U2 can embrace a growth mindset - The Pickering Group
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U2 can embrace a growth mindset

07/03/20

How do you feel about your talents? Are they limited to what you were born with? It may surprise you to know that Bono couldn’t sing when he started fronting U2. Maybe that didn’t surprise you because you still think Bono can’t sing, but let’s leave that debate to a reddit thread somewhere.  Anyway, Bono. He had the leather pants and the pink sunglasses, but not the voice. U2 couldn’t even do covers because he just couldn’t manage them.  So he wrote his own songs and he worked on his voice. And if there’s one thing we can agree on, he’s been reasonably successful ever since.
 
U2 Can Grow
 
We all have some innate talents, and there are two ways of thinking about them. Carol Dweck, Stanford professor and motivation research pioneer, defines these mindsets as either ‘growth’ or ‘fixed’: 

  1. People with a growth mindset believe their talents can be developed through hard work and feedback.
  2. People with a fixed mindset believe talent is innate and unchangeable. 
  3. People with a floating mindset are at the mercy of interest rates. 

Okay, that last one wasn’t Carol - but a great summary of her ideas can be found here.
 
As it turns out your company’s culture can also have a growth or fixed mindset
 

  1. Companies with a growth mindset culture report more empowered and committed employees.

The practices that underpin growth mindset behaviour include sharing information, collaborating, innovating, seeking feedback, and admitting errors.  Employees are supported when they innovate or experiment, so they’re willing to take chances. Consequently, they appreciate the environment that lets them develop which makes them more loyal and satisfied at work.  That’s a win. It’s no 2016 Woman of the Year like Bono won, but still a win. (And yes, that last sentence is for real)
 

  1. Companies with a fixed mindset culture report employees using cheats and deception, amongst other toxic practices.

Firstly let’s admit we’d like to know what those other toxic practices are.  Microwaving tuna in the breakroom?  Using ‘Thanks’ as an email sign-off?  Leather pants? It’s clear though, that a fixed mindset culture causes problems. Mistakes are shamefully hidden, ideas are hoarded for fear of rivals taking the credit, and employees contribute less for fear of being wrong.  A potential source of new ideas is squandered, and those employees never get the chance to develop their abilities, confidence and leadership skills.  Fixed is broken.
 
Fix My Growth!
 
Here’s what you can do this week to move towards a growth mindset.

  1. Seek out opportunities to stretch yourself – put your hand up for the thing you’d like to improve at.
  2. Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to admit to gaps in your expertise as long as your goal is to fill them. It may be mentoring from a senior colleague or a development course.
  3. Challenge a belief about yourself. Find an ‘I can’t’ sentence you’d say about yourself and add ‘yet’ to the end of it. Consider what specific steps you’d have to take to make it untrue.  
  4. Float. Like Carol didn’t say, fixed is for interest rates. Find a way to be okay with uncertainty and feeling vulnerable, because that’s the path to learning. Brené Brown calls it Daring Leadership, and to be honest, it does take some courage.

Achtung, Baby
 
A fixed mindset can literally silence you. In our business storytelling programme, we see it in people who feel they have no stories to tell – or if they do, they think we won’t be interested. The truth is we’re all full of amazing stories – and, when appropriate, we love hearing them.  When it comes to presentation skills programmes, we see many people who doubt their innate ability to present or speak convincingly in public.  In a competitive, fixed-mindset culture, these people avoid opportunities to present in order to hide their failings. They’ll catastrophize, under-prepare and can actually get worse over time. In an environment that supports growth, it’s very possible to improve your presentation skills and your business storytelling, no matter your level. All it takes is being open to learn. Like Bono. This is probably the only time anyone will ever encourage you to be like Bono, but embrace it.  Those leather pants suit you.

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