Project Management – A reflective piece: Growth mindset vs Fixed mindset
Those who know me will be aware of my ambitious nature. On the whole I embrace challenge and every opportunity to reflect on a personal or career capacity if it facilitates growth. I see this partially because of my previous career, whereby I was held accountable for decisions that could ultimately directly impact the lives of vulnerable children and families. Where, reflection and the ability to be honest and self aware stood at the core of best practice and personal growth.
With this in mind I felt the need to stay true to these principles as I write this blog at 02:21am and be honest with my network on how I have battled with having a fixed mindset a great deal for the past couple of weeks, particularly as I commenced my piece on Growth Mindset Vs Fixed Mindset. Ironic. Right? … Great timing!
To add some context; two weeks ago, I enjoyed a project management meet up thanks to DPML and guest speaker Chris Davies. At this time, I was embracing every opportunity for growth and most importantly I believed in my ability to grow my knowledge on the PM, Scrum and Agile market. Subsequently deciding to demonstrate my efforts by writing an article: and I do enjoy a good article!!
I then avoided putting pen to paper or rather, finger to keyboard (which is slightly more fitting in today’s digital age). What’s more, I began to get defensive and take feedback on the topic from my colleagues and directors personally. To be honest, I wasn’t developing on any level at all.
Remember this example. I will park it here for now.
Growth Mindset Vs Fixed Mindset and Project Management
A very wise and influential woman in my life often reminds me:
“Sara you don’t know everything and you will never know everything” (Mother , 1993 – present).
All be it this is usually introduced mid argument! On a serious note, another influential woman particularly in this field echoed (Dweck, 2006):
“Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts). This is because they put more energy into learning and developing.”
Within the PM field and specifically in the context of scrum and Agile; although careful not to lose the interest of those who don’t specialise in these methods. My understanding is that Agile approaches naturally require practitioners to be focused on continuous improvement, which alone implies a growth mindset because you are always looking for new innovative ways for improvement.
Well that was simple. What is all the fuss about? Agile = growth mindset.
The reality is, we are dealing with the management of human beings and we are complex creatures. If we think about each member of a team and their individual mindsets which are shaped by a combination of their beliefs, attitudes and ideas. As a practitioner hired to manage and support this team, you must possess the ability to recognise the impact of underlying cognitive factors on this person’s ability to work within an agile way. What is your view on this?
Tapping into my Social Work experience, I am making direct links between Albert Ellis (1957) “ABC Model of CBT” and growth and fixed Mindset.
If we go back to the beginning and the example of my recent mindset. On the spectrum of growth to fixed mindset, I felt I was moving ever further towards a fixed mindset. Dweck (2006) encourages me to consider the triggers to my fixed mindset. I concluded:
Setbacks – Typical in recruitment as it is a roller coaster career. However then viewing these as impassable roadblocks rather than a setback.
The ABC model (Ellis, 1957) points me towards considering that it was neither a person, event or situation that caused me to feel “stuck” and unable to bounce back. It was rather my interpretation of the event and my belief system. Subsequently leading me towards feelings of avoidance, defensiveness and lacking belief in my abilities – A FIXED MINDSET.
It is worth pointing out, those in the Agile and Scrum field are not necessarily trained in CBT or related therapeutic practices and in no way, are required to be . However, I am of the view it is imperative to consider the psychological element because of its direct correlation with each team members’ behaviours and mindset.
The organisational context
Where do you feel your company sits on the spectrum of having a growth and fixed mindset and how does this impact on your team? After all doesn’t team work require a growth mindset?
After reaching out to my network in preparation for my article, I entered many discussions around the role of the organisation in driving a growth mindset and reducing fixed mindsets. Differences in mindset may affect broader issues including how employers focus on hiring staff. Employers that hold a fixed mindset may focus more on investment in high ability employees and correspondingly invest less in professional development and ongoing training. Does this sound familiar?
Still, the advice from such a great bunch of practitioners in my network working with mindsets daily, echo the need for organisations to consider the following when striving for true growth:
- Encourage the recruitment of talent and those with developmental potential
- Recruit managers who demonstrate a growth mindset
- Drive innovation Develop a culture where learning is valued
- Consider the value of cross functional skills and breadth as well as depth of knowledge to increase flexibility of your company.
- Support Cross-functional collaboration
To conclude I want to reinforce to individuals and companies in my network, the benefits of reflection, self-awareness and honesty in addressing mindset. By adopting these three principles within a supportive team I was able to build on my resilience and regain belief in my abilities – GROWTH MINDSET!!
Mindset is of course a spectrum of which we all are constantly moving within of which I could keep writing about for a considerable amount of time, but I won’t. The content of my article is also always open for discussion and as a specialist in PM, Agile and scrum recruitment, I am eager to continue conversations on this concept with both individuals and companies in this field moving forward.
Get in touch!
Let’s build something successful together!
DWECK, C. S. (2006). Mindset: the new psychology of success. New York, Random House.
Ellis, A. (1957). Rational Psychotherapy and Individual Psychology. Journal of Individual Psychology, 13: 38-44.