Onboarding with Growth Mindset

By Jo Tincey, Leadership Development Consultant, Human Edge

September has always felt to me like the month for growth and new beginnings, ever since it also meant a new pencil case, timetable and uniform. This year, the start of September also brought the first day in my new role as Leadership Development Consultant for Human Edge. I’m excited about this job for a whole host of reasons, in a nutshell, it’s the opportunity to use data driven human insights to supercharge the development of individuals, teams and organisations.

Top of my schedule for day 1? A Growth Mindset feedback session with Executive Director, Lisa Danels.   I’m familiar with Carol Dweck’s pioneering and insightful work, but I’d never specifically thought of it as a tool for Onboarding…until now.  Thirty mins later I’m experiencing a profound state of possibility, purpose and clarity that feels like a useful place to begin anything. With Lisa’s facilitation and insight, we have explored where I currently sit on the growth continuum in terms of how I think, act and engage others.   

I’m clear on what I can leverage: my conviction when it comes to the learning mindset and my ability focus my efforts in order to attain mastery. I’m also clear on what to watch out for: a tendency to link mistakes to failure rather than experimental progress.

This feels like immensely useful information for me to have when carving out my first few weeks; a time when every goal and challenge is fresh, and every step is in unchartered territory. It also feels like pretty useful information for Lisa to have as my Manager.  By having this dialogue early on, we’ve established a shared set of reference points for my own growth pathway, a focused short-hand we can use in the future. 

It helps, of course, that these reference points are based on concrete data from the answers I gave to Human Edge’s detailed Core Growth Mindset Assessment.  We’re not reliant on my self-awareness here. In fact, one of Lisa’s first questions was around what surprised me in the results and there were definitely some insights that stood out. For example, the fact that I’m in the middle of the continuum when it comes to being inspired by the success of others. I’ve always been fascinated by other people’s stories and I guess my assumption had been that correlated to being interested and inspired by their success.  Talking my results through with Lisa, I came to see how the working culture of an actor (mine has been a squiggly career!) may have informed my approach to other’s success.  There is a certain conditioning that comes with watching other’s get cast in roles you were in contention for, that can mean that when they walk through the door marked “success”, your assumption is that the room is now occupied, and you’ll have to try knocking elsewhere.  I’ve realised that this has generated a certain anxiety around other’s success that can unconsciously inhibit my ability to celebrate and learn from it.  If you’d asked me before that coaching session if I was competitive when it comes to other’s success, I would have replied with an emphatic ‘no’.  My (previous) understanding of competition is seeking to win at all costs.  That’s never felt like me (probably down to my fear that being seen as ‘in it to win it’ means everyone gets to watch you if you fail – see my earlier insight on a fear of mistakes).  The thing about psychometric testing is the precision with which it can shine a light into the corners of your cognition, challenging assumptions and revealing how you link things.  Digging in a little deeper I can see how this anxiety also reveals a level of disempowerment around ‘success’, that it’s about being chosen, being seen and recognised. In turn this contributes to a tendency to prioritise challenges and goals set by others, to showcase the effort I’m putting in, rather than directing my attention to the transformational experience of owning the process for my own growth.

Ben Horowitz famously asserts that it is action which creates culture:  What you DO, is who you ARE. I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a company who doesn’t want to grow.  So, how are we actioning that on a micro-level?  Growth mindset focuses on the journey, the process, not the target. It moves beyond looking good to getting better.

The individuals within your organisation are the ones who create the systems, the processes, the products, the relationships, the content, the ideas that fuel your growth.  If their mindset is fixed, so is the organisational capacity for what’s possible.   

Why not prioritise cultivating an individual’s capacity for growth from day 1 and use the onboarding process to do just that? Shifting the focus from the fixed list of tasks to complete in order for somebody to be fully aboard and instead, leveraging each step of the process as a growth tool for the individual and your company. After all, in a company that is evolving, growing, changing, innovating, there’s no fixed point of understanding that an employee can attain. Prioritising process over outcome can be a tough shift to make but a beginner’s mind can unlock creative insights for the whole game. 

Unlock the greatest version of yourself and your organization