on the belief that others have the ability to grow? All too often, we pass judgment on our colleagues that “they can’t do that” or “they don’t get it” or “they’re not good at…” In the worst case, you may hold onto tasks at the practice for yourself (effectively micromanaging) because you might have a perception that the staff member isn’t capable. You might not necessarily be doing this yourself now, but you might know of times when this has happened, or you might have team members doing it to each other. What
would happen if you put some supports in place and provided the opportunity to learn? The worst that could happen is that they make mistakes (but then they’d learn from them for next time). The best that could happen is that the staff member feels empowered and confident and supported to grow at work.

To support the development of a Growth Mindset, Dweck discusses considering the “Power of Yet.” The next time you find yourself thinking or saying “I’m not good at” or “they’re not good at,” take a breath and put a “yet” at the end of those sentences!