In her bestselling book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford University Professor of Psychology Dr. Carol S. Dweck introduces the idea of a “growth mindset” vs. a “fixed mindset.” People operating from a fixed mindset believe that basic qualities like intelligence and talent are inborn and cannot be changed through effort. In contrast, people who have a growth mindset understand that such traits can be developed through dedication and effort. Dr. Dweck observes that highly successful leaders almost invariably have a predominantly growth mindset. This allows them to think creatively; effectively delegate and leverage other people’s talents; and view challenges as opportunity, both for themselves and for the organizations they lead.
The growth mindset concept is highly relevant to the role of HR in strategic management. HR Executives occupy the perfect position to become growth mindset catalysts within their organizations. Their behind-the-scenes work to ensure that everyone has the tools and opportunities to engage productively with each other creates the perfect environment for meaningful organizational change and can lead directly to successful results for their organization.
Creating a Perfect Environment for Growth and Success
How can HR leaders can use the growth mindset to enhance strategic management processes and support their organization’s growth and success? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Leadership Selection
Good leadership selection and coaching is a critical function in this regard. An HR Executive who is aware of the benefits of a growth mindset can consciously select leaders who demonstrate a growth mentality. By observing how a candidate perceives and resolves problems, whether they are taking a Band-Aid approach to decision making or considering long-term solutions, and whether they are capable of viewing challenges and setbacks as opportunities for improvement, HR Executives can choose leaders capable of creating a culture of growth and resilience within the organization that will help it survive tough times and thrive as conditions improve.
2. Influencing through Discussion
HR Executives can also create a perfect growth environment though the skilled facilitation of discussions. A perceptive discussion leader who is not afraid to ask probing questions, challenge assumptions and encourage team members to venture outside their comfort zones can be a very effective catalyst for growth. Leaders sometimes need guidance in having strategic conversations and HR executives can help focus these discussions in productive and positive ways.
3. Embracing Business
The willingness to embrace the business mindset is a tremendous asset to HR Executives who wish to catalyze positive change in their organizations. By cultivating a deep understanding of their company’s processes, strategies, financials, and other aspects of the business, along with the industry and marketplace in which it operates, they can turn themselves into trusted advisors and valued thought partners capable of supporting leaders in their strategic and organization alignment efforts.
4. Managing Proximity to Leadership
HR stands at the heart of an organization and is responsible for ensuring that all branches of the organization work together smoothly and efficiently. To do this effectively, a certain amount of autonomy is required. While an HR Executive should function as a close advisor to leaders, they should not allow the relationship to become so close as to compromise their ability to influence the organization as a whole and assess situations objectively. It is also important to maintain awareness of the best interests of the organization as opposed to what might be the individual agenda of a leader or group of leaders. Being able to convey tough messages to a leader is as important as being seen as a trust advisor and advocate for that leader.
5. Start with Your Own Department
Putting growth mindset to work first within HR is perhaps the most significant way to create that perfect environment for your organization as a whole. Building discipline and credibility within your HR department takes effort, but it is the best way to demonstrate effective strategic management and ultimately to influence the rest of your organization. When you take the time and effort to be sure that you fix any credibility gaps, follow through on promises, build talent, optimize systems, and foster the growth mindset within your own department, your efforts to advocate for and encourage similar changes in other areas of your organization will be much enhanced.
Implementing a Growth Mindset
Creating a strategic management environment within your organization that enhances the growth mindset is simple in concept, but it is sometimes challenging to implement. It can be helpful to get outside assistance with this type of organization alignment. While the idea of diluting a strong company culture with outside thinking may trigger resistance within some HR groups, it’s important to consider that it’s possible to go too far in protecting company culture. By maintaining a balance between new ideas and unique cultural elements, HR executives can avoid stagnation and bring renewed vigor and resilience to their organization.
Effective HR executives maintain an unaltered focus on creating an environment that encourages and supports collaboration, learning, strategic decision making and other growth mindset attributes. In so doing, they can and ought to become the backstage heroes of their companies, stepping into their rightful role as effective strategic management partners who ultimately create the perfect conditions for their organization to achieve superior results.