This past weekend, I was pleased to receive an invitation to help @LeeAraoz prepare for a presentation by sharing my experience with growth mindset. I was asked to post a video on his growth mindset Flipgrid.
Because of a combination of not figuring out how to post my video on his Flipgrid, and the distraction of yet another in a long series of remodeling problems on our home, I missed my opportunity. Given my belief in the importance of a growth mindset, I will share my thoughts, here.
When I first heard the term “growth mindset, I had to
stop and think about what it meant. After a little research, I was excited to discover
that I have been talking about and teaching the concept for decades. In my
leadership consulting practice, I referred to the concept of learning continuously
as striving for “relentless improvement.”
I much prefer the more apt and elegant descriptor, “growth
I have long believed that this focus on relentless improvement, growth, and learning is an essential tool of positive leadership, whether as a manager or supervisor in a business organization, a principal of a school, or a teacher in the classroom. We must always strive to pry open our minds to growth. We must be willing to challenge our assumptions at any point in time as we work to be better at what we do and produce better outcomes.
Change and growth are an essential part of life for
both people and organizations. When the outcomes we produce tell us something
is not working, doing nothing is irresponsible. It is a silly analogy, I know,
but imagine changing the decorations on a cake but never baking a new cake.
Sooner or later you’ll have a mess on your hands.
Someone, many years ago, shared with me the advice of
a ski instructor, who said:
“if you are not falling down once in a while, you are
not really skiing.”
When we extend ourselves to the cusp of our knowledge
and experience, we fall down. It’s what we all do; it is how we learn. The best
advice I can give people is “don’t sweat the mistakes
we make, celebrate them.”
“Stop complaining,” is another challenge I offer to current or aspiring positive leaders. Complaints are the province of the weak and powerless. When unhappy about some aspect of your life, job, or organization, instead of complaining, offer a better idea or solution. If you do not have a better idea or alternate approach of your own, become a positive advocate for someone else’s proposal for change. If no one has a better idea, put your heads together and discover one.
There will always be a better way if we take the time
and teach ourselves how to search for it. Train your mind to push the boundaries
of your imagination, to reject complacency, to ask tough questions, and
challenge your assumptions. Nothing hampers a growth mindset like complacency
My mission in life, for the past decade, has been to stop the failure of disadvantaged kids. These kids are not destined to fail, and they do not struggle because they are incapable of learning, or because they have bad teachers and bad schools. If we listen to these kids, and observe their behavior, it becomes apparent that they are “street smart.” They learn what is important to them and they learn what works for them in their unique environments. The only way to convince them that what we are striving to teach them is important is by convincing them, through our words and actions, that they are important.
Growth mindset is an essential tool of positive leadership.
When disadvantaged kids struggle and fail in school it
is because the education process in which their
teachers are expected to teach does not allow them to give every student the time,
support, and attention they need to overcome their disadvantages. Those
disadvantages, un-remediated, leave young people at the mercy of discrimination.
Until teachers give up, themselves, and leave the profession
they chose with such high hopes and aspirations, I can assure you they do everything
they can to give kids the time and attention they need to learn. The education process
in which teachers are expected to work, however, is not structured to support them in that
effort. The education process at work in American schools, both public and
private, has become brittle and unresponsive to the changes taking place in the
world in which their students must live and teachers must work.
The moment a process, product, service, or idea can no longer be improved is the point at which it becomes obsolete.
That’s why I developed The Hawkins Model©. It offers an education process that has been designed to serve teachers and students as they do their important work, not the other way around. It’s a simple question of “who exists to serve whom?”
Never underestimate your power to influence to the
world around you. Cultivate a growth mindset for yourselves and create an environment
that fosters relentless growth and learning for the people around you.