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Influential Leadership | How to Manage Employees in the Fixed Mindset

The Fixed Mindset is a system of Attitudes that are common among individuals who either hold beliefs or experiences that give them a limited view of what they can do in the world.  They are “born” this way.

A Fixed Mindset is often associated with the following behaviors:  complaining about others, blaming others, and defending yourself.  The key to human productivity is human behavior.  Our behaviors are often driven by our attitudes.  Conversely, our attitudes can also be driven by our behaviors.

What is the Fixed Mindset?

The Fixed Mindset is a system of Attitudes that are common among individuals who either hold beliefs or experiences that give them a limited view of what they can do in the world.  They are “born” with certain abilities and skills and that view wraps them in a cocoon of isolation and often poor performance.  Fixed Mindset Attitudes include:

  • Static –  the Fixed Mindset is opposed to challenges, or working outside of their normal scope of effort or responsibility. 
  • Blameless – they often do not accept blame or criticism of their work as anything other than a personal attack.
  • Isolated – they are often not congenial in group settings, they divulge little about themselves and learn less about others.  They do their work, punch the clock, and go home.
  • Stationary –  individuals in the Fixed Mindset accept that there is a limit to their abilities and they are satisfied, content, and disgruntled with their role all at once.
  • Disinterested – the Fixed Mindset is disinterested in what is going on around them, only focused on what they are doing and making sure that what they are doing does not change.
  • Appropriating – individuals with an appropriating attitude take only for themselves, they do not share with others but they accept things from others.
  • Entitled – the fixed mindset believes that they are inherently deserving of certain privileges and treatment as “the way things are supposed to be.”

Alter the Attitudes by Altering the Behaviors

It is inherently difficult and unproductive for leaders to change the attitudes of individuals.  Attitudes are largely built by beliefs, and experiences and behaviors that back them up.  Behaviors are the key to changing experiences, which in turn will alter beliefs and eventually Attitudes.  Here are 10 behaviors that can help individuals and even organizations move to a Growth Mindset:

  1. Start Learning – the Fixed Mindset is static – give them assignments that require them to learn something new – a new process, a new tool, a new skill – give them the framework to structure how the assignment should be completed – a rubric of sorts.
  2. Celebrate Success – Celebrate success for daily work, unusual work, and contributing to the organization.  Specifically, call out new things that have been successfully completed.
  3. Manage your Criticism to Action – rather than say “That’s wrong” ask them if they had considered doing something this way?  Would that work or take less time?  Allowing them to discover new ways of doing things improves their cognitive flexibility
  4. Communal Growth – observed behaviors are often emulated – do not allow fixed Mindset individuals to self-isolate – change their seating in the organization and ensure they know they are a critical part of the team.  
  5. Provide Progressive Challenges – use assignments that require refining their work multiple times and complement them as they progress.  Have them own the process of refining their own work.
  6. Connect Them to the Organization – whether it is lunch, a bagel breakfast, or a planning session, start them with conversations about individuals and their personal interests.  Learn about them, have them learn about others.  Shared interests create connections that are the enemy of the Fixed Mindset
  7. Challenge Assignments – use challenge assignments to continue learning, stretch skills, and build an attitude of growth.  Recognize their improvement in skills from day 1 to day 30 and provide positive feedback on their skills as they compare to the organization.
  8. Provide Reflection through Feedback – individuals with a Fixed Mindset need time to reflect on their growth and see it – by providing a monthly or quarterly feedback of performance, new skills, completing assignments, etc. the individual begins to experience growth and believe that they can and have changed.
  9. Work through Failure – everyone fails at some point.  The magnitude of the failure can derail some and toughen others.  Use the failure of a Growth Minded individual to educate the Fixed Mindset individual on how to learn from and accept failure.  And identify the differences in major failures vs. minor and use Accountability to insulate them from everyday errors.
  10. Develop a Sense of Purpose – individuals who have a purpose and a greater sense of where they aspire to be and what they aspire to do tend to initiate growth to get there.  Having a sense of purpose and knowing they are important in the organization improves engagement.

The Growth Mindset and Influential Leaders invest in people.  Building people creates exceptionally strong connections that enable the organization to grow rapidly, establish trust and accountability, and take calculated risks that move growth toward an envisioned future.

If you alter your thinking, you can change your life.  You can alter your thinking by changing your behaviors.


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