In her bestselling book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, psychologist Dr. Carol S. Dweck identifies a personality trait she calls a “growth mindset.” In contrast to certain other mindsets, people with a growth mindset believe that measures of personal potential such as intelligence, athletic ability, and talent are not fixed traits, but instead are better understood as “starting points” which individuals can develop through committed study and effort. She says that growth mindset is a common trait of successful leaders, who demonstrate it in their creative thinking, their ability to bring out the best in others, and their tendency to view challenges as opportunities for both individuals and organizations to learn and grow.
While leaders in all areas can benefit from a growth mindset, I believe it is particularly relevant in HR when applied to strategic management. HR executives are uniquely positioned to influence the way people in their organization think. By consciously encouraging growth mindset within the organization, they can create an environment that fosters relevant change and contributes to the overall success of the business.
There are several ways HR executives can pave the way for this to happen. These include:
- Encouraging growth mindset in leaders. By looking above and beyond standard qualifications to identify potential leaders who exhibit a growth mindset, HR executives can seed the company with leaders who can handle tough situations and build resilient, successful organizations. When selecting leaders, look for individuals who look at problems from multiple angles and deal with them in expansive, innovative ways. Look also for candidates who make decisions based on long-term, big-picture points of view rather than a band-aid approach.
- Facilitating growth-oriented discussions. HR executives can create an environment that fosters growth mindset by directing discussions in ways that challenge team members to leave their comfort zones and seek growth-minded solutions.
- Understanding the business of your organization. In addition to questioning beliefs and assumptions and asking probing questions during meetings, you can improve your value as a thought partner in your organization by making efforts to understand all dimensions of your organization as well as the broader marketplace in which it operates.
- Building HR department credibility. To influence other areas of the organization, it’s essential for HR executives to walk the talk and be inspiring role models. This requires an honest assessment of how your department is currently operating. Are you delivering on your promises? Do you have adequate systems capabilities? Is your talent up to speed? Do you encourage growth mentality within HR? Identifying and addressing any credibility gaps will go a long way towards inspiring trust and respect in others—a necessary prerequisite if you and your department are to influence others and become drivers of change in your organization.
- Maintaining an appropriate relationship with company leadership. An HR executive’s effectiveness and capacity for influence depends in large part on their ability to gain the trust of people across the organization. This is best done by demonstrating that you are an independent thinker who holds the organization’s highest good in mind, as well as a trusted advisor to leadership. By putting the best interests of organization members and the organization’s strategic goals above individual agendas (whether your own or those of other leaders), you will maintain a position of influence and the capacity to forge strong partnerships with others throughout the organization.
- Getting an outside perspective. To truly embrace a growth mindset, it is necessary to leave one’s comfort zone and embrace an expanded outlook. While it’s important to preserve company culture, HR executives need to guard against maintaining culture to the point of rejecting insightful thinking or becoming blind to customer needs. In matters of culture, seek to establish a balance between innovative thinking and established order. Getting outside help can provide the influx of fresh, new ideas and alternate viewpoints that is sometimes needed to inject new vitality into existing culture.
A good HR executive plays a critical role in strategic management. By taking the time to thoroughly understand their company’s strategic goals, and by encouraging growth-oriented ways of thinking and decision making throughout the organization, HR executives can create the kind of environment within their organization that accelerates growth and fosters success.