I was recently conducting a debriefing session with a team of senior franchisor executives on the results from their latest franchisee satisfaction survey. One interesting finding was a significant increase in franchisee expectations around the services provided by the franchisor. I asked the CEO how he felt about this, expecting a defensive response. Instead he said he welcomed it. “If we are raising our expectations of them, why shouldn’t they raise their expectations of us? It can only make us stronger and better” he said.
This openness to be challenged, reflects what Stanford University psychologist, Carol Dweck, calls a Growth Mindset. Dr Dweck has devoted most of her life to researching why some people get defensive and give up when faced with challenges, while others thrive with a “bring it on” attitude.
In one of her studies with young children she discovered those who were told they performed well on mathematics tests because they were smart, tended to give up trying when the tests got more difficult. They wanted to protect their self-image of being smart. Dweck calls this tendency to believe our level of success is determined by fixed traits or abilities, as having a Fixed Mindset.
Another group of children were taught their brain is like a muscle that gets stronger when it is exercised (which is actually true). When this group performed well on the easier tests they were told this was because they must have worked hard. Interestingly, the children in this group were more likely to persevere until they solved the more difficult tests. Like the franchisor CEO, they saw the bar being raised as a positive challenge, adopting what Dweck calls the Growth Mindset.
How do you measure up?
Here are three characteristics of people with a Growth Mindset.
- They see effort as being necessary for achieving mastery. And they appreciate the harder and longer you work at something, the better at it you are going to get.
- They welcome challenges and difficulties as a way of building strength and capacity. Rather than become discouraged by failure, they persist and treat it as an opportunity to learn.
- They are inspired by the excellence and achievements of successful people. Rather than experiencing jealously or falling for the “tall poppy syndrome”, they seek to learn from these people.