What kind of employee would you prefer to have (or be)? A naturally intelligent one focused on performance, or a hard worker focused on learning and growth? According to Stanford professor Carol Dweck’s research described in her new book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, you’re in much better shape choosing the hard worker who believes they can improve through personal and professional development.
Sure, that sounds right – but how often do we assume the “smartest” people are the most talented or will be the most successful? (Don’t forget, the documentary about the fall of Enron was called The Smartest Guys In The Room).
Dweck’s work has found that individuals who view ability and intelligence as something that can be developed have a “growth mind-set” and are more likely to achieve their true potential, vs. those with a “fixed mind-set” who view ability and intelligence as something inherent. Tell me, does this sound familiar?
Students for whom performance is paramount want to look smart even if it means not learning a thing in the process. For them, each task is a challenge to their self-image, and each setback becomes a personal threat. So they pursue only activities at which theyâ€™re sure to shineâ€”and avoid the sorts of experiences necessary to grow and flourish in any endeavor. Students with learning goals, on the other hand, take necessary risks and donâ€™t worry about failure because each mistake becomes a chance to learn.
Full disclosure: I didn’t find Carol’s book on my own, but was turned on to her work through an excellent Stanford Magazine article that is both thought-provoking and well written. It’s a bit long, so I urge you to grab a cup of coffee and take a break to read it.
The article covers Dweck’s research and its connection to psychology, children’s education and more relevant to More Than A Living readers, employee performance. An excerpt:
Business School professor Jeffrey Pfeffer says Dweckâ€™s research has implications for the more workaday problem of performance management. He faults businesses for spending too much time in rank-and-yank mode, grading and evaluating people instead of developing their skills. â€œItâ€™s like the Santa Claus theory of management: whoâ€™s naughty and whoâ€™s nice.â€
Go ahead – have a growth mind-set moment and read more here.