Our mindset has a profound impact on our life because it determines how we interact, behave, perceive, and engage with the world around us. We seldom, however, give our mindset a second thought, perhaps assuming that it’s innately inborn and something beyond our control. Many people assume that we either have a positive mindset that sees the glass as half full, or a negative one that sees it as half empty. Fortunately, and because of neuroplasticity over time, our mindsets can change and grow.
In our day-to-day lives, our mindset determines how we approach challenges and obstacles. Do we see things from a more negative viewpoint, or do we see challenges as opportunities to grow and learn? The good news is that you can develop and change your mindset in any situation because you have one phenomenal component in your life: choice! You can choose how to see your world around you. Your mindset is the belief you have about something, and we all know that our beliefs aren’t always correct. Beliefs are concepts we deem to be true without having any empirical evidence, but we have the ability to change our beliefs and therefore our mindset.
According to leading mindset researcher Professor Carol Dweck, there are two distinct mindset types.
The Two Different Mindset Types
1. Fixed mindset
As the word indicates, a fixed mindset person believes that our abilities and qualities are predetermined. This means that we’re born with certain predispositions that we cannot change or control. A fixed mindset focuses on winning and achieving for the benefit of being acknowledged and respected by others. A fixed mindset approach requires constant validation from others. If the person perceives that he/she won’t be able to achieve an outcome because of the lack of capability, this translates into them not putting in the required effort because they doubt their success. If failure does occur, the person doesn’t try again but gives up and believes that they aren’t good enough.
2. Growth Mindset
On the other side of the spectrum is the growth mindset – here the belief is that a person’s qualities and abilities can grow and develop with effort, experience, discipline, and engagement. The focus is on learning mastery and competence in self-selected areas. Results and outcomes don’t determine who we are, or what our potential is; rather they’re an indication of the amount of effort we apply right now. If the person doesn’t succeed the first time around, they develop the thinking style of “not yet, but soon”. They get up, contemplate how to approach the situation differently, and try again. Their emphasis is on the process applied not the actual outcome.
You may be wondering why it matters which mindset type you have. It matters profoundly because it clearly affects your ability to achieve goals, performances and being successful. Our mindset type can hinder or enable us, and this determines which strategies we’ll apply. It dictates how we respond to setbacks, the energy and effort we use to tackle situations, and in the end our success in goal attainment. Statistics show that a growth mindset is successful more often and is able to maintain that level consistently.
Mindsets in Organisations
If we take this concept one step further and assume that companies operate in the same frame as individuals, we can then conclude that companies have a certain primary mindset culture. Let’s hypothetically assume that a company has a fixed mindset culture, which is shown in its structures, policies, processes, operational activities and task execution. Outcomes and targets are distinctly measured and not attaining them means failure. Mistakes are punished, people are labelled as incompetent, and no learning is taken from mishaps. Leadership cascades that energy into its workforce, which may hamper employees from being self-motivated, creative, innovative thinkers, learners of mistakes, and eager to experiment with new ways of doing things. Growth is overshadowed by the company’s habitual system.
If the above concept is true; should leaders not be focusing on changing their company’s mindset? Companies like Apple, Google, and Virgin actively apply a growth mindset culture and we know what phenomenal success they’ve achieved. Perhaps it’s time to review what parts of your company are stuck in a fixed mindset and which aren’t.
Make the shift to a healthier growth mindset culture where you can learn from mistakes, and focus on the processes you apply rather than the final outcomes.
Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: The Random House Publishing Group.
While the ever-present stress of working in today’s world puts strain on individuals and organisational cultures, there are some fundamental environmental and cultural factors which can ease the pressure. Unfortunately, even though we may want to do our best work and have a positive work experience, this is often compromised by factors outside our control, and these unresolved conflicts impact overall organisational culture and business success.
