I was speaking with an ex-colleague a few months ago, and they shared with me something that happened to her at work.
Her supervisor told her to “… get a growth mindset. You have a fixed mindset and you need a growth mindset!” Her response, not sure if it was verbal or just to herself, was, “My mindset is my own business!”
Telling is not developing!
It made me think of how we assess others. When I think of fixed vs growth mindset I apply it to myself. What areas do I need to grow in? (still looking at you, touch-typing!)
But this interaction made me think how managers and leaders (and co-workers for that matter) consider those around them. Do they have a fixed mindset about others, even if they have a growth mindset about themselves?
Does considering oneself to have a growth mindset, create a level of false superiority over those one thinks have fixed mindset. I say false, because anyone with a true growth mindset would be considerate of others and work with them, not talk down to, or about, them.
Consider terms like:
that’s the good old Tom we know
she’ll never change
they’ve always been like that
you need to have a good think about your future (meaning someone is fixed in their current situation)
If we are in a fixed mindset about others, our coaching and interactions will bear this out. We will coach with a limited view of achieving outcomes. Because “they’ll never change” we don’t look for alternative solutions or coaching methods. And even if we do sometimes, it’s simply to prove they can’t change! The good old, “I’ve tried everything!” approach (personal experience!).
If we are providing feedback to our manager on our team’s performance, our report will be governed by our view of them. This goes both ways, by the way. It’s called the “horns and halo” effect.
There is a great video on the Ladder of Inference by Cheryl Williams. Suffice to say, we behave in accordance with our assumptions of others.
And then, what do you do when you’re in this situation? It can be difficult to change our views because we have built up such database of evidence in coming to our conclusions assumptions. We develop blindspots to what people do well, so their fixed mindset behaviours are highlighted while their growth mindset behaviours are diminished.
We absolutely need a growth mindset around our own performance.
We also, perhaps more importantly, need to have a growth mindset with our colleagues, direct reports and those we interact with at work.
Photo Credit: Photo by Akil Mazumder on Pexels.com
Imagine your team. Imagine their performance mapped along a bell curve. It’s likely you’ll have a fairly common distribution.
You’ll have some at the right hand side, killing it. Mostly having good days, weeks and months. A good proportion will be in the mid range. What Kim Scott in Radical Candor* calls Rockstars! (Ch. 3, p 43). And on the left hand side of the bell curve are those who are not quite making it.
It’s these team members I want to address here because I have done what I’m about to describe (to my shame). If you make these mistakes it will cost you time, money, productivity and customer service.
The good news is … it’s all avoidable!
Mistake OnE: Fixed vs growth mindset!
Not theirs, yours! As coaches we can have an opinion of a direct report that they:
will not come to terms with a change
have always been this way
will never change
With this mindset, how do you think the coaching will go? Even if you are determined to be a good, objective and supportive coach, can you overcome the mindset? I’d suggest it’s harder than we think. I know most, if not all, coaches don’t want to be in this situation.
How to change the mindset to coach effectively?
As always, the following is going to depend a lot on your relationship with the individual. If you have a good, respectful relationship, options open up.
Have a conversation with your direct report and be open about your concerns.
Be open about you own thoughts and ask them for help – it may be more of a molehill than the mountain you’ve imagined.
Even if they agree with you, don’t take the easy way out too quickly. That’s just a path of least resistance. Stay with them and work with them on the solution. This is, in part, how you become a good/great coach. It’s when others look at your results and wonder :“How the hell did you get through to them? I’ve been trying for years!”
Dig deeper into what could be the learning, attitudinal or habitual issue. Many times we have performance issues due to a habit or belief. We don’t realise it because it’s in the subconscious. You don’t need to be a psychologist or therapist. Learn to ask good questions.
Over to you: what would you suggest?
Mistake Two: Average is the Enemy
Let’s imagine for a moment we have a person working for us who is on the left had side of the middle of the bell curve: they are considered a low performer.
At a minimum, we’d like them to hit the middle line. We’d like them to meet the goals of the role. We help them do this though coaching, performance management, counselling, training. A myriad of technologies.
Some people take to this like a duck to water. A little bit of coaching and development and they close the gap. Others take longer, like crawling across cut glass.
But let’s assume a happy ending and the performance gap closes.
What happens now?
What normally happens when we coach someone from the left hand side to the middle? From low performance to acceptable performance?
We stop the coaching and start monitoring and supporting.
We have just coached a below average performer to be … average!
The result being they will hover between just below and just above the acceptable level. As a leader we will deem this “okay”. Or, worse, we will be watching them like a hawk to re-start the performance management process again. That’ll make them feel comfortable! 😉
Why stop there?
You’ve just helped someone improve their performance. They may be keen to go further, to become a high performer.
What are your next steps?
Here are some thoughts.
Continue to engage with them about broadening their skills around particular aspects of the role. Aspects they may be able to improve quickly.
If it’s sales and service, help them with questioning and listening skills. Role play tough situations. Help them get comfortable with higher performance, so it becomes the new norm for them. So even with some dip in performance, they’ll still be above average!
Continue to provide feedback when they do something (positive) they hadn’t done before.
Partner them with a high performance colleague who has a bent for coaching and developing others. (Caution: some high performers hit their targets because they are left alone to get on with their work. Unless developing others is part of their development, I’d avoid these, at least at first! Again, first hand experience!)
