Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset: What Would You Do?


If being a leader was an easy job, everyone would do it. But it’s not. 

Whether heading a team of 10 or 100, being a leader is incredibly challenging and comes with a boatload of responsibilities. How you handle them determines how much potential your organization has to grow– even in the face of market slumps, emerging competitors, changing consumer tastes, and whatever else comes your way. 

So, how can you ensure that your team can weather any storm and come out on top? It all comes down to your mindset. 

With a growth mindset, you don’t think there’s any such thing as a “born leader.” Instead, you see your intelligence and skills as something moldable through effort. You’re hungry for challenges that push you past the edge of your abilities. You know the value of productive struggle and sustained effort because even if you don’t succeed, it’s still an opportunity to fail forward. 

Leaders with a fixed mindset don’t believe that people can evolve or don’t see the point in doing so. In their eyes, everyone is born with a particular set of skills and level of intelligence, and to try those limits is a fruitless waste of time. Once they’re good at something, that’s as far as they’re willing to go, and if they fail at something, that must mean they were never meant to do it in the first place. 

It’s pretty clear which mindset makes for better business leaders, but no one falls neatly into one camp or the other. Even if you have a growth mindset about our employee’s abilities, for example, you might feel that you’ve reached the peak of your abilities, so trying to expand your skill set is pointless. 

Let’s look at how a growth vs. fixed mindset plays out when you’re a leader by evaluating how you’d handle different business scenarios.

Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset Scenario #1: Remote Work Opportunity

Your team’s work could easily be done remotely, saving your employees the stress of commuting, finding childcare, etc. However, you’re not prepared with the necessary infrastructure to ensure that everyone has a fully equipped office, and there is some concern about whether your usually productive team will find remote work too distracting. 

What would you do?

  • This is an exciting opportunity to modernize your business practices, with the added bonus of saving your employees time and money. Plus, anyone who wants to come into the office is more than welcome to! But before you’re willing to make the switch, you want to prepare your team for the transition by training them on any collaboration platforms they’ll use when working from home. 
  • You’re uncomfortable that your team won’t have managerial supervision and what they may try to get away with if they’re not working in the office. You’re not willing to risk productivity slipping, so you decide to keep an in-person-only model. Now, there’s no need to waste time learning how to use new tech tools or paying the license fee for screen monitoring apps. 

Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset Scenario #2: Responding to Feedback

Last week, you called your team together for a particularly tense meeting, the last one before you’re supposed to launch a marketing campaign for an upcoming product release. As you’re reviewing all of the project components and assigning last-minute tasks, you notice that the designs for your social media ads are way behind schedule. Your graphic designer, Andrew, was out sick for two days last week, so, in a moment of frustration, say to them, “If this campaign flops, that’s on you. This work should have been done already.” 

The next day, Kathy, the team lead for the social media department, asked to speak to you privately and told you that she was concerned with how you talked to Andrew because your tone was unnecessarily harsh. It also implied that he was somehow to blame for being ill and, in the future, must put work ahead of his health.

What would you do?

  • After Kathy gives you her perspective on the situation, you realize that it was unfair to put the success of the entire campaign on Andrew’s shoulders when he was only one part of the project. You let Kathy know that you appreciate her insights and work with her to create a plan to delegate deadline-sensitive work when employees are sick in the future. Then, you ask Andrew to meet with you so that you can apologize and reassure him that you now have a protocol in place. 
  • Kathy is overreacting, and if Andrew wants to make it in this business, he will have to learn how to take constructive criticism. He should see your frustration as a compliment– You were simply acknowledging how critical his skills are to the success of your business. Now, he knows he needs to be a team player by pushing through his workday or wrapping up the project while he’s just sitting around at home. You never address the comment with Andrew or Kathy again. 

Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset Scenario #4: Self-Improvement

Your IT team recently rolled out a new project management tool that should make cross-team collaboration easier. During the first training session, you’re really struggling to get the hang of the interface. It’s not intuitive to you, and there are way too many features to sort through. 

