When you reach a significant business milestone, do you prefer to bask in the sense of achievement that it brings, or do you use it as a platform to propel yourself and your business forward? When you’re besotted by hardships and challenges on all sides, do you try and mitigate the impact on your business, or do you find a workable solution that can turn challenges into opportunities?
These questions are important. Your mindset defines your journey as a business leader and, ultimately, the success that your business achieves. Given the pace at which technology is transforming the global business landscape, malleability, flexibility, and agility have become indispensable leadership attributes. There are countless examples of industry-leading businesses that have failed because they didn’t pivot at the right time, or didn’t change fast enough, or saw their competitive advantage eroded by younger, more agile businesses. This is a failure of leadership.
In my own experience at Udacity, I have come to realize just how essential it is for entrepreneurs to have a growth mindset. But my learning hasn’t stopped there. The more experience I earn, the more I realize that the most celebrated business leaders of today are the ones who have embraced a growth mindset on a personal level, and have also nurtured a growth culture within their organizations across all levels. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Larry Page – all the leading lights of the global business landscape today have established themselves as pioneers because they led teams which were as committed to growth as they were.
That brings us to a critical question: How do you promote a culture of growth within an organization to ensure that employees drive continued success and scale the business in a fast-changing business ecosystem? Here are some of the most fundamental conditions that you need to meet in order to nurture the growth mindset within your workforce:
- Praise the effort, not just the end-result: While success must be acknowledged and appreciated, there are times when the end-result might not justify the energy that a team has expended towards achieving a particular objective. This is why it is important to appreciate employees’ efforts, regardless of their level of success. Doing so helps them to see success as an ongoing journey rather than as a destination and develop a growth mindset that allows them to learn from their failures instead being bogged down by them.
- Emphasize learning over competitiveness: Competitiveness might be healthy, but learning is healthier. Research suggests that participants who view a challenge as a learning opportunity are likelier to be more task-oriented, while those who view it as an opportunity to test themselves against others are more fixated on their own personal accomplishments. The latter may also lead to friction between different team members and can be detrimental to the long-term growth and stability of a business. Focusing on learning as a key growth metric can help in avoiding such a situation.
- Create a feedback loop: A growth mindset is all about learning new things, and there are fewer ways to achieve this than feedback. By encouraging employees to proactively seek feedback, organizations can establish a strong loop which can facilitate continuous learning for employees and help them drive greater growth – for themselves and for business.
- Lead from the front: Human beings are capable of marvelous feats when pushed. Providing that push, however, requires the right inspiration. Set the benchmark in the organization with the leadership to give employees an inspiration to aspire to.
In addition to these conditions, creating alignment within the organization is also one of the most critical steps towards success. At Udacity, we do this by focusing on short-term goals as a leverage to achieve the momentum for a moon shot and drive towards our long-term business objectives. Our quarterly Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) help us align internal teams with our larger vision of providing an amazing learning experience that is globally accessible and advances the careers of our students in the digital economy. The OKRs are monitored with monthly check-ins, further broken down into weekly check-ins, to allow us to focus synergistic efforts towards a singular goal. Armed with measurable metrics, we can easily gauge our progress when it comes to strategic implementation and identify the aspects we need to work on to move towards our larger business objectives. This approach has helped in eliminating silos and increasing collaborations across teams, allowing various business functions to be in 3600 sync with one other.
In his book, Pearls of Eternity, Rwandan writer and social worker Bangambiki Habyarimana defines an entrepreneur as someone who “knows he can fail, but he does not accept to fail before he actually fails, and when he fails, he learns from his errors and moves on.” I agree wholeheartedly with this assertion. Perspective matters, and nowhere more so than in the current business landscape. Mindsets influence the growth trajectories of businesses far more than one might believe it does, for they serve as the guiding framework to business operations. Having the right growth mindset can help an organization’s team align its synergies towards building a successful enterprise.
The more experience I earn, the more I realize that the most celebrated business leaders of today are the ones who have embraced a growth mindset on a personal level, and have also nurtured a growth culture within their organizations across all levels.