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“And a step backward, after making a wrong turn, is a step in the right direction.”

― Kurt Vonnegut, Player Piano

Have you noticed how, when something goes wrong, how the finger pointing starts and everyone ducks for cover?

Questions are asked, meetings are held to dissect who might have been at fault and decisions taken as to who’s going to be the fall guy.

Why do we seek sometimes to blame others, to deny any wrongdoing even when we know if we are to be honest with ourselves we played a role in the outcome?

It comes down to mindset.

In some instances our culture has evolved to support a closed mindset, where self-preservation means we choose denial or flight to avoid accepting responsibility for our actions.
The problem is when this type of behaviour is entrenched in a workplace it can lead to a silo mentality, a lack of initiative and drive. If you are afraid of doing something wrong, there is far less incentive to try, which means you hang back, waiting for reassurance, for guidance and instruction.

Being human, we make mistakes, sometimes more, sometimes less. But we make them nevertheless. Trial and error has been a long standing method of exploring new ways of doing things and the expectation here is that there will be multiple errors made before the best solution is found.

As Thomas Edison famously said,

“I have not failed, I’ve simply found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

It’s about choosing better questions.

Developing a growth mindset starts with determining your choice of response when things don’t turn out well. So that:

  • If your company fails to win an important tender – ask what could have been done differently to increase the chance of success?
  • If your restaurant gets a bad review from a food critic – ask what is required to lift your game and get a good review next time round?
  • If sales are down – ask what needs to be done to improve results for the next quarter?

To differentiate from the also ran’s in a world of increasing change, complexity and challenge, any future success from a business perspective hinges on the need for mental flexibility, adaptability and creativity.

If you go in with the expectation that yes things can go wrong and will, but you can learn from them to do better next time, you have adopted a growth mindset.

A growth mindset doesn’t apportion blame because the aim is to motivate better thinking, better decisions and stimulate personal and professional growth.
Accepting responsibility is part of the process to ensure that mistakes are not repeated.

A growth mindset can be developed at the individual and organisational level. Using the brain’s natural plasticity, old thinking patterns can be superceded with new, more useful ways of approaching challenges.

It’s about moving from being problem focused to solution focused.

Which mindset do you adhere to?

Do you see intelligence as being fixed, challenge as hard and negative feedback as something not to be taken too seriously?

Or, does the prospect of a new challenge, that setbacks are just temporary and that effort will get you across the line excite you?

Developing a growth mindset in yourself or your team not only boosts confidence and motivation. It enhances your enjoyment of the work you do and the chance of success.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, podcaster, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.

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