The Mental Shift That Unlocks Organizational Performance

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A major concept discussed at this year's NeuroLeadership Summit was growth mindset, a critical tool for boosting teams' performance.

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At Microsoft, Nokia, HP, and many more global organizations, growth mindset is unlocking performance across thousands of employees. It’s helping people not just see their challenges as opportunities, but empowering them to develop new, effective habits.

This transformative power played a major role at this year’s NeuroLeadership Summit, where the featured theme was “A More Human Organization.” During a session titled “What Growth Mindset is Doing for Organizations,” talent leaders and researchers shared their insights for using growth mindset effectively.

A lot of it, according to Nikki Rivera, Head of Leadership and Key Talent Development at HP, comes down to the way people think about their own capacity to lead. At HP, that mindset has resulted in 22% gains in engagement scores between 2016-2018 and widespread improvements in manager-employee relationships.

“Everyone is a leader,” Rivera said, “because leadership is about disposition and not about position.”

How growth mindset works

NLI defines growth mindset as the dual belief that skills can be improved and that improving skills helps form the purpose of the work employees do. You may never be the best at something, per se, but with a growth mindset you do believe that you can get better. Not only that, using a growth mindset compels you to focus on improving, not proving, yourself to face all future challenges.

In everyday life, you’re bound to butt up against any number of skills-based challenges. At home, you may consider yourself utterly useless in the kitchen, or all-too-adept at shrinking your favorite garments. Personally, you might resent your lack of time management, personal-finance savvy, or fear of heights. At work, the idea of leading meetings might send you into a cold sweat.

Growth mindset works in all these cases. Granted, it won’t necessarily cure you of the anxiety or apprehension that runs underneath these activities. But it will change how you relate to these weaker spots, and it’s that shift that unlocks your ability to perform. You stop comparing yourself to others, and instead start focusing on one-upping your past self.

Growth mindset in organizations

FD Wilder saw growth mindset’s benefits firsthand during his years at Procter & Gamble. Wilder, one of the panelists in the Summit session on growth mindset, served as the Global Head of Innovation. That meant it was his job to build in the processes that kept P&G agile against disruptive forces like Amazon and Alibaba.

“So model A is stability, mega-brands, ” Wilder told NLI on a recent podcast episode. “Model B is agility micro brands. And what we’re trying to create is model C, which incorporates and integrates the best elements from those two models.”

These thought processes can only happen when leaders see their teams as fluid, not fixed. If they view an organization’s mission and goals as set in stone, they’ll continue operating with outdated information to tackle modern challenges. P&G’s goal, Wilder says, is to lean into what’s worked in the past while still embracing the future as it unfolds.

NLI’s solution to help leaders build growth mindset in their teams is GROW: The Neuroscience of Growth Mindset. Click here to learn more.

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