4 steps to foster a growth mindset and improve your team’s ‘I can’ attitude

By Duncan Egan

Posted on 08-24-2020

What a year. The playbook for doing business has been rewritten more times than most of us can count. The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered societal shifts that are still in the process of forming a new world – a world in which effective leadership requires a growth mindset.

Companies with a growth mindset prioritize employee development and empower their people to constantly evolve their skills and their roles within the organization. Additionally, organizations with a growth mindset take more risks, collaborate more, and see failure as a learning experience. Employees in companies that take on a growth mindset are innovating more and have more growth opportunities as a result. It’s a win-win for all.

Interested? Here are my tips for developing a growth mindset – for yourself and for your organization.

Tip 1: Eliminate fear of failure

Many of us are conditioned to believe failure is bad. But to excel as an individual contributor or as a leader, you must eliminate this fear for yourself and your teams. No one makes it through life without making mistakes. We have the choice to let our perceived failures weaken us or to embrace the lessons that come when things don’t go smoothly according to the plan.

Adobe Summit 2020 is a great example of what a growth mindset can achieve. The 23,000-person event was a tremendous success, but not in the way we expected. When it became clear in the early days of the pandemic that an in-person event wouldn’t be practical, in just a few weeks our team pivoted, reimagined, and rolled out a virtual program with 400,000 registrants in 195 countries. With confidence, clarity, and a can-do spirit, the Adobe team pushed ahead of the significant challenges presented by COVID-19 restrictions globally and saw the incredible opportunity to create – and deliver – a different outstanding customer experience.

Eliminating the fear of failure must extend beyond leadership ranks; it also means empowering peers and team members so they are not worried about stepping up to be heard, sharing ideas, and using failures as a platform to think of new ways to create and perform. While it seems complicated and even painful, it’s clear that failure is often a “prerequisite for success,” as research out of Northwestern University found. Leaders and companies that learn from their missteps, problem projects, poor outcomes, and unexpected situations were more likely to eventually succeed in their endeavours.


Tip 2: Solicit feedback and grow from it

Missteps or unexpected challenges aren’t the only way to grow. I advocate actively seeking feedback so you can keep evolving in a positive direction every single day.

That’s a lot harder than it sounds. Often, people in leadership positions are used to receiving praise and accolades. But rather than driving improvement, they merely reinforce the status quo, and that can mean important strategic shifts are overlooked. And that’s the opposite of a growth mindset.

To ensure I’m evolving as a leader, I regularly ask the teams around me, not just my boss and direct reports, for feedback, pushing for more than “great job.” I want to hear where I could be doing better. It could be something significant, or it could be something small, that I never considered was impacting someone.

A case in point: My team shared that Friday afternoon meetings kept them from wrapping up their week at a reasonable hour. Based on their feedback, I no longer schedule Friday meetings. With 11 different time zones in Asia that already limit the hours remote teams can meet, this decision is more challenging than it sounds. At the same time, since we made the shift, feedback has been really positive. The team feels they have a much better balance and can use Fridays to finish up tasks and prepare for the week ahead.


Tip 3: Keep learning and upskilling

To keep pace with today’s evolving business demands and emerging technologies, effective leaders can’t lean on yesterday’s wins or best practices. Each of us needs to make the time to train, study, fail, and grow through ongoing education, training, and mentoring.

This doesn’t apply only to you and your leadership training. It also applies to those you lead. While not often considered an attribute of a growth mindset, following the advice to proactively pursue learning stirs up a desire to champion others’ careers and support their personal growth.

That’s a win for everyone. If you’re actively encouraging education and upskilling, and creating an environment where failure is accepted and expected, it’s a natural evolution for your team to feel the pull to learn, improve, and adopt a similar mindset.

Arm your team with not just the tools they need to succeed, but the encouragement to seek out new insights and information so they, too, can help further business success and their own success.

Tip 4: Cultivate a sense of purpose

This is important any time, but even more so as the global community deals with so much protracted change and uncertainty. A study by the TriCorp Group shows that 43 percent of APAC executives agree COVID-19 has heightened their awareness of business continuity, and half say they’re concerned about the future.

Almost overnight, brands have had to adjust to 100 percent remote workforces, extremely lean service centers, and unexpected vulnerabilities in their global supply chain. Those that step up and say, “I can” create a sense of purpose and a roadmap to success for themselves and their organisations. These are the agile, versatile, innovative thinkers and doers – the people who understand that “I can” is so much stronger than “IQ.”

Without question, we’ve all stumbled a bit during these past few months. But as leaders, we now need to commit to “I can” and lead by example with a growth mindset. If we can do that, we’ll be better positioned to help our teams, organisations, and customers excel now and in the post-pandemic landscape.

A good way to start evolving your growth mindset? Take the Adobe CQ test to better understand your creative ability in leadership as well as your creativity blind spots.


Topics: COVID-19, Leadership, Career Advice, APAC