Maintaining a Growth Mindset through Mentorship

Maintaining a Growth Mindset through Mentorship

One of the values OneUpOneDown is built on is lifelong learning. That is, to never assume you know, or should know, all the answers and instead seek opportunities to learn and improve. This underlying belief about learning is what Stanford researcher Carol Dweck describes as the “growth mindset”, which is contrary to the “fixed mindset”.

In a Harvard Business Review Article titled ‘What Having a “Growth Mindset” Actually Means’ , Carol Dweck summarises her findings about the Growth Mindset into the following:

“Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts). This is because they worry less about looking smart and they put more energy into learning.” 

She goes on the describe the implications of this mindset for companies:

“When entire companies embrace a growth mindset, their employees report feeling far more empowered and committed; they also receive far greater organizational support for collaboration and innovation. In contrast, people at primarily fixed-mindset companies report more of only one thing: cheating and deception among employees, presumably to gain an advantage in the talent race.”

At this point, you might be thinking, ah yes, I have a growth mindset, I’m fine. But it doesn’t work like this. You don’t either have it or not. As Carol Dweck describes in the article “Everyone is actually a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets, and that mixture continually evolves with experience.” People can become more or less fixed in their thinking over time. People also have what Dweck describes as “fixed-mindset triggers”, which is when an event, such as criticism or feedback, creates a reaction, such as defensiveness or insecurity, which limits the opportunity for growth.

A person’s mindset may become more fixed with experience and increased status, socially and or in the workplace. When a person becomes an “expert”, a “leader” or in a position of power, they may feel like they need to have all the answers to validate their position. This limits growth for the individual and the team. Maintaining a growth mindset requires ongoing practice, no matter how successful the person.

To learn more about the growth mindset, you might like to read Carol Dweck’s book ‘Mindset, The New Psychology of Success’ or watch her TED talk titled ‘ The power of believing that you can improve’.

So, how to become and remain a lifetime learner?

Mentorship! Yes, I know we are biased, but we wouldn’t be doing this work if we didn’t believe so strongly in it. Mentorship, both as a mentor and mentee, is a practice that embodies the growth mindset. As a mentee, you are incentivised to recognise your challenges and growth opportunities to get the most value out of your mentor relationship. To be an effective mentor, you cannot assume you have the answers for your mentee, instead, you must focus on asking the right questions. Becoming a mentor and being mentored, no matter what stage of your career, will help you to maintain or improve your growth mindset. Like any consistent practice that compounds to maintain or improve the state of a person (e.g. exercise or meditation), it should be kept up on an ongoing basis.

“I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.”

Socrates

Conclusion

It is important to maintain a mindset that is open to learning and does not assume that knowledge is fixed, ie you are stuck with what you’ve got, no matter what stage in life you are. To maintain a growth mindset a person should seek new perspectives and opportunities to learn, without letting fear or insecurities about being judged hold them back. Mentors and mentees can help a person to maintain a growth mindset. Mentorship is a practice based on questioning, sharing, and reflecting with others in order to find opportunities for growth.

I cannot help but imagine how the world would be different if more parents, teachers, and people at large mastered the skills of mentorship. I am certain a higher portion of the world would be in the state of the growth mindset.

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