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Key to Growth … Developing a Learner-Mindset

June 24th, 2017

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Leaders are Life Long Learners

In effective teams, leaders and members support each other and share the responsibility of success.  Conversely, low functioning teams accredit themselves with success while attributing failure to leadership (Wheelan, 2013).  Both of these scenarios involve a mindset that is either geared toward growth or remaining stagnant.

The effective team will embrace a growth mindset while the low functioning team will consign to a fixed mindset.  When leaders of organizations are committed to the growth mindset, they cultivate a powerful culture of learning and ownership.  In these healthy environments exists shared pain and shared gain.  Let’s take a look at the game-changing features of the learner mindset!

Being a Learner

  • Learners challenge the fixed mindset by embracing change.  Change is a certainty of life and required for growth.  Thriving organizations consistently identify areas where growth is needed and take action!  Interestingly, organizational health often results in numerical growth.  Personal growth happens when those with the learner mindset are not limited by their perceived lack of abilities, potential, challenges, frustrations, criticism from others, or the status quo.  Try this: begin making your next life change with a more positive outlook by realizing that change is necessary for growth.  You can believe that change makes us better!
  • Learners ask open-ended questions to discover solutions rather than merely stating their opinions as facts. Try this: use what, when, and how questions, steering clear from questions which result in a simple “Yes” or “No” response.
  • Learners seek input and feedback from others. Those with the growth mindset welcome and value the contributions from their team whereas those with the fixed mindset are easily offended by feedback or constructive criticism. Try this: invite others around you to offer feedback or challenges to your next decision and commit yourself not to becoming offended if you perceive the input as unhelpful.

Obstacles are Opportunities

Learners view failure and obstacles as opportunities for growth.  We have the promise of hardship in this life and success is certain to come with many painful failures.  As people of faith, we trust that God uses our suffering to bring growth, character development, and hope.

Failures are Partners in Success

When I was growing up, Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player on earth! I had this famous poster hanging on my wall:

 

Try this: View your next perceived failure as a partner in your success.  Write down at least three positive takeaways from this painful experience and refer back to them when you need future encouragement.  Fail forward!

Wisdom in Judgment

Learners refrain from being overly critical. We make judgment calls every day – from a simple decision to turn right on red to the more complex decisions like whether or not to place our aging parents in assisted living. Each day presents a series of choices to make quick, passing judgments or to intentionally decide to glean wisdom and insights from our experiences.  Try this: take a quick self-assessment by asking yourself if you give new people that you meet an opportunity or do you quickly write them off?  Do you focus on the strengths and potential of others or do you judge them as lazy, limited, and not very useful?

Guard Your Vocabulary

Learners guard their vocabulary.  While some people are clearly more optimistic than others, optimism can be learned.  I repeat, optimism can be learned!  Negative thoughts can be taken captive and re-framed to a more positive thought or statement.  Try this: avoid saying words like: “can’t, should, and I wish” and use no negative self-talk for one week.  Begin challenging yourself to think and speak differently.

Lead as a Life-Long Learner

Bringing it all home: having a growth or learner mindset will expand your positive influence on others.  If you are a leader, it is your responsibility to develop a healthy culture in your varying contexts.  Leading as a life-long learner will set a powerful example for others to follow and will help develop a winning team!  Always be willing to learn!

Reference:

Wheelan, S. A. (2013). Creating effective teams: A guide for members and leaders. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.


Article by: Cameron S. Ashworth, MA

Blog Post by: Sarah Warner, MS

 


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