Why You Need a Growth Mindset and More Time to Learn

Whether your purview is proposals, products, relationships, or processes, business life cycles continue to accelerate at a breakneck pace. It’s extremely exciting. Heightened levels of technology, innovation and disruption create new markets and revenue opportunities seemingly out of nowhere. Alas, in all of our hustle and bustle to keep up, it’s all too easy to sideline time for personal growth. Unfortunately, if we continue to do so, we risk losing what makes us all so valuable as workers, executives and entrepreneurs: ourselves.

According to a survey conducted by Professor Boris Groysberg of Harvard Business School, many executives estimate that 20% of their skills become obsolete annually. That estimate is twice what it was ten years ago. Thanks a lot, technology. And email. And meetings. And Zoom. And ends of quarters. And my underlings. And my overlings. And my family. And Hugo (my dog). Work and life consume time faster than we think. Sometimes our drive to succeed can cause us to forget to pull over for gas. We need to make time for rest… and growth.

You grow some. You learn some.

I first heard of two types of mindsets by reading psychologist Carol Dweck. Permit me to oversimplify by saying that a fixed mindset is afraid of making mistakes, which results in shying away from challenges and new experiences. A growth mindset embraces mistakes and failure as the gateway to learning and discovery. It makes learning, not perfection, the goal.

Take the microsite of a marketing campaign, for example. A fixed mindset wants to build the site with X amount of pages, Y functionality, and Z videos, graphics, and interactivity. Until the site checks every item on the XYZ list–which was likely composed by disparate stakeholders concerned only with how their product is presented–then developers will continue to try to hit an unrealistic target. This binary thinking that seeks black and white answers in a grey world hampers growth, sabotages innovation, and stifles creativity.

A growth mindset goes live with an MVP: minimum viable product. Get the basic design up and running, then let marketing do its work. Analyze heat maps. See where people are clicking and where they’re getting stuck. Dig into site visits and behavior to find areas to optimize. Let sales work its magic. Invite customers to give their input. Keep what works. Rejigger what doesn’t, or rethink whether you need it at all. Build and learn and you’ll find that the website looks and performs much different than the original XYZ design. It also provides flexibility to solve those disparity challenges that submarined the fixed mindset XYZ approach.

Be afraid of fear

Step one: eliminate fear. Failure is nothing to be afraid of. Ask Michael Jordan. He said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

A great place to start is by asking why. Pause and ask questions before making a decision. Before leaping to a “yes/no,” “good/bad,” or “right/wrong” answer, seek more information. Ask why a lot. Why were decisions made? Why did we lose? Why did we win? Why are we at this juncture? Why is this relevant now? Why am I still giving you examples of “why” questions? (Just checking to see if you’re still reading.)

Your ultimate goal is to be eager to fail because that’s an opportunity to learn. To get there, you only need one thing: time. Not as easy as it sounds.

Time management is a huge part of inhabiting the growth mindset. Build time in your schedule for learning. If you can’t do it every day, then do it every week. Make sure every direct report does the same. Learning time is too easy to sacrifice. No, it’s not client facing. No, it’s not problem solving. No, it’s not filling out your TPS reports. It’s more important than all of those because of math (everything always boils down to math). If 20% of skills become obsolete every year, then in five years without learning, what skills are left? Failure doesn’t sound so scary now, right?

You cannot squeeze creativity out of people. Creativity needs space. Virtual environments can be tough because we’re cramming more into the day and not taking the time to walk with colleagues for coffee or lunch or…walks. You need rest and breathing space built into the day and its deadlines.

Fear’s gone. Now what?

Feed the mindset. If learning and growth are not encouraged, then they might as well be prohibited. Every organization needs to set its own growth mindset parameters. For some, it may involve formal accreditation and advancement. “We’ll pay for you to get your MBA so you can become a VP.” In others, it may involve encouragement by leadership to add DNB (do not block) into your schedule. Find conferences, courses, podcasts, and whatever and block off time to do it. Don’t do yourself the disservice of multi-tasking while doing it.

Unlocking your team’s potential is affording them the freedom to learn and fail. If we don’t fail, then we’re not trying hard enough. It takes trust and acceptance in learning. There’s more than one way to do things. Identify where you’re going and educate yourself how to get there. Most importantly, make time for what matters most.

Sometimes it’s work. Sometimes it’s family. Sometimes it’s peace. Right now it’s Hugo. Time for a walk.

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