Most organisations don’t plan on being negative environments for their employees’ well-being; however if they don’t pay attention to the unseen culture of the organisation, it can lead to some serious negative side effects, including:
- High absenteeism
- Stress-related health conditions
- Reduced productivity
- Unhealthy and toxic communication habits
- Politics and internal conflicts
- High levels of dissatisfaction
These side effects speak for themselves in terms of the impact they have on organisational culture and employee well-being; however, what often happens is that we leave them untouched hoping they’ll resolve themselves. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, and prolonged negative work environments usually lead to:
- High staff turnover
- Reduced work satisfaction which impacts commitment and motivation
- Low staff morale and team unity
- Higher amounts of HR issues relating to employee conflicts
So how can we tell that we’re working in a negative work environment? Well, there are a range of factors, but the truth is – you’ll feel it. Mistrust, closed communication, reduced collective problem solving, increased discomfort and reduced motivation are key indicators that your organisation is on a downwards slope.
But how do you know if you’re working in a positive organisation?
In South Africa there appears to be a lot of focus on logistical elements of organisational management which, while important, can lead to the people focus being less highly regarded. In this article we aim to highlight the key signs of whether you’re working in a positive organisation, and through it we hope to expose you to the often unseen elements which impact your employees and, in the end, directly impact your bottom line success.
Indicators of a Positive Organisational Culture
It is all well and good to have a values list stuck up on a wall in the office, however truly positive organisations bring their values to life. It’s simple to say, “we value diversity”, however is your organisation really upholding this value? Does everyone have equal representation? Can everybody share from their personal viewpoint without being shut down or silenced?
Value integrity comes in many forms from the words said, the actions performed, and the morals upheld in the organisation. These will differ depending on the values of your organisation, however one of the key indicators of whether you value integrity in your organisational culture is whether your own personal values are in accordance with those laid out by your organisation. If there is a connection on a personal level, it will filter out into every level of the organisation.
- A Relaxed and Productive Environment Organisational Culture
While it may seem obvious that we need to work in an environment that is conductive to concentration and productivity, this may not always be the reality. Bull pens, casual interruptions, social media access and colleague conversations can all have an impact on our capacity to do the “deep work” that truly improves organisations. Another area to consider when reviewing your working environment is whether you’re relaxed in your work space. Our brains require a baseline level of relaxation before we’re able to fully commit our attention to the task at hand, so notice whether your work space allows you to relax and concentrate fully on your tasks. A positive organisation should be encouraging a conducive environment through physical, sensory and mental conditions, as much as is possible within the given industry.
A positive organisation prioritises quality as much as quantity when it comes to outcomes for its clients. This is a balancing act and requires attention to both features when considering employee performance. While this may seem obvious and most organisations already have quality audits to ensure they’re producing the best products, what can often be forgotten is the people side of what it takes to achieve excellence. A positive organisational culture should be supporting the employees within the organisation to upskill, learn, and progress in their careers, and experience personal development through their roles. When an organisation commits to the individual improvement of its employees, the overall quality of their outcomes grows exponentially. Is your organisation committed to excellence?
- Open and Honest Communication
Corridor talk, internal politics and a lack of transparency are just some of the common problems experienced in many organisations. When open communication is not present, this can often lead to mistrust, a lack of psychological safety and employees wanting to “vent” to their peers which fuels the cycle to continue. Open communication can be either formal or informal, written or verbal. A positive working environment and an organisational culture with open communication will be easy to identify as there will be fewer cliques, less gossip, rumours, politics and uncertainty.
- Collaboration and Support
A healthy and positive team environment is one that supports creativity, problem solving and collaboration. There will also be compassion, respect and understanding underlying interactions. If you’ve ever been in toxic team environment you’ll know the signs – taking credit for someone else’s work, backstabbing, rumour spreading, unequal opportunities for expression, and bullying. A positive team environment is perhaps one of the key elements to creating a positive organisational culture because once teams are working together effectively and supportively, it can quickly spread into the culture of the rest of the organisation. If you want to identify whether you’re in a positive organisation, start to notice whether you have collaboration, peer support, learning through doing (reflection and problem solving), and both formal and informal meeting opportunities.
