Growth Mindset | Leadership | Performance

How to Receive Feedback With a Growth Mindset

An illustration of a man outside of a growth mindset versus a man locked behind bars

Let’s be honest. Getting feedback on your performance isn’t easy. Nobody likes hearing where they fell short or what they could have done better.

At NLI, we focus on making feedback conversations less threatening and more manageable. By embracing a growth mindset, teams can absorb and act on feedback rather than dreading it and avoiding opportunities out of fear of failure. Managers with a growth mindset compare employees not to their peers but to their past level of skill, and they reward not just performance but improvement over time.

The power of growth mindset

Feedback is an area where growth mindset can change everything. Generally, feedback conversations begin with some version of the same ominous question: “Can I give you some feedback?” Hearing this, our minds naturally wander to create worst-case scenarios. We worry about getting reprimanded for some past transgression or imagine getting fired on the spot. This lack of certainty leads us to fill in the details on our own — and often in unhelpful, anxiety-producing ways.

A growth mindset can help us view feedback as a good thing, which ultimately makes performance reviews more effective. After all, we want to learn, grow, and improve our skills. People with a fixed mindset view criticism as an attack on their self-worth. Growth mindset, by contrast, leaves room for the possibility that we all have blind spots — and that your manager may have valuable insights on how you can hone your skills. Feedback, in other words, isn’t personal. A manager may critique our performance, but a growth mindset helps keep us from tying our performance to our identity.

How to handle feedback with a growth mindset

Imagine you’ve just given a major presentation, and your manager asks if she can share her thoughts on how it went.

Equipped with a growth mindset, you’d approach the conversation focused on how you can grow: improving at public speaking, articulating your thoughts more clearly, structuring your presentation to capture and hold people’s attention. You see every piece of feedback your manager gives you as an opportunity to move toward your goals. You may not agree with everything she says, but your mind is open and receptive to her input.

Growth mindset, multiplied

The beauty of growth mindset is that it’s self-reinforcing. As you gain more confidence in your own ability to learn and grow, each feedback conversation becomes easier than the last. You become more capable of discussing high-stakes issues with honesty and transparency because neither side feels threatened.

Ultimately, that’s how organizations can make feedback conversations more effective and more human: by reminding managers and employees that getting better is more important than being good.

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