Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

There's more to giving effective feedback than most people think.

Research over the last two decades has shown the value of focusing on effort rather than ability, talent or intelligence. It might sound like a minor distinction, but the consequences are serious.

Encourage a growth mindset

When we praise effort, determination and resilience (things that people can do) we encourage a healthy growth mindset.

People with growth mindsets believe life is a series of opportunities to learn. They see setbacks as temporary and inevitable. They are more motivated, resilient and they achieve more.

It’s easy to spot the people with a growth mindset in workshops. They are keen to learn, take copious notes and ask questions without worrying what anyone else might think. They’re not trying to prove anything – just learn something new.

The fixed mindset

If we praise a team member for being able, intelligent or talented (things that people already have or are) we encourage them to adopt a fixed mindset. People with a fixed mindset believe that we either have an ability or intelligence or we don’t. They think those qualities are permanent or fixed. They want to believe that they are in the talented, intelligent minority.

When leaders refer to role models as able, intelligent or talented, they encourage a fixed mindset in their team culture.

People with a fixed mindset are less resilient. They can be devastated by a setback because it suggests they are not as talented or intelligent as they had hoped, or you said they were. Fixed mindsetters put in less effort because it’s important for them to show that they have the talent to perform without effort. They also avoid ambitious projects because they can’t risk failure.

Develop a growth mindset throughout your team. Use the same idea at home with the kids too.

Recommended: the research of Professor Carol Dweck

Want to know more about fixed and growth mindsets? The leader in the research is Professor Carol Dweck of Stanford University. This eight minute collection of clips on YouTube will give you more detail of her work. The clips are selected for educators, but they are just as relevant for people who lead adults in business.

Professor Dweck’s research is available through Google Scholar and we recommend her excellent book Mindset: the new psychology of success.