Going on a growth mindset journey

By Elisabeth Goodman, 10th August 2020

Have you ever…?

  • Decided that something that you wanted to do was just too difficult?
  • Hit obstacles that have put you off continuing with something that you started?
  • Got depressed or had a sense of failure because something has not worked out?
  • Felt put off by someone being a lot better than you?
  • Judged that someone you were managing was not capable of doing something – perhaps a little too hastily?

These are all examples of what Dr Carol Dweck (2017) describes as a fixed mindset. Her book “Mindset” is a rich source of information on fixed and growth mindsets, their consequences and what we can do about them.

This is applicable to us as individuals, as managers, leaders and coaches, as parents and teachers.

Here are some points that stood out for me from Dr Dweck’s book. They are helping me to go on a growth mindset journey as an individual, and in my work with managers and individuals within teams.

Fixed mindsets and limiting beliefs get in the way

They stop us from achieving our potential, and from helping others to achieve theirs.

They cause us to feel anxious or depressed about what we might or might not be able to do.

In an organisation, this can result in high levels of turn-over, and missed opportunities to increase productivity, innovation and competitive standing with respect to other organisations.

Fixed mindsets are based on assumptions

These assumptions include thinking that:

  • People can either do things or they can’t.
  • We have a limit to our intelligence.
  • You are either born with talent or you are not.
  • To admit that you can’t do something is a sign of weakness.
  • Having to put effort into learning how to do something means that you are not good enough.

For people with a fixed mindset, not being able to do something that you are supposed to be talented in can feel literally terrifying. Having to put effort into something with the possibility that you might fail can be equally so.

Managers, leaders and organisations can either reinforce a “culture of genius” or they can cultivate a “culture of development”

A “culture of genius” is symptomatic of a fixed mindset. It leads to everything being about validation – and to “group think”:

  • The CEO or team leaders are not to be contradicted because they are so talented that they have all the answers.
  • To express a different point of view would be seen as dissent and might be punished.
  • To comply is to fit in.

Where there is a “culture of development”, or a growth mindset, in Carol Dweck’s words:

  • Everything feels more possible.
  • The world expands and is filled with energy.
  • It feels like fun!

Dweck cites examples from Jack Welsh at GE, and Anne Mulcahy at XEROX. They role modelled how listening to people, giving them credit, nurturing them, focusing on learning, and combining toughness with compassion can turn things around in organisations that were previously floundering.

What a growth mindset is and is not

A growth mindset is about…It is not (just) about..
Being dedicated to growing talentBeing open minded and flexible
Putting in hard work AND trying new strategies AND seeking input from othersPutting in lots of effort
Providing or accessing support and resources to make progressTelling others or yourself that “you can do anything”

How to cultivate a growth mindset in the people that you manage, and in yourself

As managers, leaders and coaches we can expand our belief in human development and growth by:

  • Recognising that skills can be learnt – that people can develop their abilities
  • Valuing learning and perseverance in those that we work with
  • Giving feedback in a way that promotes learning and future success
  • Being a resource for learning

As individuals we can:

  • Acknowledge that we are likely to have a mix of fixed and growth mindsets.
  • Be aware of our fixed mindset triggers (see the opening list to this blog!).
  • Here’s the fun bit: recognise the fixed mindset persona within ourselves (I’ve named mine Defensive Deirdre!).
  • Our fixed mindset personas were born to protect us and keep us safe – when they crop up we can acknowledge and educate them and invite them to go on our growth mindset journey with us.
  • We might even want to let other people around us know when our fixed mindset persona is being triggered and what we are trying to do about it.

What growth mindsets will deliver and conclusion

Carol Dweck conducted a study across a number of organisations and found that those that adopted a “culture of development” witnessed:

  • A greater sense of trust by individuals towards their companies.
  • A greater sense of empowerment, ownership and commitment by people within their companies.
  • More support by the companies for a (reasonable) level of risk-taking, creativity and innovation.

For us as individuals, a growth mindset offers us a richness of opportunities to continue to learn and develop and reach ever higher levels of achievement in our professional and personal lives.



Dweck, C. (2017) Mindset. Changing the Way you Think to Fulfil your Potential. Robinson,

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, through courses, workshops and coaching, and with a focus on the Life Sciences. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting teams on a global basis.  She is developing her coaching practice, with a focus on helping individuals to develop management, interpersonal and communication skills, and to deal with change.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of the APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Elisabeth is also a member of the ICF (International Coaching Federation) and is working towards her PG Certification in Business and Personal Coaching with Barefoot Coaching and the University of Chester.

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