All business executives are interested in company growth. In turn, many organizations are making fundamental changes in order to stay viable and expand in these uncertain times. An organization cannot grow, however, unless its people grow. New strategies and business initiatives require new mindsets from business leaders — and a thoughtful focus on the culture that facilitates this growth.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article on the Pope, journalist Raymond Arroyo noted the secret to successful organizational change. Pope Francis sees that any deep change “must start in the hearts of his collaborators or all the administrative tinkering in the world will never succeed.”

An executive must ask if her business focuses on the collaborative heart that makes it function. Otherwise, fixed, inflexible mindsets may be holding the business back.

The Heart of Business Transformation

When a business initiative is designed to transform an organization, it must be concurrently launched with an initiative to change the organization’s culture. Individual and collective mindsets matter. Only through mental shifts will changes be deeply rooted and sustainable.

Why are mindsets so crucial? Consider this model: Results stem from actions. Actions, in turn, are determined and limited by mindsets.

In The Spotlight

For example, a client organization I am working with is determined to grow its already-robust revenues fourfold in three years. This level of growth requires fundamental shifts in the way business is conducted. Such changes require the business’s employees to think very differently about their roles. What made them successful in the past may no longer lead to success. New processes, new ways of relating to one another, and new mindsets are now required. In a very real way, past success may actually impede individuals seeking a better and bolder future.

Growth vs. Fixed Mindsets

How should executives approach business culture? They themselves must commit to and require others to exercise a growth mindset. A growth mindset finds us focused on developing our limitless potential. With a growth mindset we welcome setbacks and challenges as fodder to develop, learn, and grow. This leads to a passion for discovering, experimenting, and stretching ourselves to be all we can be.

The alternative is a fixed mindset, where we believe there is only so much intelligence to go around and that we must hang on to what we know and what we have. In a fixed mindset, we spend our time trying to demonstrate our proficiency and prove ourselves constantly. “I must demonstrate how smart I am, how much I know, and that I have all the answers. If I don’t know something, I look incompetent, and therefore may be deemed unable to do my job,” is an internal conversation fixed mindsets generate repeatedly.

The growth mindset is an organization’s competitive advantage.

The growth mindset is an organization’s competitive advantage. It is the quality that allows people, and their organizations, to thrive during some of the most challenging periods of their lives. It creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval. Carol Dweck, a thought leader on growth mindsets, says, “When you enter a new mindset, you enter a new world. In one world - the world of fixed traits - success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other world - the world of changing qualities - it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself.”

Applying a Growth Mindset

The client organization in our example is proactively cultivating an organizational growth mindset. The executives started by developing their own growth mindsets. They then made growth culture a business objective with as high a priority as key strategic initiatives, measuring and monitoring it in the same manner.

They also spend time in meetings learning about growth mindsets, and applying processes and tools to shift fully into these mindsets. When viewing their business goals and challenges through a growth mindset, solutions and approaches look very different. Individual growth and learning takes on a new significance, and is focused on as a key business initiative.

We are living in a very challenging time. Foundational institutions are shifting and crumbling. Something new is emerging, though it is not yet clearly visible. This is a time of uncertainty. And a time of great opportunity. How an individual views the situation depends on whether he has cultivated a growth mindset or is ensnared by a fixed one.

If growth is a goal, business leaders must promote the openness of the growth mindset. Successful executives fully inhabit the world of growth mindsets knowing their businesses’ futures may well depend on it.


Barbara Osterman
About The Author Barbara Osterman [Full Bio]
Barbara Osterman, founder and owner of Human Solutions LLC, is a business leadership consultant and cultural catalyst. She supports organizations in increasing business performance and results by successfully weaving business initiatives and culture transformations.

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