The concept of developing a growth versus fixed mindset is a popular personal development topic - and one that small business owners can benefit from applying within the workplace. Identifying the characteristics of these two basic mindsets can have a huge impact in improving team development, business strategy and overall growth.
What is a Growth vs Fixed Mindset, and How Does It Affect Small Businesses?
The growth versus fixed mindset discussion was brought to prominence in a TED Talk by Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck, and has found many applications in personal and organizational improvement.
The fundamental difference between a growth and a fixed mindset is one’s perception of the connection between ability and results. A person with their fixed mindset views failures as a validation of limited ability and potential. On the other hand, a person with a growth mindset believes that talent and abilities can be developed, and thereby directs energy into improving processes.
These two mindsets play a significant role in the success of small businesses, because they influence the way business owners handle challenges and seek out opportunities. These mindsets also have an impact on team dynamics and the willingness to adapt to change.
A fixed mindset can cause small business owners to experience difficulty in taking necessary business risks, displaying leadership and navigating the recruitment process. However, when small business owners have a growth mindset, it stimulates innovation, flexibility, and strong team communication.
Let’s identify areas in which small business owners can avoid the constraints of a fixed mindset and develop a growth mindset.
Common Indicators of a Fixed Mindset in Business
Lack of Goal Setting
There are few indicators more representative of a fixed mindset than a lack of goal setting. Companies with a fixed mindset focus solely on the day-to-day operations of the business, and give little attention to opportunities for future growth. Small business owners should make a conscious effort to set SMART goals to clarify both short and long-term goals. Setting goals in areas such as increasing website traffic, improving employee benefits and opening up new business locations can contribute to ongoing growth for a small business.
Not Having a Website
There are still companies that haven’t made it a priority to create a website, and this is symptomatic of a fixed mindset. Today, people expect all businesses to have their own website, just as they used to expect businesses to have a physical address. There are many reasons for small businesses to have a website, such as the benefits of increased coverage, more warm customers and more avenues for customer communication. A website is a statement of legitimacy, and without one small businesses run the risk of appearing unprofessional, especially in comparison to competitors with websites. On the other hand, a good website builds credibility and more opportunities to be found online by a target customer.
Rigidity in Recruitment
Recruitment is an area in business that is often approached from a fixed mindset. We see it when hiring managers overemphasize applicants’ credentials instead of considering the overall picture of an individual's background to determine fit. Overly formal structured interviews often leave no room for impromptu questions that reflect a candidate's true personality. Unconscious biases that lead to discrimination can also hinder the recrutiment process and reduce the pool of talent to draw from - thus lowering the chances of hiring the right person for the job.
Not Investing in Marketing
Small business owners display a fixed mindset when they refuse to spend funds on marketing, perhaps viewing it as an unnecessary expense. Business owners with a growth mindset, however, view marketing as an important investment that builds brand awareness, generates leads and increases sales. Good marketing positions a brand in the target market and helps in securing a company’s future. Even with a tight budget, small business owners can use low-cost marketing options to find a target audience online, send personalized messaging, and motivate them to take action.
Lack of Delegation
A common mindset trap that small business owners fall prey to is trying to do it all themselves. Learning to delegate is important to small business success because it enables a business to scale its operations. Delegation helps small business owners accomplish more while doing less, and it is critical to avoiding burnout. Although it might seem easier to do it all at first, the effort involved in building a team eventually pays off, freeing business owners to focus on areas of the business that drive long-term profits and growth. Moreover, when you meaningfully involve other people in a project, you develop their skills and abilities too, giving you greater peace of mind and confidence in your team.
How Small Business Owners Can Develop a Growth Mindset
Embracing Strategic Planning
A growth mindset in business involves having a long-range plan and milestones along the way to ensure you get there. Every business needs a plan to guide and influence strategies and decisions. Strategic planning requires ongoing commitment to detail and an investment of time. Remember that a growth mindset is built on the concept that talent and abilities can be developed - so small businesses owners should regularly set aside time for personal development planning, which can help generate renewed enthusiasm for personal and business goals.
Systemizing the Business
Businesses with a growth mindset use systems to set routine tasks on autopilot and improve efficiency. Why? Because you don’t scale if you don’t systemize. Systemizing your business enhances performance and enables you to better manage and monitor your team. By making a list of recurring tasks and documenting processes, you are better able to transfer knowledge and ensure consistency across the business. Using systems also allows you to meet the expectations of clients through closely monitoring strengths and weaknesses, and understanding how to best meet customer needs.
Flexibility in Hiring
One of the best ways for a business to demonstrate a growth mindset is by hiring people with a growth mindset. This means paying attention to candidates who aren’t afraid of a good challenge and who understand that abilities can be developed with effort. During screening, recruiters should be open-minded in identifying potential because it can look different in each candidate. Small business owners should be willing to interview candidates with diverse backgrounds and hire individuals who demonstrate that they are hardworking, capable learners. Filling your team with people who genuinely want to grow and develop themselves will accelerate the growth of your company.
Praising Employees for Effort
Praising employees based on their effort rather than talent is an effective way to promote a growth mindset. After all, talent is linked to natural abilities and is essentially ‘fixed’, while effort is based on drive and a commitment to personal development. When people receive positive feedback based on skills they’ve worked hard to develop, it motivates them to continue improving in areas they can control. In an environment where effort is celebrated, team members feel more comfortable thinking out of the box and tackling challenging assignments. As a result, the desire to innovate prevails over fear of failure.
Promoting Team Collaboration
Cross-departmental collaboration is a key reflection of a growth mindset. Small business owners can encourage employees to learn roles other than their own to help them understand the business from multiple perspectives. Managers should aim to provide the time, space and resources for team members to build relationships both inside and outside the work environment. Employees should be allowed to step out of their daily work and interact with goals or projects beyond their usual scope. Such team collaboration promotes effective communication and empathy, which ultimately creates a better experience for the customer.
Developing a growth mindset can help small business owners plan for the future and overcome common challenges in the workplace. While a fixed mindset often impedes creativity and progress, a growth mindset improves overall productivity and performance. Additionally, a growth mindset can help managers and employees re-evaluate what’s possible and work to reach their full potential. Through patience and deliberate action, small business owners can create an environment where all team members have the freedom to grow, learn and improve.
About the author
Roli Edema is a personal development author and digital marketer. She runs the blog roliedema.com where she shares useful insights to help individuals reach their personal, career and business goals.