“A good sense of humour is an escape valve for the pressures of life.”
In South Africa we’re incredibly lucky to have a culture of humour. To laugh at ourselves, at what doesn’t work, at our frustrations and at each other in a kind way is one of our biggest weapons against the potential slip into negativity. A good sense of humour creates a light and playful culture within an organisation and can really be the antidote to daily stress as it releases endorphins and reduces cortisol (our stress hormone) built up throughout the day. Do you laugh enough in your organisation?
Unfortunately, in the traditional working paradigm, the elimination of humanity is standard operating procedure. A progressive, positive organisation considers the individual, and with that comes a flexibility in management of resources, time, expectations, methodology and differences in outcome – of course without compromising the quality of the organisation’s objectives. Flexibility while challenging to manage can be a vital way for employees to experience autonomy and acknowledgement because when we’re seen and heard as ourselves we’re more in control (over time use, task completion and work-life balance) and will experience a rise in intrinsic motivation and commitment to the organisation.
- Emphasis on environment, family and health
In this millennial world, the nature of our organisations has changed. From CSI (Corporate Social Investment) initiatives, family fun days, unconventional team building events and wellness programmes, there’s a revolution happening when it comes to an organisation’s responsibility to support, respect and act towards improving the lives of its employees and the greater community. This is becoming more common in organisations across the board, but provides a good indicator to see whether you’re in fact working in an organisation that has positive intentions.
Take Home Message
There’s a lot of pressure to be a better organisation, a better leader and a better person. This article is not intended to cause guilt, blame or negative sentiments towards your organisation because it doesn’t meet these criteria. Rather, it may help to explain why you’re experiencing conflicts and chaos at work and will hopefully give you a starting point to begin making positive changes in your work place.
If you’re not sure where to start, then don’t worry. 4Seeds is passionate about building skills and resources for happier workplaces in South Africa and we’d love to help you.
We’ll gladly come to your office for a FREE 30-minute Positive Workplace Talk to help start the conversation and to build awareness about how you and your organisation can become healthier, happier and more successful. If you’re interested, or know someone who may need us, then send an email to email@example.com and we’ll be happy to get involved.
The times are changing and we’re here to support you on your route to success.
To lead ourselves can often be a challenge in itself. But when we lead a team or a company, the responsibility for ensuring productivity and motivation becomes all the more complex. Often leaving leaders feeling overwhelmed and under-satisfied.
There are many reasons for this, but this overwhelm is often related to three prominent limiting beliefs which society has cultivated, and which we have held close to our hearts for what I believe to be way too long.
This toxic triad includes a fixed mindset, a weakness focus and the belief that belonging and diversity are incompatible. When in effect, this combination leads to disconnection, hopeless and loss of esteem in self and society. An exhausting and destructive situation for any team or company to find itself in.
In this article, I will unpack these three beliefs and introduce a potential antidote for each one, which when applied in the leadership of teams can:
- Increase collective achievement
- Boost collaboration and innovation
- Encourage individual growth and development
So, let’s get started.
Shifting from The Toxic Triad
For as long as we can remember, there has always been a focus on what is not working, on where we are weak, and the differences between “us” and “them”. This worldview potentially served our empires, agricultural settlements and self-preservation efforts. However, as we move towards a more global community and economy, with every waking (and sleeping) moment, the need to build positive, collaborative efforts becomes of utmost importance. For us to begin breaking down these barriers, we need to know more about these three limiting beliefs and begin seeing how they are playing out in our daily lives.
Number 1: The Fixed Mindset
A fixed mindset is defined as when people believe that their basic qualities, talents and intelligence are fixed traits; that they are fully developed and thus unchangeable. This fixed mindset is what leads us to say things like: “I am not good enough” or “I am really bad at…”.