Get them to log their achievements. It’s not an extra task, journaling is a very effective way of improving performance. This helps them reinforce their progress. These insights can also be used as tools in coaching sessions when looking to help them replicate good practices and habits.
Over to you: What have you seen work effectively?
As a coach we need to own our actions and mindsets. These mistakes cost you, the direct report and the company, money and misery.
As I confessed earlier, I’ve made these errors. (And maybe it’s just me!)
A common phrase these days is #IYKYK (if you know, you know).
Be on the lookout for your own mindset and, when you’re coaching someone who’s below par, enjoy the process of coaching them to high performance, not just average.
What have been your experiences? Have you seen this/done this? Prepared to share? 😉
The term G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) is often applied to superstars of sport and business, of stage and screen.
But did you realise that if you are better than you were yesterday, you are your own G.O.A.T. of that!
Perhaps you are thinking that doesn’t count. Maybe it only counts when there is an official record of the achievement. The Guinness Book of Records or front page of the paper.
If that’s the case, do you realise how many people achieve great things who don’t get recognised?
Here are some you may not have heard of:
Nellie Bly: around the world in 80 72 days! One her own. Note: She took with her the dress she was wearing, a sturdy overcoat, several changes of underwear, and a small travel bag carrying her toiletry essentials. She knew how to pack!
Cleisthenes: Though many people credit Thomas Jefferson as the father of democracy, the honour actually lies with the Greek philosopher Cleisthenes. Who? Yep!
Pope Leo I: All popes are famous aren’t they? Pope Leo singlehandedly persuaded Atilla the Hun to back down from his invasion of Italy. Did he get a gong? Nope! Should’ve!
Percy Julian: Pioneered the drug industry. After he developed the chemical synthesis of hormones like progesterone and testosterone, he became the first African American chemist inducted into the National Academy of Sciences. His research also laid the groundwork for the modern day steroid.
So if you’re waiting for recognition from others … breathe in … hold … no keep holding …
This means the recognition of your achievements, the possibility to be the G.O.A.T. is in the hands of others. Not everything is statistical like:
Most number of wickets (cricket)
Most number of 3 pointers (basketball)
Most number of Oscar wins
Most number of Oscar nominations (without a win!)
And what if others don’t want to recognise your feats? What then?
This is my fourth blogpost in four days. That is a record for blog posting streaks in my household. I am the G.O.A.T! Tomorrow, when I post my fifth, I’ll be the G.O.A.T. again. You may think that is unremarkable. But if I am to post every day for 100 days or 1,000 days, I have to do the four day streak and then the five day streak.
Over to you … what have you done today, or plan to do today, that will make you the G.O.A.T? How will you be your G.O.A.T. tomorrow.
I’ve been working with a business group over the past few months. We start off each session with 3 things we are grateful for. It can be a challenge at times. Some people don’t know what to write. Some think it’s corny. Some draw a blank and feel like they may be failing. Others just don’t care for it. To be honest, I find it hard sometimes.
I’ve been thinking a little deeper into my my model of life: Bamboo SL. One thing that has been missed in the model is the influence of feelings and how they drive us toward or away from things. They are kind of there but need to be brought more to the surface so I’m working on that. Stay tuned.
On the subject of feelings, gratitude is part of that. I thought it would be useful, rather than to try to think of things from the top of my head, I’d start to document what I am grateful for. And to document from both the physical and non physical aspect.
Let me know what you think.
The image above is of one of our spare rooms. It is also the room our granddaughter sleeps in when she sleeps over.
The point is to illustrate how I am learning to have gratitude.
This is the spare room. I’m grateful we have the room because it means Alex can sleep over. Having Alex sleep over means we get to see her develop and have fun with her. She is a super articulate kid. She’s got a bit of cheek and quite often she’ll come out with words and phrases we don’t expect a kid of four to have learnt (Not cuss words, normal words like “Grandad, I am very frustrated at the moment!”) I’m grateful for that too.
The pictures on the wall have been created by my daughter and my sister. I love the paintings and am reminded how talented they are. Each time I see my daughter’s painting (on the left) I get a real sense of warmth and love for her. It’s a relatively simple painting but is also quite expressive and a joyful image.
The picture by my sister is also quite playful and bright. It’s a cheerful image for which I am also grateful. It’s also a but quirky, like my sister! 😉
The bedspread was made by my wife. She has created a few of these and they are projects in themselves. We actually bought a cabinet to store them all! It takes, patience and an eye for colour and coordination. It’s a work of art in itself. I am of no help at all but the kids get involved and it becomes a team effort.
Lastly, on the side table on the right hand side of the bed is a small drawing of boats. It’s by my grandmother, Portia Bennett, who was a well regarded artist in her day. I have a few of her paintings.
And so, from one room, I can highlight quite a few things I am grateful for. The physical items have meaning for me as do the people associated with them. There is a lot of talent in the family and also the fact that people will do things for others to help make life a little nicer. And they bring joy to me and those who receive them – if we’ll slow down and recognise that.
If you are struggling to find things to give gratitude for, can I suggest an exercise?
Go through each room and list the items in the room. Perhaps just list the items at first. Maybe in a notebook down the side a page. And then, over time or when the thought strikes you, write alongside the item what you are grateful for.
What does the item do for you? How does it, or what it does or maybe just infers, make you feel? Could you be grateful for that?