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Dec
28 2011

Praise their Process Over their Competence

Syndicated from: Fulcrum Associates | Leadership Development and Teambuilding

The name and work of Carol Dweck keeps coming up in discussions among experts in cognitive development. I wrote a review of  her important book, MindSet. In it she talks about two fundamental mindsets in people (and, therefore, of course, in employees): Fixed and Growth. Someone with a Fixed mindset believes they can’t get any better, improve their skills, or turn around a failure. Growth mindset people believe the opposite. Therefore, they are much more open to feedback, to learning from their mistakes, and trying out new ways and behaviors. Here’s what is particularly interesting, from the research. When parents praise their kids for their intelligence when they do well, it tends to breed young adults who operate with a fixed mindset. What fosters a growth mindset is praising the process their kids use to achieve a positive result. In other words, how they took on a difficult challenge or used a different approach or persisted in the face of discouragement. Do you see an parallel in giving feedback to an employee? It suggests to me that a way to crack an employee’s fixed mindset or reinforce his/her growth mindset is to draw attention to his/her methodology or behavior behind a positive result. You could say something like… “Wow, that mistake is interesting. What can you do now to turn it around? What did you learn from it? What will you do differently if this sort of situation comes up again?” When you praise traits and competencies linked to their performance results it feels final, immutable, WYSIWYG . Processes, however, are almost always capable of being improved. By focusing your positive feedback on your staff member’s approach, strategy or methodology, vs. their traits like creativity, sense of humor, or intelligence, you keep open the potential for yet further growth. Hey, life (and work) is a process, no? © 2011, Ian Cook. All rights reserved.

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