You’re concerned that the new platform will slow down everyone’s productivity. After all, there wasn’t anything wrong with the old platform. It’s just not the latest version with all these bells and whistles.

What would you do? 

  • You know that you’ll figure it out eventually and that everyone will likely experience some growing pains at first. Sure, the platform differs from the previous task management tool, but it also offers many opportunities to innovate and make collaborating between departments much easier. While scrolling through tutorials, you notice that the platform’s customer service team provides a series of webinars that introduce you to all the features. You want to be able to support anyone else who might be struggling, so you sign up to take the courses. 
  • This is absolutely ridiculous! Why would the IT team think replacing the software that every department is already familiar with would be a good idea? During the next leadership meeting, you argue that the old platform was far easier to use and that all of the new functionalities are just a reason to hike the price up. Instead, you suggest that we just stick to what we know and skip the unnecessary training. It doesn’t matter what platform you’re working with as long as the work is getting done.

Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset Scenario #4: Employee Growth and Development

Emily is the top performer in the customer service department. She’s mastered the art of smoothing things over with even the angriest clients and always offers real, actionable solutions that solve the problem without escalating to her supervisors. Recently, she mentioned that she’s interested in moving into a position in the finance department and is in the final year of her online Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree program. 

She definitely has potential, and her ambition is admirable, but you’re sure you’ll never be able to replace her. Emily is just too good at what she does.

What would you do?

  • How could you not support Emily? She has the drive and the determination to achieve her goals, and the accounting department would be lucky to have her. After your discussion with Emily about her long-term goals and prospective graduation date, you set up a meeting with the head of the finance department to see what opportunities might be available for her. Afterward, you facilitate a meeting between Emily, the finance lead, and yourself to map out a gradual transition plan that gives you time to fill her position and lets her get hands-on training while she’s still in school so she can start her new role immediately after graduation. 
  • You’re deeply concerned about the impact of Emily’s departure on the rest of the customer service department. Given her stellar performance and the time it would take to train a replacement, you discourage her from transferring to finance. You tell her she’s just too valuable to the team, and moving to a new department might not even work out. She’ll be starting at the bottom of the totem pole, whereas sticking around means she’s that much closer to a promotion. For now, you can offer her a small raise and the promise of considering her for a supervisory position during her next performance review. 

Scoring Your Self-Assessment 

Now that you’ve completed the scenarios, let’s do some tabulations to see whether you tend towards growth or a fixed mindset. 

For every time you answered A, give yourself 2 points.  For every time you answered B, give yourself 1 point. 

If you scored…

  • 8 points: You have a strong growth mindset. You enjoy the challenges of being a leader because you embrace opportunities to grow and adapt. Rather than seeing tough times as a reason to throw in the towel, you value them for what they are: Another chance to learn something new. 
  • 7 points: You have a moderate growth mindset. While your typical response to situations values innovation, you have some areas you’re unwilling to compromise on. These sticking points are growth areas that you should focus on improving in to see your leadership abilities flourish. 
  • 6 points: You have an inconsistent mindset. Sometimes, you’re excited about advancements in the industry and your business, but you’ve already made up your mind about other issues, which can lead to uneven growth.  
  • 5 points: You have a moderate fixed mindset. You tend to prefer traditional methods because you feel that change opens the door for problems where none exist. You’d rather keep things at the status quo until an outside force compels you to consider a new approach. 
  • 4 points: You have a strong fixed mindset. What you say goes, and you say that things are fine, just as they are. The goal is to avoid challenges at all costs, even if it means missing out on growth opportunities. You feel that you’ve done well so far, and there’s no reason you won’t continue to do so in the future. 

No matter where you are as a business leader, working with a business coach is an excellent next step for owners and executives ready to develop a growth mindset or further refine their current skill set. At Catalyst Group ECR, we provide the structure and skills necessary for greatness. We meet you where you are and help you get where you want to be.

Contact Lori Moen today to get started!

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