By Gerry Murray. 26-07-2020
(Scroll down for a laugh)

“The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (and especially) when it’s not going well is the hallmark of a growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive in challenging times.” ~ Carol Dweck

Several years ago the cornerstone of our Change Management offering was a programme called “Mindset for Excellence”. It consisted of workshops with senior Leaders, workbooks and online materials that participants used to prepare for the workshops. I’ve been reviewing the programme and I plan to relaunch it after the summer. 

Why? Because mindset is critical to how we emerge from this current crisis. 

What is a Mindset? 

This is a key question. And, even more importantly, why does it matter? 

Your mindset is a filter on how you perceive the world around you. It can act like an SLR camera to which you attach lenses. If you only have one type of lens, you tend to be limited in the types of shots you can take. Therefore, having multiple lenses can be very useful. And, of course, you can change or upgrade your favourite lens on your camera, and so on…

Why is it important? Because, how you filter the world determines a lot in terms of what decisions you make, who or what you trust, how you behave and ultimately the results you get. 

A Pandemic Mindset

It goes without saying that the past few months have been outside of our accepted definition of “normal”. How we interpret or have interpreted this pandemic will be a function of our prevailing mindset. 

Uncertainty is a dominant factor these past months. And, as I’ve written about before, our brains don’t like uncertainty. However, the frame that we place around our perception of uncertainty is as important, if not more important, than the uncertainty itself. How can we deal with the uncertainty in a way that provides us with an acceptable degree of certainty? 

Consider these three scenarios on a spectrum:

Are you seeing the corona virus as a catastrophe, an unwelcome disruption to your life and work? You see a future where you’re worse off. 

Or, are you hoping that this will eventually pass and things will return to how they were before?  You see a future where you can minimise the impact and eventually get back to “normal". 

Or, are you seeing it as an opportunity to learn, develop, improve and emerge wiser and stronger than before? You see a future where you’re better off. 

Fixed versus Growth Mindsets

Professor Carol Dweck’s seminal work on Mindsets provides many useful insights. Dweck conducted longitudinal studies on children that lasted into their adulthood. She discovered two prevailing types of mindsets: 

Fixed Mindset

People with a predominantly Fixed Mindset believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits.  They believe that talent alone creates success. They believe that there’s no way to change this. You either have it or you don’t.

Over time she discovered that with a Fixed Mindset, where intelligence is perceived as static, this leads to a desire to look smart and therefore a tendency to:

Challenges - avoid challenges
Obstacles - get defensive or give up easily
Effort - see effort as fruitless or worse
Criticism - ignore useful negative feedback
Success of others - feel threatened by the success of others

As a result, these people may plateau early and achieve less than their full potential. 

Growth Mindset

People with a predominantly Growth Mindset believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. Brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.  

People who embrace Growth Mindsets—the belief that they can become smarter if they work hard and persevere—may learn more and view challenges and failures as opportunities to improve and grow.

Over time Dweck discovered that with a Growth Mindset, where it is perceived that intelligence can be developed, this leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to:

Challenges - embrace challenges
Obstacles - persist in the face of setbacks
Effort - see effort as the path to mastery
Criticism - learn from criticism
Success of others - find lessons and inspiration in the success of others

As a result, these people tend to reach ever higher levels of achievement. 

An important thing to note is that we all have a mixture of both mindsets and context is often the determining factor. So, if you identify with the attributes of a Growth Mindset in “normal” (or former) times, you could still find yourself running a Fixed Mindset when you’re processing or dealing with this corona virus situation.

The good news is that research into Neuroplasticity supports the development and application of a Growth Mindset. It’s only a matter of taking some time to reframe your current situation. You can start by answering this simple question:

What’s good about this coronavirus pandemic? 

The Mindset Differentiator

A lot has happened since I first developed the Mindset for Excellence programme along with my good friend and colleague Bryce Redford in 2012. Recently, two colleagues in the UK, Alli Gibbons and David Klaasen, have mapped Dweck’s Growth Mindset model into the Harrison Talent Analytics toolbox. 

Formerly, we had used Dweck’s Mindset Assessment tool to gauge the degree of Growth Mindset in a team. However, it only ever provided a snapshot. Now, with Growth Mindset measurement available to us, we are using Harrison’s predictive Talent Analytics to help individuals and teams emerge from this crisis stronger and better prepared than others who are struggling to cope. Predictive analytics is like moving from having only a photo to a video… It tells a more complete story.

If you run a business, having a team with a Growth Mindset could just be that one differentiating factor that enables you to emerge from coronavirus in a better place. Has your team perhaps slipped into a Fixed Mindset because of the pandemic?

Drop me a mail or give me a call if you’d like to learn more about The Mindset for Excellence Programme and our Mindset measurement tools



At a job interview for a new receptionist:
"I see you used to be employed by a psychotherapist. Why did you leave?"
"Well, I just couldn't win. If I was late to work, I was hostile; if I was early, I was anxious; and if I was on time, I was obsessional.”

Johnny paid his way through college by waitering in a restaurant.
"What's the usual tip?" asked a customer.
"Well," said Johnny, "this is my first day, but the other guys said that, if I got five dollars out of you, I'd be doing great."
"Is that so?" growled the customer. "In that case, here's twenty dollars."
"Thanks. I'll put it in my college fund," Johnny replied.
"By the way, what are you studying?" asked the customer.
"Applied psychology.”

How many narcissists does it take to change a lightbulb?
Just one. All he has to do is hold it in place while the world revolves around him.

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