ATD Blog

6 Signs You Have a Growth Mindset

Thursday, February 2, 2017

When it comes to organizational learning and development, companies with a growth mindset maintain the upper hand. But what exactly is a growth mindset and why does it matter so much? Chris Miller, UNC’s program manager, examined two types of mindsets: growth and fixed.

Many employers believed for years that employees either have talent or they don’t. Individual intelligence, skills, and abilities cannot be sustainably developed in this school of thought. However, emerging research is dismantling this belief, showing that with the right attitude (a growth mindset), employees can learn and thrive despite their baseline abilities. 

Fixed Mindset Versus Growth Mindset 

Those with a fixed mindset view intelligence as static quality and won’t change despite external factors. Research shows that a person with a fixed mindset gives up quickly and lacks motivation. These people do not believe effort will increase their performance, so they often avoid challenging work, feel threatened by success of others, and see constructive feedback as useless.

Managers and leaders with a fixed mindset believe their personal success is a result of their innate talent. In turn, they believe low-performing employees are incompetent, and are less likely to coach employees to improve their performance or offer constructive feedback. At their worst, these people can be controlling and abusive toward their subordinates, preventing others from gaining power, which would threaten their innate talents.


On the flip side, people with a growth mindset believe their abilities can be developed and qualities such as intelligence can be enhanced through effort. According to research, there are six things people with growth mindsets do that are different from their fixed mindset colleagues. People with growth mindsets:

  • Believe that intelligence can be developed. 
  • Embrace challenges. 
  • Persist in the face of setbacks. 
  • View effort as the path to mastery. 
  • Learn from criticism. 
  • Find lessons and inspiration in the success of others. 
  • Welcome challenges and view setbacks as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Managers and leaders with growth mindsets are more likely to cultivate and support their employees and actively seek ways to improve. Studies show that growth mindset leaders believe others can get better at their job if appropriate development opportunities are provided. These leaders help to improve employee motivation, retention, loyalty, collaboration, innovation, and creative problem solving.  


Can You Change Someone With a Fixed Mindset? 

Yes! Luckily, your mindset is all about your personal belief and attitude. It is possible for leaders and managers to work with their employees to develop a growth mindset. Travis Bradberry has these suggestions:

  • Teach employees to learn from all experiences. 
  • Encourage employees to be passionate. 
  • Inspire employees to act despite fear of potential consequences. 
  • Motivate employees to develop daily. 
  • Expect employees to produce results. 
  • Encourage employees to be flexible and embrace adversity. 
  • Teach employees to accept all outcomes, especially when things don’t go as planned.

Organizations place constant demand on employees to do good work, innovate, and exceed performance expectations. Individuals with a growth mindset will be more prepared to develop their skills and produce the results expected of them, ultimately propelling the company forward. Interested in learning more about mindset? Check out the complete whitepaper Expectations Create Outcomes: Growth Mindsets in Organizations from UNC Kenan-Flager Business School.

About the Author

Clara Von Ins is the Human Capital Specialist at the Association for Talent Development (ATD). Prior to working for ATD, Clara worked for the American Red Cross as the disaster program coordinator in Santa Barbara, California.

Clara received an bachelor’s degree from the Ohio State University in psychology and education. She is currently attending the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill remotely to obtain a master’s degree in public administration with an emphasis on nonprofit management and community and economic development. 

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