A fixed mindset can cause:
- Avoidant behaviours,
- Fear of failure,
- Reduced engagement,
- Increased depression and
- A higher risk of burnout.
But is there a plus side to this fixed mindset? The good news is that there definitely is. A fixed mindset is not fixed! Our brains can rewire and learn. And when we begin to notice the difference between “not good enough” and “not good enough YET”, we will start to shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.
We can begin to look at our staff, our teams, our products and our companies as constantly evolving and pliable. This is a necessary move for any company looking to keep learning and developing. When our perspective shifts, we open ourselves up to real growth; and in fact, make success more likely.
Number 2: The Weakness Focus
We tend to focus on our development areas, our weakest links and lowest test scores. We do this because as a human race we want to succeed, improve and be better than those that came before us (including the you of yesterday). And while we know that this mentality has, in a way, led us to become incredible innovators, problem-solvers and constructors of our world, we are also stuck focusing on what is not working well.
This weakness focus leads to:
- Reduced self-esteem,
- Lowered efficiency,
- Narrow-mindedness and
- Reduced problem-solving ability.
Focusing on weaknesses also makes us tired; we become exhausted with our fear of failure. This in turn drains us of our creativity, playfulness and hope. In essence, a weakness focus in the workplace has a detrimental effect on our productivity, innovation and satisfaction with the end product.
As a leader, we tend to look at what went wrong, and we can forget what our people bring to the table. We all have strengths; some are better at execution while others are the relationship builders. Every individual within your team and company has a unique set of strengths and talents, and when these become the focus, we begin to build people and products which are collectively amazing.
When we work outside of our strengths, we become tired; however, when we work using our strengths not only do we become elated, motivated and dedicated, but we accomplish our goals and share the good news with others. A strengths-based approach is the number one most important leadership capacity you can develop for your company.
Number 3: Unity and Diversity are Incompatible
Compatibility is a curious concept. When we think of a romantic relationship where people are considered compatible, it is because they share something in common, have similar values and enjoy similar activities. They are familiar to each other and therefore it is more comfortable for them to settle with each other. However, many long-time married couples will agree that the most important thing is not in fact compatibility, but rather understanding. It is the differences we see in each other that keep our interest, teach us humility, and keep us learning.
So why should it be any different in a workplace?
Even people who appear the same, are all different. In fact, a quote from Gallup’s book Strengths Based Leadership (Rath and Conchie, 2008) describes this point perfectly:
“Look at people’s strengths, not their gender, race, or age.”
When we think of diversity, we think of demographics; however, if we were to assess the strength distribution of a workforce, we would see the multifaceted and unique combination of strengths a group of individuals has. With this knowledge, we can see that we are all different, from a twin sibling or a life partner, and more often than not, that is why we grow, innovate, and develop. It is through the collaborative efforts of individuals with differing views that great products and services are created. In fact, Rath and Conchie say that: “the more diverse the team is in age, gender, and ethnicity, […], the greater the level of engagement. And the greater the engagement, the greater the productivity and retention.”
It is therefore imperative that we shift the belief that homogeneity is better than diversity and begin recognising the potential that unique individuality can bring to a team and company. Only when we notice the individual talents and strengths of our employees can we begin to live our potential.
We are all familiar with the effects of the toxic triad. We have all in some or other way felt drained by our work, isolated or frustrated with our colleagues and employees, or limited in our cognitive capacity because of reduced motivation and disconnection from our work. Burnout, depression, low self-esteem, ruined relationships and lost opportunities are all results of this inhibiting combination of limiting beliefs.
Aren’t you tired of being tired, not good enough and isolated? The leaders who are moving companies across the globe towards becoming more meaningful and successful are those that are aware and active in shifting away from what was not working to what is. Don’t get left out or stuck in a rut. Move yourself and your company forward by focusing on strengths, noticing what growth is happening and recognising the value of diversity for success.
Good luck on your journey😊
Rath, T. & Conchie, B. (2008) Strengths-Based Leadership. Gallup Press.